PHPA Feature: Tom McCollum
This is my second professional interview and article written for the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. Like Ben Harpur, Tom McCollum is a former Guelph Storm because… well to be honest when I submitted a list of potential interview candidates I just fired off former junior players that I was familiar with. Coincidentally Ben and Tom know each other despite never playing on the same team and Tom being 6 years older than Ben. Apparently they met through the Storm and have skated with each other in past off-seasons because they live an hour apart on different sides of the border (Ben lives in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario and Tom is from Amherst, New York).
McCollum was a really cool interview for me. His OHL career spanned from 2006 to 2009. For me that was Grade 6 to Grade 9. Despite those Storm teams not being overly successful, I loved watching them play live. Off of the top of my head I remember watching McCollum, Drew Doughty, Peter Holland, Taylor Beck, Michael Latta, Tim Priamo, Rafael Rotter, Brandon Buck, Leigh Salters, Luke Pither…
I’ve regularly checked Tom’s HockeyDB page ever since he got drafted by Detroit. So after talking to him over the phone and hearing what he’s about, I wish him nothing but the best and am rooting for him to crack the NHL for good.
Tom is an awesome guy with a lot to say, which made for a great interview experience. He gave me too much good material to fit in my piece for the PHPA so I’ll share some of my unused quotes below.
McCollum on why he gives back to the community:
“I was fortunate enough at a young age that my parents–well even since before I was born– had a chance to meet Brad May and they got a signed picture from him, for me. It’s been in my bedroom my entire life. Just always hearing stories about guys like that, in professional hockey rinks, taking time to meet people. You hear about how much it can make somebody’s day that much better.”
Who he models his game after:
“There’s a few goalies that have caught my eye in the last few years and I like to try and steal a few bits of their game here and there and adapt them to myself. I think every goalie looks at Carey Price, and how good he is positionally. Also how calm he is in the net at all times. He never looks like he’s rushing to try and get somewhere. He’s just there, patient and set, he just makes the position look easy. I also really like how Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford play. Similar styles, they’re just a little more conservative with how they position themselves on rushes. But at the same time they find ways to put themselves in the right spot a lot of the time.”
Reflecting on Grand Rapids’ Calder Cup win:
“Winning the Calder Cup was obviously a phenomenal experience. Every season in the American Hockey League–or even the ECHL or NHL–you start out and the goal is to win the championship. For our team to go through the season, we had a good regular season, I think it really helped us. We were a battle-tested team and we had a very close group which definitely prepared us for the playoffs. I had a lot of fun. I didn’t personally play in the playoffs, but I backed up every game. I had a lot of fun just being around the team and you could just feel the energy. It was really cool to see how our group just had that confidence. We went into a Game 5 and a Game 7, and you could just feel it in the locker room before the game: no one was worried, no one was tense. We just had a very calm and collected group, and we just knew that we were going to win those games.”
Rapid Fire Questions with Tom McCollum:
1. Your favourite team when you were growing up?
2. Your favourite athletes from any sport?
3. What’s the weirdest thing a coach has ever said to you
“I had one of our coaches in Grand Rapids tell me “you need to find a way to wallpaper the holes we have.” I had never heard that one before so it was tough to respond to that.”
4.Street hockey or pond hockey?
“I played a bit of both growing up. Probably a little bigger fan of pond hockey.”
5. What’s your go-to pump up song?
“I don’t have set songs. Just whatever comes up on shuffle”
6. Go-to offseason cheat-day meal?
“I would have to say chicken fingers.”
7. What’s your favourite road city?
“Austin Texas. We have a lot of fun down there.”
8. What’s your favourite show to binge-watch?
9. Who is the best player you’ve had to face in a shootout
“I would probably say Matt Duchene. He definitely knows what he’s doing with the puck.”
10. Hardest slap shot that you have ever faced?
“Zdeno Chara. I took one of those in the arm in a preseason game and I couldn’t feel my arm for 5 minutes.”
Excerpt from PHPA Article
Born in Amherst, New York, goalie Tom McCollum had many eyes on him after the Red Wings made him their first round selection (30th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. McCollum had the tough task of transitioning from a successful junior career (spent with the Guelph Storm and the Brampton Battalion of the OHL), to a professional career in which he has to battle for a spot with the Detroit Red Wings, who are known for having one of the deepest farm systems in the league.
To add to the pressure, McCollum’s first NHL training camp was in 2008, the summer after Detroit had won the Stanley Cup. But he took the whole experience in stride, “It was an extremely thrilling training camp. They had just won the Stanley Cup that June, so everybody was really excited. They had a really talented team. They had just added Marian Hossa to the mix so it was hard to not be star struck.”