Adam Keefe Meets: Mike Hoffman

In the first of our new series of ‘Adam Keefe Meets’ – the Giants Captain interviews Mike Hoffman, who played for the Giants in the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons and became an instant fans favourite during his time in Belfast.

In 67 games played for the Giants, Hoffman posted 18 goals and 30 assists and also helped the organisation to the Elite League title in the 2011/12 season.

Enjoy Captain Adam Keefe catching up with Mike Hoffman..

(Adam Keefe) After winning an Elite League title in your last season with the Giants you went on to lead “The Hague” to a Dutch championship as team Captain. How did it feel to end your playing career with two consecutive championships?

(Mike Hoffman) When I originally signed my first year with Belfast, I didn’t know if it was going to be my last season as I was coming of many injuries and some long losing seasons. I ended up having the best year of my career and we lost out by a single point. After that season I was determined to keep playing. When Doug called me to come back and said the team had a good chance to win, I was determined to help the team win and never forget that feeling holding the cup for the first time. In The Hague, I knew 100% it was my last season, we had a good team and chance to win it. It turned out to be another lockout year in the NHL and another team picked up the NHL player Dale Weise. They were strong contenders also, but we outplayed them in the playoffs and it was such a great ending to a ten year career. I left hockey with a good feeling and although I didn’t make the NHL full time, I considered it a success because I was never drafted or expected to make it past NCAA hockey.

(AK) You played in the 2010 “friendly” match vs the NHL’s Boston Bruins. How would you describe that experience playing against the Bruins?

(MH) Other than the two championship games, it will go down as my favourite game/experience during my career (that includes beating up Adam Keefe in front of 12,000 fans getting a standing ovation after). When I signed, Big Doug wouldn’t guarantee me a spot on the team due to the fact he brought me on to be the team enforcer and not a goal scorer. I ended up starting the year off hot leading the team in scoring and turned out to be the last pick for the team.  It was an earned spot and not handed to me, so it made it that much more memorable. Doug added me to the starting line up right before the game and was the last skater to come out of the tunnel which I will never forget. Although that adrenaline ended fast when I got a penalty about 20 seconds into the game which probably made Big Doug regret his decision, but the B’s didn’t score on the Powerplay so all was forgotten as we went up 1-0 at the end of the first period.

P.S. I still claim to be the only player to ever play against an NHL team and Intern for them in the same season while winning a Stanley Cup. I didn’t get a ring, but they gave me a team signed Jersey and some other memorabilia. They ended up winning game seven in Vancouver, but the management let all employees watch the game at the garden with open bar and partied on the ice after.

(AK) In your first season with the Giants I understand you became a bit of a celebrity dancing around dressed as a 6’5 250lb Elf to the song “All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey. What was the teams reaction when the video became a viral hit?

(MH) It was the talk of the locker-room for about a month and after every game we would get the song going and player of the game had to dance for everyone. It brought the team together even more than we already were.

Most people don’t know the backstory of how it came together and ended up dressing like an Elf. After practice one day, Todd (Kelman) and Doug (Giants’ Coach) came into the room and told us all to be back at the rink at 6pm with no explanation of why.  It was mid December and I was in the middle of my first mid terms at University. I had an exam the next day so I didn’t show up the first night. The next day Todd and Deb (choreographer) came up and said I had to be there for the second take that night. I show up to the locker-room and they asked if anyone had anything festive. I raised my hand and said I had an elf suit…Doug and Todd looked at me and say “I don’t want to know why you have it but go get it now.”  What I never told Doug is Rich Seeley and I were hosting an ugly sweater party the next night for our classmates at our flat.  Rich and I were out earlier that day looking for sweaters with no luck, while walking home we passed by a costume shop.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the elf suit glowing in the window…

Todd and Deb apparently had the idea for years and waiting for the right time and group of guys to pull it off.  We had no idea it was going to be a hit or even what we were exactly doing.

To this day I still wear the costume at Christmas and my nieces and nephews refer to me as “Uncle Elfie”.  People still come up to me and tell me they have seen the video and still watch it.  I had a youth coach come up to me two days ago and asked if I was going to wear my elf suit on the ice at Christmas this year.

(AK) Hockey is a small world. Given our first encounter in Chicago where we introduced ourselves via fisticuffs (and I admit I was wary of having to fight with an ACTUAL giant), how did you feel after being informed that you would be rooming with me for a whole season when you joined the Giants?

(MH) I was playing in Portland (AHL) at the time Doug called and asked if I was interested in coming back…I jumped on the opportunity as I missed Belfast and hungry for a championship.  When he sent me my itinerary he added a note I would be rooming with Adam Keefe.  I remembered our tilts in Chicago and never know if a guy holds grudges or not…so I called a buddy Sean Sullivan who was previously teammates with Keefer. The conversation went something along the lines of “Sully I’m going to be rooming with Keefer in Belfast, what’s his deal”  I heard a laugh in the background and used three adjectives “Beauty, Meat, and Mutant”.   Hockey is a small world and it was the third time I would be rooming with someone I fought or had fought before and most enforcers are the best guys off ice.  There is such a mutual respect for guys that have fought each other I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue…I think Jon Pelle was the only one nervous because he was a jokester and had to deal with me and Keefer chasing him around the rink and flat now.

(AK) We had a lot of good times and a lot of laughs during our Elite League title run in 2011-12. What was your favourite memory over your two seasons with the Giants?

