The art of the chirp: NHL players on what makes a good trash-talker, just in time for the season


TORONTO (AP) — Nazem Kadri has been involved in more than a few verbal sparring matches and the Calgary forward certainly knows how to dish it out during any on-ice war of words.

“I’ve had my fair share,” he told the Canadian Press. “You just gotta be on your toes. You just gotta be clever. Sometimes someone will say something and you’ll be like, ‘Oh, that was pretty good.‘ It definitely makes things interesting.”

But what makes a good trash-talker? Is it doing a deep dive into an opponent’s past in search of that stinging nugget of information? Or a heat-of-the-moment zinger?

“Guys who are just quick and witty,” Carolina forward Seth Jarvis said. “I trip over my words and nothing good comes out. It’s fun listening to guys that are almost like a smartass … stuff that comes out naturally.”

Winnipeg defenseman Josh Morrissey said opponents with knowledge of a players’ career or an embarrassing moment are the ones that sting.

“They have got a book,” he said. “They’re ready to go.”

He added the confidence and skill to try to get someone off their game by talking trashisn’t in everyone’s arsenal.

“The best guys are willing to back it up,” he said. “I’m definitely not a chirper, but the guys that do … there’s some pretty charismatic guys in our league.”

Montreal winger Cole Caufield said it’s “scary” how some players will go down an internet rabbit hole to gather dirt. New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes said the hockey world is a small one, which adds to potential material.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he explained. “Sometimes it crosses the line, sometimes not. You gotta be quick. You gotta be snappy.”

“I’m not a big researcher,” Toronto tough guy Ryan Reaves said. “Like it off the cuff.”

NHL players also know they have to be careful in an era where microphones are positioned around the rink — and even on players themselves. High-definition television cameras also mean fans can become amateur lip readers.

There was an example last season when Anaheim forward Trevor Zegras and then-Arizona defenseman Troy Stecher got into a war of words that morphed into rumors on social media.

“Things can always be misconstrued … it wasn’t accurate,” Ducks winger Troy Terry said. “It was a lesson where if you’re in the spotlight, those things can happen.”

Morrissey said that rule also applies out of the spotlight.

“At the rink or away from the rink, there’s always someone with a phone,” he said. “And sometimes disingenuously trying to put you in a tough position.”

Vegas center Jack Eichel said that comes with the territory in a wider world that’s undergone significant social change in the last few years.

“You gotta be careful what you say not only on the ice, but anywhere,” he said. “A lot of guys are mic’d up and that’s a great thing that our game does.”

Boston captain Brad Marchand’s name came up repeatedly as one of the best trash-talkers. Terry said he had a memorable experience as a rookie in 2018-19 with Anaheim.

“He was all over me,” Terry recalled of Marchand. “He was like, ‘Seriously, you’re the call-up?’ He said that multiple times … he knew it was my first game back.”

Florida winger Matthew Tkachuk said an accurate barb can sting: “The worst is when you get chirped when you’re actually playing (crappy),. It just adds fuel to the fire. That’s when a chirp works.”

Kadri said watching two players go toe-to-toe with colorful dialogue never loses its appeal.

“It’s fun to be on the bench when someone’s getting into it,” Kadri said. “It’s the wittiness and it’s the material. You gotta do your homework, you gotta know everything about who you’re going after. Within reason, of course.”



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