Devils’ Carrick uses NHL pause to enter the podcasting world

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Connor Carrick hadn’t even released the first episode of his podcast and he already was feeling sick. In fact, all he did was announce it on his social media platforms before the nerves and anxiety were turning his stomach.

He wasn’t about to play in a big game. All Carrick was doing was release a podcast. Despite playing nearly 300 professional games between the AHL and NHL, the 26-year-old Devils defenseman experienced those familiar feelings we all do.

But Carrick’s thirst for knowledge allowed him to push through that anxiety and publish his first episode, a question and answer session with fans. 

Two episodes in and Carrick is meeting his goal of not only entertaining and informing fans during the NHL pause, but also continuing his own journey of learning.

“As a pro athlete I’m kind of responsible for my own self-education. I don’t have a curriculum,” Carrick told NBC Sports. “I’m not in school full-time, but I found that my life and the way that I look at the world has expanded since being out of school and being responsible for what books I read and what information I want to put in my head. It really can shape my world for better or worse based on what information I’m digesting.”

How it all began

The genesis of Carrick’s podcast came last summer when he released a “day in the life” video detailing his off-season regimen. His wife, Lexi, had been urging him to check out certain podcasts, and when he entered that world he was hooked. That’s when starting his own revolving around good conversations with people he found interesting began to take shape.

“It’s a cool area to try and connect with other people and try and give back to the podcasting world what I’ve taken from it,” said Carrick, who works with Colin Steingard to produce each episode.

The podcast won’t be just about hockey. Carrick may have already published episodes with Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman and Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, but he wants the conversations to be a blend of hockey and life.

“I definitely want to talk about life skills,” he said. “I think in terms in how to have a better lifestyle where I can be more productive and enjoy the process more where there’s less pull. It’s something that I think you train for forever, but I don’t discount the fact that my passion is hockey, my career is hockey, a lot of people in my audience will come from the world of hockey. I do think I’ve always had an ability to understand the game and the breakdown well, and I think the conversation will naturally lean that way. A lot of my friends, people I look up to I’m curious what their best practices are, and those will be conversations to be had.”

Coming out of the shell

The NHL pause afforded Carrick the opportunity to start the podcast as it would have been difficult to get going in-season. This downtime has allowed him to get comfortable being the one asking the questions, not answering them as he’s used to doing.

Hockey players, for the most part, are reserved. It’s only over the last few years the younger generation has brought more personality into the game. Still, many aren’t comfortable showing fans who they are. 

Carrick said that fear of judgement from those in the game prevents many players from showing their true selves.

“Culturally, it’s such a team-oriented sport and that’s beautiful about it, and guys revere and respect that and it’s what the players before us always did,” he said. “It’s not an ‘I’ game, it’s a ‘we’ game. And I think so much of that has to do with the humility of the sport. The best of the best get hit. I think the accessibility, the information out there in terms of other passions of life, it’s just available now. You can learn anything about anything at any given time, whether it’s through social media, YouTube, whatever. 

“The generation that’s coming into the NHL now is a generation that grew up with those tools and really recognizes how to use them. I still didn’t even have Facebook until I was a junior or senior in high school. I’ve always been technologically averse. I’ve always preferred human-to-human, face-to-face [interactions].”

Criticisms have been lobbed at players who are heavy social media users, with the opinion that if you’re constantly Tweeting or on Instagram then you’re not focused on the sport.

“I think as players there’s an element of guilt,” Carrick added. “You want to be all-in and you want to be totally focused on your craft as an athlete and to dip your toe into anything else will come across as if you’ve got a Plan B or you’re not totally in it.”

The guests Carrick is targeting are individuals who can provide listeners with a takeaway from the conversation. And the listener won’t be the only one getting something out of the experience.

“I want to leave them through the power of story and idea and talking about the development of every guest that I speak with,” he said. “I want them to leave with I’m passionate and curious about their own life in terms of where do they want to grow next and I want them to feel more equipped to do so. A lot of the people I’ll be speaking to will be exceptional individuals. I don’t think the world needs another eight-minute abs or morning hack to be their best self. What they need is a story in the back of their mind that can continue to fuel their efforts, their dreams. I know that’s how I’ve always operated — I’ve always been very role-model-oriented. 

“I’m excited. I’m excited to talk and tell stories and exchange ideas and hopefully try and discover who people are that I have on the podcast and get to the bottom of what makes them so great.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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