When Taylor Hall was age 7 his father, Steve, built an outdoor rink that ran completely around their house in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“If I was playing net for him, he couldn't even see us,” Steve said. “We'd yell: ‘OK, time to go.' He'd come flying around the side of the house, fly around this big tree and skate in on net. That's when he started developing as a player.”
One of the fastest skaters in the NHL, Hall's phenomenal speed stands out the first time you see him play for the Oklahoma City Barons, who host the Texas Stars at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Cox Convention Center.
Over the years, Hall has maximized his speed by training with his father, a slot back in the Canadian Football League. After his football career ended, Steve was a member of the Canadian Olympic bobsled team.
Steve, who played with former Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts on the Ottawa Rough Riders, ingrained in his son the basics of bobsled training, which emphasizes power and speed.
“He knows what it's like to be a professional athlete. He knows the grind,” Steve Hall said. “Having somebody who has been through it and trains with you was a big advantage not a lot of guys have.”
A lot of guys also don't have Taylor Hall's speed and overall skill set, which led to the Edmonton Oilers selecting him No. 1 overall in the 2011 NHL Draft.
“He has a very powerful stride,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “His knee bend is textbook, how you're supposed to skate. He has a lot of ability. But the way he learned to stride as a kid, his technique is almost flawless.”
After a successful youth career, Taylor Hall was selected second overall in the Ontario Hockey League junior draft by the Windsor Spitfires at age 16. He immediately made an impact in a league stocked with 18- and 19-year-old players.
Hall was too talented to continue playing on the No. 4 line, so the Spitfires switched Hall from center to left wing, the position he's played ever since. Hall responded by scoring 94 points.
“He scored 45 goals his first year. That's unheard of for someone 16,” said Windsor general manager Warren Rychel. “He always had pop in his legs. His skating was unbelievable. He's always been just as fast with the puck as without. That's a unique trait.”
Hall also plays physical. That's helped him compile 95 points, including 49 goals, during his two seasons with the Oilers, who signed him to a seven-year, $42 million extension last summer.
“He has no qualms about mixing it up in the corners,” Rychel said. “He can skate and wants the puck more than anyone else. Combine his fearlessness with his speed, he's a unique player. There's a reason why he went No. 1 overall.”
Hall again credits his father who emphasized in workouts to focus on developing a body that could play an all-around game.
“I'm glad he taught me to make sure I play gritty instead of just trying to play a skilled, fancy game,” Hall said. “In pro hockey, you can't rely on just your skill. You also have to work hard defensively and work hard in the corners.”