From the moment he arrived at the end of the 2013-14 season Joe Pendenza has been one of the more fun interviews to always do around the Milwaukee Admirals locker room. He’s honest, has a smart read of the game, and has no problem having a laugh at himself or, more often than not, those around him.
Needless to say, there is a lot of that which comes out during this interview. Especially laughing. Kick back, read up or listen in, as Pendenza tells some stories.
Admirals Roundtable: What were your inspirations to play hockey?
Joe Pendenza: My family was pretty big into hockey but my big inspiration was definitely my uncle. I used to go to his high school games growing up and I used to watch the videos of him playing hockey. The running joke through my family is that he was the first one that gave me a hockey stick when I was born. So, it was definitely him. He was a big inspiration of mine.
AR: When did you realize that you were going to play hockey for a career?
Pendenza: I had a really good junior year in college. We ended up going to the Frozen Four. I knew talking to my advisers at that point that it was a possibility. Then, at the end of my senior year, I had a couple offers. So that’s when it’s kind of like, wow, like.. this is actually going to happen. (AR: You say a couple offers. One of those being the Admirals. What made you end up going with the Admirals?) I went to Nashville’s development camp the year before. So I was already kind of comfortable with everyone else and knew the management, the coaches, and the players. The big thing was that I was comfortable with everybody so I felt comfortable coming out here. (AR: Any of those guys at that camp that are still around here by any chance?) [Colton Sissons] was there, [Miikka Salomäki] was there.. he’s up but he was there… trying to go through the locker room. A couple of guys are in Nashville now like [Austin Watson]… [long pause] (AR: Let’s just put it this way. Miikka’s English then versus where it is today is amazing.) A lot better! Yeah, a lot better.
AR: Who was the first famous player that you met?
Pendenza: I probably have to say Ray Bourque. I played against his son growing up and he was one of the coaches at the time. So I got to meet him then. And then I was like, eight or nine, I went to like an autograph session. Me and my mom stood in the line for like three-hours in a mall. [laughs] (AR: It was going to have to be someone with the Bruins with you.) Yeah! Absolutely.
AR: What is your greatest hockey moment?
Pendenza: Probably winning Hockey East Championships back-to-back years for UMass-Lowell.
AR: Most memorable goal?
Pendenza: [groans] Oh God. Most memorable goal.. I don’t even know. I’d probably say my first NCAA goal. (AR: Do you remember the breakdown of it?) Yeah. It started in our end-zone. I was playing center, got the puck in the middle like right around the blueline, just skated, and just threw the puck to the net – it went in. It wasn’t anything pretty but it was the first one! I cellied way too hard! [laughs] (AR: Speaking of celebrating way too hard. I recorded the videos of today’s shootout at practice. Félix Girard, first one… amazing.) Amazing! (AR: Jamie Devane… even better. Because he follow that the whole way in and seemed like he was the only one who knew it crossed.) Yeah, it was awesome. I’m hoping that Girard pulls that out in a game. That would be great. (AR: I couldn’t believe it. That was so out of character!) I know! (AR: But I got it! I have it on tape. So, that exists.)
AR: What’s the strangest game that you’ve ever played in?
Pendenza: Strangest game.. [pause] We had a game growing up where the we started playing and then the ice started to melt. And that was it. We came back the next day and finished it. [laughs] Yeah, it was different. (AR: What the heck was wrong with the rink?) Oh, God I don’t know. It was just a Boston NBC rink. It was kind of old. I’m pretty sure they knocked it down and built a new one. But, yeah, there was like a big hole at the side of the rink so they were like, “Yeah.. We can’t do this anymore.” [laughs]
AR: What’s the most embarrassing hockey memory for you?
Pendenza: In high school. It was not during a game it was right after the game. I was sick the whole game, told my coach, played a period, came off the ice, and then my buddy opened the door and.. just.. puked all over him. [laughs] So the next day in school it was just a tough day for me! [laughs] He ended up having to get all new equipment and everything. [laughs] (AR: I love that you had one right off the bat. The last few I’ve had it’s a challenge.) Yeah, it’s because my dad makes fun of me for it all the time. Whenever I get sick he’s like, “just watch out for your teammates!” [laughs]
AR: Most painful moment in hockey injury-wise?
Pendenza: I hurt my wrist last year at the end of the year. But I’d say when I was like twelve I broke my collarbone [pause] and then decided to play for another two weeks. (AR: *proceeds to give Pendenza the stink eye*) Yeah. I refused to get an x-ray because I didn’t want to stop playing and then my mom eventually dragged me there and they were like, “yeah you’ve been playing with a broken collarbone.” I was like, “Ohh. OK.” I was like that’s why it was so hard. I couldn’t shoot or pass. I basically just skated up and down the ice. (AR: This isn’t exactly a sport where you’d want to play with a broken collarbone.) NO. No. It was definitely not a good decision. The doctors were very surprised.
AR: What are your favorite hockey uniforms?
