Deciphering the misperceptions of McQuaid

Deciphering the misperceptions of McQuaid
November 11, 2013, 12:00 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

He doesn't always speak, but he's carefully listening.

He doesn't always look engaged, but he's so zoned in he's blocking out everything around him.

He doesn't always appear to have a lighthearted side, but he prefers to keep it away from the rink.

He doesn't always show his emotions, but they're building up inside just waiting to be released on the ice, especially when it comes to sticking up for his teammates.

Adam McQuaid is far from being an easy read. That doesn't mean, though, things are exactly as they seem.

"I think maybe there's a misperception," he said.

Who better to clear it up than McQuaid himself and those who have gotten to know him in and away from the game.

McQuaid spoke exclusively to CSNNE prior to his leaving Saturday night's game with what is being called a lower body injury.


The Makings of a Hockey Hard Hitter
This much is obvious: there's something about the physical side of hockey that draws in McQuaid. The 6-5, 209-pounds defenseman is a towering presence who is never afraid to get in the mix of a scuffle on the ice.

Once a forward, he impressed coaches with his skills skating backward and transitioned to a new position. He embraced the role and honed in on ways to succeed in it.

"It's not like I ever minded the physical side of the game," McQuaid, 27, explained. "I never shied away from it or anything…I enjoy the competitive nature of the physical side. It's a battle, seeing who can come out on top. I enjoy that side of it. I enjoy the competitive side of getting in and trying to out-muscle guys. The pushback, it's fun to kind of go back and forth a little bit.

"It kind of started out in my NHL draft year. My junior coach told me basically, ‘If you want to go pro, you're going to have to aim to play a certain way. You don't want to pigeon hole yourself. You always want to be working on different areas of your game.’…I realized how I needed to play if I wanted to be successful, if I wanted to continue to move up levels in hockey. I try to play to my strengths and that's trying to play physical."

An altercation during his time in the AHL showed a young McQuaid he could hold his own. He now approaches each battle with the mindset he is going to win it, and if nothing else he will give it his all and "see where that leaves him."

"Something that kind of stands out is my first year in Providence, we had a really good team with a lot of veterans on defense," he recalled. "I was kind of trying to get my feet wet and work my way in with the rest of the team. It was early in the season and I wasn't having the greatest game. It kind of boiled over with a guy. I handled myself fairly well and I think it kind of surprised a lot of guys, so I think that gave me a little bit of confidence in that area and that was maybe a starting point."


Silently Strong
McQuaid's explosive play is a contrast to his quiet demeanor. He creates noise throughout arenas with his punches and hits without making a scene before he steps into action.

"I'm pretty quiet both on and off the ice," said McQuaid. "I'm not getting into verbal battles with too many guys. When I'm playing I enjoy the competitive nature of it, and when I'm off the ice I like to be a little more relaxed, laid-back. Maybe a little bit the way that I was raised, I grew up in a small town with a close family. We were taught all of our manners and that stuff stays with you, the values and your morals. You can be a physical guy that's out there getting into fights and hitting people and getting into their faces, or you can be the more soft-spoken person off the ice and do things for other people and be a good teammate."

He isn't exactly a frontrunner for being voted Most Talkative by his counterparts and is often so engrossed during games he doesn't respond to his teammates when they try to talk to him on the bench. They know not to take it personally, including roommate Dougie Hamilton who sees that silent concentration in other aspects of his life.

"Sometimes guys are talking on the bench and talking about plays, but he's usually pretty focused on the game," Hamilton said. "You can ask him something and he won't really get back to you. He's really into the game. I think it could be the same at home, too. If we're watching TV and you ask him a question, he's focused on the TV. I think that comes back to the intensity and focus."

Johnny Boychuk has been teammates with McQuaid his entire career and appreciates both aspects of his personality. Plus, witnessing the transformation on the ice is pretty entertaining for Boychuk to see firsthand.

"He's a nice person off the ice, but when he's on the ice I think he takes that hatred out on everybody else," Boychuk said with a laugh. "He battles hard and he's a very tough player to play against. He punishes people. [As a teammate], it's great. It's fun to watch. You see him snap and it gives everybody energy when you see a guy that's usually, not necessarily really quiet, but he chooses his words wisely when he speaks. When you see that switch turn on and you see him want to pummel a guy, that's my favorite moment."


