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redeyechicago.com

Konerko's still got his slap shot

By Brian Hedger

For RedEye

1:28 PM CDT, October 8, 2013

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Paul Konerko has become a White Sox icon, but baseball wasn't even his first sport.

That would be hockey, which he still follows closely. While he's busy mulling retirement, RedEye caught up with the South Side slugger to talk hockey as the NHL season kicks into high gear.

Which love came first, hockey or baseball?

Hockey. My dad played hockey back east. My whole family's from Rhode Island and my dad played high school hockey and [some semi-professionally]. So I was always around hockey growing up. I was on skates when I was 3, real young. I started playing baseball around the same time, but I was more into hockey, at least up until the ages of 11 or 12.

How long did you play?

I played through my sophomore year. After we moved to Arizona, I continued to play there from about 13 to 16. But once I made the varsity team in baseball, it was like … baseball starts in late January and hockey season ends in April, so how can you do both?

What position did you play?

Center and right wing. I was just in front of the net a lot and got a lot of garbage goals and screen shots—just trying to be a presence in front of the net. When I was younger, I was a little bigger and faster than everybody else, but they got to catch up a little bit when I got into my teens and it started to even out a little more. I had a good shot, though. Still do, when I shoot around.

Do you still play?

I don't play, but I get on the ice now and again. I don't even play rec stuff, because I don't want to risk getting hurt while I'm still playing [baseball]. But I have a couple of buddies that I golf with who are hockey guys, Canadians, and their kids play. So I'll go out and skate with [their] teams and just be on the ice or mess around, getting some ice time that way.

When you do retire, will you play hockey in a rec league somewhere?

Yeah, I definitely want to play in some men's leagues and all that. I've put it off for a long time. I would definitely have to build my way back up. If somebody put a stick on me, I'd probably fall down at this point. Certainly I don't feel like getting into any checking situations. I'd just like to go out there and skate around for the workout. I'd rather keep in shape doing something like that than, you know, being on a cardio machine three times a week.

Any favorite Blackhawks?

Hossa's my favorite on this team. They're all good, but I'd say I enjoy watching him the most. Every time he's on the ice he's doing something good out there. He's just a complete player. They're all great, though. Kane, I love his hands. Toews is just good everywhere and makes everybody else better. Sharpie's definitely got a knack for putting pucks in the net, a nose for it. They're a great team. I'm happy that in my time in Chicago, we finally caught a good team. My first however many years here, it was like you wouldn't even pay attention. It's nice to see they have kind of a dynasty going now.

Aside from the Blackhawks, do you have a favorite team?

I was an Islanders fan. I just gravitated to the Islanders, back when they had guys like Mike Bossy and Pat LaFontaine. I was an Islanders fan and my dad was a Rangers fan … and still is. I did have season tickets for the Coyotes about four or five years and I still pull for them. I think the coach is really good there now and I know Shane Doan a little bit. He's a great guy. Now that they're staying, that's cool. If they would've moved that would've disappointed a lot of people who were behind them from the start—and I was one of them.

So who's going to win the Cup this year?

It's tough to repeat. I'd like to say Chicago, but it's so hard to repeat. I haven't done my analysis yet. My cousin tells me that Boston will be even better than they were last year, so take that for what it's worth. I hope, for Chicago's sake, it's the Blackhawks.

Brian Hedger is a RedEye special contributor. @brianhedger

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