T.J. Oshie had always been close, but 2018 was the year where he finally broke through. Until then his career with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals — and even the United States Olympic Team — had been full of near-misses. Great teams and great seasons always fell just a bit short.
Winning it all with Washington this spring has given Oshie a chance to reflect on his career, both on the road behind him and what’s ahead as he raises a family in Washington and celebrates finally lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup in the nation’s capitol. For him, the celebrating is over, though, and a repeat bid is underway for the Caps.
Oshie did get to take some time away in the opening weeks of the season to talk with Uproxx Sports on behalf of M&Ms about the road to the Cup, which contained a surprising amout of Mario Kart. He also spoke about his connection to Warroad, Minn., his Native American heritage, and just where he learned to chug a beer through his shirt.
Uproxx Sports: You’ve been on a lot of teams over your career that were very good and considered contenders for a Cup. What was it like to finally come through with the Capitals, a franchise that’s had a ton of good teams and never got it together until this spring?
T.J. Oshie: Personally it was pretty awesome. When you get 10 years in the league instead of when am I going to win the Stanley Cup it’s if I’m going to win it. So to get it done with some years left here is pretty relieving but also a lot of hard work went into that.
I was on two teams that always felt like it was close, but to find a way to do was pretty cool, and it was special to do it with that group and get the job done.
Winning the Cup in D.C. was special and there were a lot of celebrations. How long can you take to celebrate and have fun before you got back to work for the next season?
Actually, two days after my Cup day was when I really started training. I started training the week before but it was kind of interrupted: My Cup day fell on a Tuesday so it kind of messed around with that week.
So it was the middle of July when I started hitting it hard and pressed the reset button. I was ready to before that but I had my Cup day then. I’d imagine it would have been a little harder for guys that had their Cup day later in August but I’ve been ready to roll here for quite a while for the new challenge.
Your day with the Cup you had in a tiny town where you played high school hockey. It’s a town of 1,300 people who had never had anything like that happen to them. What was that like?
It was awesome. Going back to Warroad, I believe the sign says “Population 1,722.” I’m not sure it’s changed since high school. But it was pretty special for me, that’s kind of where my hockey career really started taking off. It’s where I really decided to kind of become a full-time hockey player. I played a lot of sports in high school but by then my focus was kind of on hockey. And to go back there and share the Cup with them the way that town took me in — I moved there in tenth grade, and for a small town to take me in as a little kid with blondie hair from Seattle was pretty cool for them to do.
So I owed it to them and I wanted to get the Cup up there and bring it to the people of Warroad.
I have to ask: you famously chugged a beer through your shirt a few times during the Cup celebrations. Where did you pick that move up?
Yeah, I picked up, I don’t know, along the way somewhere. It might have been in college or one of the early years in St. Louis. I did it at a team party that we had one time and then it seems like some of the other guys on the team always wanted me to do it for them or with them at other team events.
So when it came time for the parade and other guys started going up there and setting the tone before me I figured I’d try it out. I’m gonna save the next one for when we win it again — I’ve been asked to do it by a lot of people but I’m gonna save it from here on out.
People who maybe aren’t as into hockey as others may have first heard your name during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi when you scored a bunch of shootout goals against Russia. How much did that moment change your life? You had a career before that but suddenly you’re called an American hero and are a household name. What was that like for you?
It was pretty surreal. I think at the start, for me, it felt like just a round robin game, a game we needed to win to get into a good position to go to the medal round. I knew it was really early in the morning so I assumed not a lot of people were watching the game.
But it has opened up a lot of doors for me and allowed me to do a lot of things I wouldn’t be able to do before the Olympics. So I’m grateful for that, and obviously just grateful to be on Team USA. It was a whirlwind right after and it settled down a bit but now it’s back to crazy with winning the Stanley Cup. It’s pretty special memories for me.
You’re working with M&Ms right now to celebrate the win with fans in Washington. What have you been doing with them?
They had some fans of M&Ms and some fans of the Caps get a chance to do kind of an all-access meet and greet with me. We’re at the practice rink and I got to meet everyone, I think there were seven winners plus a guest. There were signed jerseys, we did a Q&A, which is usually my favorite part of it — just hearing the questions they have about what goes on either behind the scenes or if I have superstitions or injuries or whatever it is. I think, for me, it’s the best way to interact with fans.
Then we went on the ice for about 20 minutes and tried to show them some little skills that I can do with the puck. Most of the have nothing to do with the actual game of hockey but we had a good time out there.
There are a lot of First Nations and Native American hockey players out there and a handful of them are in the NHL, including yourself. What’s it like to represent a group of people and bring that culture and heritage to such a big stage?
It’s important to me and it’s important to my family. Growing up out in Seattle I didn’t get much of an opportunity to learn about it, and then once I got back to Warroad I kind of saw the heritage and background of my family. I think it’s important to set a good example for younger Native American kids playing hockey or really whatever they want to do. For me to try to set a good example and show them that things are possible.
I saw you mentioned somewhere that you played a lot of Mario Kart during the Cup run and sometimes you wouldn’t leave the hotel at all, you just wanted to focus in on the series and kill time with video games. Are you a big gamer on the road during the season?
No, it’s actually just part of the playoffs for me. I don’t have any time at home to play video games with two little ladies running around the house. But it was something that started, gosh I don’t know, it’s been around for a while now. We even did it in St. Louis, but it wasn’t Mario Kart we played other games.
In the playoffs you get a team suite when you’re on the road because you’re playing in the same city a couple times in a row, which you don’t do during the regular season. So they kind of make a suite for us, and I got kind of addicted, I guess, to playing Mario Kart with some of the fellas.
It was kind of our routine in between games on the road to get a couple games in. Well, I guess more than a couple for some of us. But it was just kind of a bonding thing that we had, but yeah, it was fun and now I got Wario tattooed on my leg.
Nice. You obviously spent a lot of time in Vegas, more than any other visiting team given that you played them in the Finals. What was it like to see that city take to hockey in such a big way in their first season?
I think it’s really good. I honestly wasn’t out and about much — like I said I only left my room one time, and it was going to dinner with my wife the night before Game 1. Then we lost so I definitely didn’t leave the hotel after that. But the crowds in general at the games were awesome.
You never know how a new franchise is going to be but the people in Vegas really came in and showed their support and jumped on the Knights bandwagon there so it was exciting to play there. It was exciting to play there and definitely in the Finals.