With Good Intentions
There's a line between playing physically and carelessly. McQuaid doesn't get physical to send his opponents off the ice, he does it to send a message.

On Oct. 23, it was McQuaid who rushed John Scott of the Buffalo Sabres after Scott blindsided Loui Eriksson with a hit to the head which resulted in a concussion. McQuaid didn't think it was anything his teammates would not have done for him in the same situation. To him, it was simply part of being a unit.

"It's not like I did a whole lot," he said. "I think it's more about showing that you care about your teammates."

Being there for others has always been important to McQuaid. He points to strong morals instilled by his parents and teachers growing up in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island as positive influences. Moving up the ranks, he also had defense coach who stressed the importance of backing his teammates on the ice.

There were many instances throughout his life when others stood up for him, and McQuaid has carried that value with him to the professional level.

"To be honest, I'm not really a confrontational person," he said. "Growing up in school, there were a lot of times when people chimed in. Sometimes you don't even tell a person how much you appreciate it, but you do. There's been times when other guys have stepped in to react and stick up for me, and I know how much that means to me. That goes hand-in-hand and shows that you care."

It didn't take long for Torey Krug to pick up on McQuaid's commitment to the Bruins. Last season, then-rookie Krug quickly learned he could depend on McQuaid if he needed him.

"People should know the person that he is is indicative of the type of teammates he is," said Krug. "He's a great teammate, sticks up for his teammates, he comes to the rink every day to work hard. That's the kind of person he is, too. He's going to stick up for you wherever you are."

The Veteran Go-To
McQuaid turned 27 in October and is playing in his fifth NHL season. He has taken his teammates Hamilton, 20, and Krug, 22, under his wing to serve as a veteran presence for the younger defensemen.  

Hamilton moved in with McQuaid last season. They keep a low-key vibe, often returning home after games and watching television, trying to avoid talk of the day's work. Hamilton says being around McQuaid so often has helped him pick up on good habits in hockey and in life. (He has also picked up on McQuaid's taste for country music.)

"I think he's responsible and knows to do the right thing," said Hamilton. "It's knowing what's right and wrong, eating properly, certain things like that. You can just watch him and learn when he plays. He does the right things so it's easy to follow him and see what he does."

Krug got to know McQuaid during last season's playoff run. He joined McQuaid and Hamilton for dinner and clicked with his more experienced teammate. Since then, McQuaid has been generous with advice and insight into the game.

"He's a guy I really leaned on, one of the older guys that's played and has done a good job up here," said Krug. "He's one of those guys that I ask questions to and he gives me straightforward answers. It's not always about coming here to have a good time. It's about coming here to do a job and take care of everything that you have to before you mess around."


Wait, He's What?
As teammates and McQuaid himself discussed extreme focus and a soft-spoken nature, Krug threw a curveball: "Away from the ice, we have a lot of fun. We have a lot of laughs, he's always smiling."

Fun? Laughs? Smiles? This is McQuaid that Krug is talking about, right?

Krug sits with McQuaid on the team plane and they share a common interest in comedy movies. "Old school ones," Krug points out, noting "Billy Madison" as one of their favorites to watch.

"He's always happy," said Krug. "He's not grumpy too often. By looking at him and the way he plays, someone might expect he'd be grumpy. But that's not him."

McQuaid offered a laugh (a small one) when told of Krug's description. There’s a break in the talks of his intensity as he cracks open the window into a more laid-back aspect of his demeanor.

"I think it's important to have fun, right?" McQuaid said. "I think you have to find the right balance. Sometimes I'm a little more serious around the rink, but I think it's important when you get away from the rink to take a step back from the hockey mindset and have some fun, have some laughs."

Even those moments on the ice aren’t always exactly as they seem.

"He got into a fight in preseason, it was more of a wrestling match," Krug recalled. "He got up and was sitting there. I said, 'What the heck just happened?' and he was smiling. I was like, 'That's the first time I've ever seen you smile during a game.' It's fun."

The anecdotes don’t seem to coincide with the stories of unrelenting focus and a quiet disposition. But it is actually fitting for McQuaid, someone whose personality is not easy to read at first—or second—glance, to have another side few would expect.

McQuaid thinks there may be a misperception about him. Maybe he’s right.