Minneapolis -- Senior forward Mike Szmatula needs just four points to become the newest member of Gopher Hockey's 100-Point Club as the alternate captain leads all active skaters with 96 points (40 goals, 56 assists) in 113 career games.
GopherSports.com caught up with the Commerce Township, Mich., native to talk about going to the Minnesota State Fair, his friendship with fellow Michigan native Brent Gates Jr. and a multitude of other topics.
How did you get started skating and playing hockey? Do you have a special memory of that experience?
When I was younger, I was just trying all kinds of different sports. My mom would just keep bringing me to the rink and pushing me to keep playing. I think at first my dad wanted me to quit because I was so bad. I think I was like four at the time.
As a Michigan kid, you are actually one of the few guys on the team that didn’t grow up watching the Gophers necessarily. What drew you to the University of Minnesota and the Gopher Hockey program?
I admired the tradition here. It’s always been one of the top programs in college hockey, and I wanted to be a part of it. Look at the success this program has had…the national championships, all the guys that have gone on to play professionally. On top of that it’s a first-class program and the academics here are second to none. When you have the opportunity to be a part of a program like this, you don’t hesitate.
Did you know fellow Michigan native and Gopher teammate Brent Gates Jr. before you joined the program or did you just become friends with him after you two played together with Minnesota?
I didn’t know him personally. I was looking at the roster when I came in and saw he was from Michigan too. We’ve kind of become best buddies – I’m not sure if both of us being from Michigan has anything to do with it, but it has been nice having someone who can relate to certain things with you.
You two went to the Minnesota State Fair together over the summer. As someone who isn’t totally familiar with it, what was your takeaway from that experience?
Oh man…they have really, really good food there. We tried so many different things…I can’t even remember them all. I just remember the alligator sausage was really good. I thought it was really cool how many people come to check out the State Fair from all over the state of Minnesota. The people watching was great, but the food was definitely the best part.
When we play these Michigan teams, does it mean a little bit more to you as a Michigan native?
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. I grew up following Michigan and Michigan State, so being a Michigan guy I want to do well against them and more importantly that the team does well against them.
Do you have a story behind wearing No. 9?
I’ve always tried to have a nine on my jersey since I was a little kid. Sergei Federov was No. 91 and then Steve Yzerman was No. 19 – Yzerman was my favorite player growing up. When you grow up playing hockey in Michigan, those are two guys that were easy to look up to.
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