Hockey is a major part of your life and passion, how did it start?
When I was 3 years old my dad took me to a skating rink outdoors in Toronto to kill time and I fell in love with it.
Was it your childhood dream to be a pro-hockey player?
Any first-time experiences that you can remember or share with us?
So many to choose from. I would say the first time I played hockey, or not even played hockey but the first time I put on skates is my first memory. I was 3 ½ years old. I skated from bench to bench on double-bladed gray size 10 skates, and I didn’t want to take them off. My dad left the skate shop kid 40 bucks and took them. Milestone memories would be winning the world championship in Quebec when I was 13 and then winning the British Columbia regional championship when I was playing junior hockey. Also playing my first professional game in Germany and playing my last game of hockey ever. That was the last time I ever put on pads and I never played again, so those would be my pivotal memories.
How did you feel about transitioning from hockey to acting?
They’re similar. They’re both team sports where everyone is trying to work together to achieve a common goal. I like that part of it. You’re all working towards that goal and on the good teams and in the good movies it feels important. The greater goal which was winning a championship, the greater good was more important than what you were doing singularly. They have a lot of commonality that way. You want to play with the best people on the best teams, you want to do movies with the best people and the best crews. The act of auditioning was similar and better because in my opinion there’s no real competition in acting. Everyone’s kind of working together more so than hockey where there was an actual tactile competition. Other people literally wanted you to lose. Very rarely when you’re doing a movie does anybody want you to fail. [More at source]
It’s 2004. Wyatt Russell mans the net at a hockey rink—the kind that offers skating lessons and has a sports bar on the second floor—somewhere in British Columbia. Wyatt’s about to get his ass whooped. He’s 17 years old, which means he’ll live another 17 years before he picks up a hunk of a star-spangled shield and call himself Captain America. Here, in Canada? Wyatt’s gunning for the NHL. Big crowds, star goalie. Nothing else. He’s good, too. Best numbers in the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Not today. The puck slips past him. Bad goal. Another one. And another one. Wyatt Russell’s blowing the damn game.
Russell turns to the crowd and throws his hands in the air. In hockey sign language: Look, I’ve done everything I can do. What do you want me to do? Ow! He fakes a leg injury. His knee. Or something. Pulls himself from the game. Team is better for it. Russell’s crew rallies and wins, which makes him think that no one noticed his very bad, no-good game. Sweet. His goalie coach walks up to him after the game, says he wants to meet at the McDonald’s on the corner. 10 minutes later, Wyatt’s at McDonald’s, grease and a screaming McFlurry machine.
“You took yourself out of the game,” the coach says. “If that’s the way you want to live your life? If that’s the person that you want to become—the person who throws your hand up and says, ‘What do you want me to do?’ And you’re not going to push through that moment?
Wyatt starts crying. Wyatt Russell is crying at a McDonald’s. There’s no crying at McDonald’s, unless you’re stuck in the ball pit.
“I can’t work with you. It won’t work. This won’t work.”
Wyatt never throws his hands in the air again. The coach stays.
“He cut to the core of me. From that moment on, I changed as a person,” Russell says over Zoom this week. “I said to myself, When you come upon hard times and you will—you’re a human being that doesn’t give a fuck what anybody says… You’re doing it for yourself. You’re going to run through that brick wall because that’s what you’re going to do. That was what he taught me through tough love. And that’s become the person that I am today. I think it’s the reason why I’m even able to do this part, to be honest.” [more at source]