Liam O’Brien is a fight-ready enforcer for the Arizona Coyotes with 94 penalty minutes.
He just laughs when asked about it.
“I think I’m a very competitive person,” the 27-year-old center said. “I love the competition. I love the feeling of playing. It’s great, and there’s adrenaline. It’s fun – between the guys in the room, the friends you make, the people you meet, the cities you travel to and the highlights of the game.
Originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, O’Brien has dreamed of playing hockey since he was 3 years old and hasn’t given up on it.
There was no NHL dream in his hometown, so he instead admired the players of the Halifax Mooseheads, a Canadian major junior ice hockey club in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“I would go to those games with my old man,” he said. “I looked up to a lot of junior players, especially from my region.”
In the NHL for eight years, O’Brien played with the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche before signing with the Coyotes on July 28, 2021.
“My mom is super proud,” he said. “They were able to get to the game there in New York. It’s good that they can come and see me live my dream. For them, that’s all they could have asked for. They spent a lot of time, bringing me to the rink.
“They have done so much for me. All of their sacrifice, all of the hard work, it all paid off.
O’Brien — who calls the Coyotes a tight-knit, great group of guys — practices in the offseason, which is his typical summer routine. He spends most of his summers in Carlsbad, California, and he and his fiancée, Adéla Zahrajová from the Czech Republic, love to travel. Their passport includes stamps in Thailand, Italy, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Greece and “all over Europe”.
On his wish list are Mauritius in East Africa, Madagascar and Peru.
“Travel is something we try to do as much as we can,” O’Brien said. “For hockey, I travel a lot in the United States and Canada. I think it’s important to see other parts of the world and other cultures and so on. It’s something we’ve taken the time to do over the past five to six years.
“I feel like we’ve been to a few other places too. I really like to see the way other people live. I don’t think there is anything cooler than that. You learn so much.
He called Italy “amazing”, a place where the food is “ridiculous”, whether it’s a bigger restaurant or a hole in the wall. “It’s the best food I’ve ever had.”
O’Brien hopes the Coyotes’ rebuilding continues to improve.
“They’re building a culture – a strong culture – to win as many games as possible,” O’Brien said.
“We’ve come really close lately, winning games against a good hockey team. We get together and I think it’s the start of something special.