(MH) Too many good memories off and on ice to pick one.  Still to this day my favourite city and rink I ever played in.  To name a few; holding the cup and dancing on the ice, the Bruins Game, the fans, Giants family, the “Elf” Video, the pizza eating contest, the Brits, learning the culture and city…the list goes could go on, but I still keep in touch with more friends and teammates from Belfast than any other team.

(AK) There is a great picture of you squaring off with possibly the scariest man in hockey, Steve Macintyre, wearing one hockey glove? Explain to us what was going through your head then?

(MH) Steve Macintyre will always go down as the toughest guy I came across.  I had broken my hand and thumb that season.  We were in the playoffs and I still had a cast on my hand, I was able to play but couldn’t fight.  Macintyre was running all over the ice and Kevin Dineen taps me and says we have to take him off the ice… I figured I’ll tackle him and drop a glove to get 5 minutes in the box.  That didn’t go as planned and we ended up squaring off, I kept one glove on and he looks at me with a what are you doing…I remember punching him square in the nose as hard as I could and he just smiles and threw a couple lefts and rights and I somehow got him to the ice.  He came up to me after the game, shook my hand  saw the cast and realised why I kept the glove on.  Still have a few marks on my head from his fists to this day.

(AK) How have you transitioned into life after hockey since you decided to hang up the skates?

(MH) Life has changed- that’s for sure. My first boy turned 1 in July (already have skates sharpened for him) and expecting a girl sometime in mid September.  “Dad life” has taken over- just this morning I had to trade in my car for a Suburban.  I hear stories of guys struggling after hockey and was very nervous myself when I stopped but I ended up keeping busy. After retirement I started out directing for Pro Ambitions which is the largest hockey camp organisation in the world, I oversaw 300 camps a summer, 7,000 youth skaters, 450 staff and partner relationships with the Bruins, Hockey East and Bauer.  I have since gone on to and currently sit as director for the Boston Junior Terriers.  My main focus since has been in Residential and Commercial Real Estate. Mainly focusing on the sales side of things, I also oversee some of the business operation and have helped grow it from 2 employees to 14 currently and have doubled our sales each of the last 3 years.  I lace up the skates once in a while, but what I miss most about the game is the locker-room life.

(AK) How does Mike Hoffman spend his weekends now that you aren’t spending them punching people in the face on the ice?

(MH) Weekends now consist of 1 and 2 year old birthday parties, mowing the lawn, fixing up the house, beach between kid naps and selling Real Estate… A couple weeks ago we had dads night out, I came home after midnight and mrs hands me the little guy at 630am with a dirty diaper…little different than walking into the pub or club VIP style and sleeping in till noon.

(AK) To many who know you personally I’m sure they would refer to you as a “gentle giant” off the ice, but sitting here reading your fight card (over 119 career fights against some of the toughest men in hockey) there is no doubt you went to war for your teammates. Was it just a switch you had to turn on when you hit the ice in order to do the job of an enforcer?

(MH) Naturally it took me a while to adapt because I had zero career school yard fights growing up and stayed out of trouble for the most part.  I went from 5’8 to 6’5 when I was 16 and I was always looked at as the big man on the team, but we wore cages so anyone can be tough with gloves and helmet on.   When I went out to Juniors the coach wanted me to fight, I had one big fight in pre-season and was tagged as the “enforcer”…that lasted for a season before NCAA hockey (which doesn’t’ allow fighting).  The first game I turned pro I fought the heavyweight on the other team and was tagged as a heavy weight fighter from that moment on.  It was never natural for me, early on I fought to stay in the AHL and played with a bit of fear.  After a few summers of boxing I got more confident and stronger on my skates…I was then the feared one after a few big wins.  Honestly I never really thought of myself as a fighter, just something I had to do to play the game…I was able to make a career out of it with never being a natural aggressor.  I am not sure how I am exactly going to explain to my kids that I was a hockey player when there isn’t one video of me actually playing hockey…

(AK) Though you only played a short time here in Belfast, you’ll long be remembered here for your passion on the ice & giant personality off of it. Leave us with some words to describe your time here in the land of the Giants.

(MH) As mentioned before Belfast is and will always be my favourite city, rink and fans to play in front of.  I can’t wait to take my family back someday and show them what an amazing city it is. I still check my emails and mailbox everyday waiting for the next Testimonial invite…To all the Giants family, fans and past teammates I miss you all and hopefully see you sooner than later.

Quick Fire Questions
– (AK) Best player you’ve played with?
– (MH) Flashiest – Michael Nylander, Legend – Jagr, Complete Player – Ryan Getzlaf

– (AK) Fav Belfast pub?
– (MH) Filthy’s

– (AK) Cheapest Giant Teammate?
– (MH) Garside

– (AK) What did baby Hoff weigh in at?
– (MH) 7.7 (I was 7.6)

– (AK) Fav Belfast food spot?
– (MH) Boojum

– (AK) Something we don’t know about ‘The Hoff’?
– (MH) I was only mad once in my career during a fight..when you jumped me in Chicago..

– (AK) Fav hockey player growing up?
– (MH) Cam Neely

– (AK) Would you be willing to defend your pizza eating title again at a Belfast Giant match?
– (MH) Yes, I’m always available for a weekend appearance.

– (AK) Name one hockey game that stands out for you over your career?
– (MH) Other than Bruins game, scoring my first and only NHL goal with Anaheim with my dad in the stands and mom watching on TV.

– (AK) Fight or Goal?
– (MH) Fight

"Adam Keefe Meets.." Check out the 1st in our new series as @Adam27Keefe interviews @PuckHoff on his time in Belfast!

— Belfast Giants (@BelfastGiants) October 11, 2016

Photo: Timo Savela

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