The Summer of T-Birds: A Chat w/ Hugh McGingAug 18, 2023
Voice of the T-Birds Ryan Smith will be checking in periodically with some of your favorite players throughout the summer months in a series called The Summer of T-Birds.
In this installment, Ryan is chatting with Hugh McGing, who checks in from his hometown of Chicago to talk about what he wants to do to earn more NHL games in St. Louis, while also recounting his first NHL game last April.
Questions and answers have occasionally been edited for clarity.
RS: In your two seasons with the T-Birds, you have improved in just about every offensive category. You had elevated ice time and more situational responsibilities. How much have you prided yourself on being a reliable player in every situation at every forward position?
HM: It’s a huge emphasis for me to be good in all three zones. The coaches trust you in all situations when you show them that you can provide for the team in all three zones of the ice. I’ve always prided myself on being able to play all those situations, especially on the PK. The penalty kill is such a vital part of a successful team. (Will Bitten) and I were playing together for a long time, so we built a lot of chemistry. We know when we get the puck with some time, we’re always looking for each other, looking to not only protect our zone but have the possibility of scoring goals when the other team isn’t necessarily looking to play defense. A lot of teams are playing super aggressive and up-ice on the power play, and I think Bitsy and I both being fast players play a big part in (shorthanded) success.
RS: If Bitsy was not on your team, would he be the biggest pain to play against?
HM: I think, especially for me, he and I would be butting heads a lot if he was on another team. I’m glad I haven’t played against him yet in his time, but yes, 100%.
RS: I think we should keep a running count on how many times you and Bitsy end up in the goalie’s crease. (Social admin) and I joke that he is good for one or two a night, and I can only imagine how much we would be seething if this was happening to (Joel Hofer) or (Vadim Zherenko).
HM: We like to try to frazzle the other team or get under their skin a bit. I love that part of the game; you’re not trying to steamroll the goalie, but getting in and around the crease makes them uncomfortable, and I think it’s a huge part of the game.
RS: Having experienced a run to the Calder Cup Finals in year one and then a shorter playoff trip in year two, what do you think is the key to expanding your game to a point where you’re NHL-ready while also providing a bigger leadership role in Springfield?
HM: It starts with consistency for me, being able to provide for the team game in and game out. I think that shows in the AHL, and it’s pretty blatant when you’re playing well throughout a season. The (Blues) see that and notice that, and I think that’s something that will help me get to the St. Louis roster.
RS: Take us back to April 11-12, when you got the call-up to St. Louis. You must have played the scenario in your head growing up a million times, wondering what it would be like to reach the NHL and achieve a dream. Does the reality match the dream?
HM: It definitely does. You wait for that phone call for your whole life, and you’re expecting to get it because you trust in yourself. (T-Birds general manager) Kevin Maxwell called me and I was ecstatic. I wasn’t showing it through the phone, but as soon as the call ended, I called my parents and made sure they were both together in the same room at the same time. I gave them the news, and we were all excited and enjoying the moment because it took a long time to get there. The next day, it was the Masters Sunday, and the whole team was getting together to watch it. Some of (my teammates) found out I was getting called up, and it was nice to share that moment with all of them.
RS: How many family members and friends were you able to turn around and get to St. Louis in time for your debut?
HM: We had to get a box in St. Louis because we had so many people. I think it was around 30 that made it down, and it was an amazing experience to share with all of them because they played a big part in (my journey).
RS: Take us inside the mind of a player going through the rookie lap. Is the number one objective to not fall down, and does anything else enter your head?
HM: Pretty much, get the first three strides out of the way, don’t trip, and then you’re on the ice like you’ve been thousands of times before. Other than that, make sure you hit the net on your first shot when the cameras are rolling, and go from there.
RS: You are spending your summer in Chicago, and for anyone who has never been in the Midwest in the summer, it is criminally underrated how great the summer is out there. Are you spending time on Lake Michigan, are you golfing, are you road-tripping to other destinations?
HM: I’ve kind of been all over the map in the Midwest so far this summer. Spending time with friends in downtown Chicago is always fun, getting to explore the city. I haven’t gotten out to Lake Michigan, but I’ve been to a couple of lakes in Wisconsin, getting out on the water there and in Michigan as well. My cousins have a lake house on Lake Delavan, so we get out there a lot. There are a lot of nice golf spots around Chicago and in Wisconsin that are fun to play when I come back home.
RS: At the end of a day of training, what’s on the Netflix/Hulu binge-watching list?
HM: I’ve been on a movie train lately. There have been a lot of new movies to come out as well.
RS: See Oppenheimer yet?
HM: No, I was going to see it but a couple of my buddies found out it was three hours long and didn’t want to go. I said, ‘Come on, it’s just one night!’ I still plan on seeing it soon.