Pendenza: Probably our’s for sure. The new ones. These are awesome. And then I’d have to say the Bruins one. Classic Spoked-B.
AR: Who is the funniest players that you’ve met?
Pendenza: [looks at the locker room] We’ve got some characters in there. Honestly, I just have to say the Frenchies. (AR: The French Fries!) Yes, the French Fries. [Editor’s Note: The French Fries was the nickname coined by Jonathan Diaby of his fellow French Canadian players and besties Félix Girard, Jimmy Oligny, and Frédérick Gaudreau.) They’re just hysterical. I can’t get enough of them. [laughs] They are way too funny! (AR: I picked up on them calling themselves the French Fries last year and, once, I arrived to the arena just as they did. I could have sworn it was Félix and Jo in the same suit. I was just, “Aww, you two good lil’ buddies!”) That doesn’t surprise me. That doesn’t surprise me at all. They’re comical. I hang out with them a good amount, too. So, it’s just way too funny. (AR: I love that they have a nickname for themselves.) Yeah, it’s great! It’s not just one of them it’s the whole group! (AR: Whenever I see Diaby come back I’m just, “THE BIG FRY is back! The Big Fry!”)
AR: What’s your favorite aspect of Milwaukee?
Pendenza: The food is awesome. I really enjoy, there’s a lot of different bar scenes and restaurants that I’ve seen. I’m a big foodie guy so I like that. Obviously there’s a lot of breweries around here so I like that, too. (AR: And because I can rope it back in because this wasn’t recording when we started this… bar scene… beer… tell me about the last Bucks game you went to.) Yeah, so I took my buddy from back home – he works out here. We were sitting at the front and he just got a beer, ball came flying, we weren’t paying attention, probably shouldn’t have been sitting courtside… beer just went everywhere. We were those guys that had to delay the game. It was actually a pretty hilarious and memorable moment, though. (AR: Was it a Bucks pass that went flying at you?) No, it was an Orlando pass. So, yeah, they were trying to take out the fans that game I guess. [laughs] Thank God no one got hit in the head though. (AR: It was either that or, not too long ago, like LeBron went full-bore into the crowd.) That’s honestly what I was more afraid of was one of those guys coming into you because -man- they’re enormous! And I was like, oh God! (AR: I finally did sit courtside for a game and you don’t realize how big they are. Because they make the hoop seem so tiny!) It’s crazy.
AR: What is your favorite food?
Pendenza: Anything Italian. Growing up in an Italian household it’s tough for me to go out to eat Italian with that. But, yeah, anything Italian.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey hobby?
Pendenza: I’d say playing soccer or video games.. or just hanging out with my family. (AR: Do you have a favorite soccer team?) Juventus in Italy. (AR: Ah. [pause] Because if you said Chelsea I would have given you the stink eye.) No, I’m all about the Italian squads.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey memory?
Pendenza: I am an older brother to two of my younger brothers. So I’d say both the days those two were born. I’m very close to both of them and I love them to death… even though they’re a pain in the ass. [laughs] (AR: I get followed by some of your family members because I’m always seeing on Twitter likes from them and stuff.) Yeah, I’m not on social media but God knows what they’re doing on there! [laughs] (AR: Which brings up a great point. Why aren’t you on Twitter?) I stay away from that stuff. Too much trouble happens! (AR: Too much of a vortex.) Yeah, too much of that. I keep to myself.
AR: What do you see yourself doing after hockey?
Pendenza: After hockey I have a degree in Finance. So it would probably be good to use that. If not I’d like to maybe do coaching. Nothing big. Probably the highest I’d ever do coaching is like midgets or something – stay with the younger kids. But I should probably do something with my degree – at least make it worth it for those four years of college. (AR: That was one of the first things I said when Eric Robinson was here last year. I said, why did you go the college route when you were drafted by a junior team? He said I wanted to get a degree. I was like, YOU GET IT.) Yeah! Definitely the degree. Not to mention – I remember that decision came actually and my mom was like – not a chance. I was like, ok. But I mean growing up in Boston it’s always college hockey so I always wanted to go there. Get a degree. Why not? It’s good to fall back on. (AR: That’s the other thing. I think that you get the degree and it makes something like this just a reward.) Absolutely. I want to play as long as possible, that’s for sure, but knowing that I have that degree – I have some connections in the finance world through Lowell that I met. It’s good to have those connections so I keep in touch with them. But, if it wasn’t for that, I’d honestly be clueless as to what I was going to do. (AR: You’re going to become like a mayor of Massachusetts one day aren’t you?) NO. [laughs] I’d rather just be a big wig at a financial firm somewhere running the stock market! [laughs]
Big thanks to Joe Pendenza to take the timeout after practice last week to do this interview. That has to be a record for the most laughter ever in an Admirals Roundtable interview, period. Five Days of Fifteen will end tomorrow with Adam Payerl. After that it will go back to a more casually presented feature. Speaking of which, who do you want to have featured in Fifteen next? Please comment down below with your suggestions!