Actor Taylor Kitsch might be a full-time Texas resident, but he's "Canada Forever" when it comes to the World Cup of Hockey 2016.
Born in Kelowna, British Columbia, the actor known for his role as high school football star Tim Riggins in the TV series "Friday Night Lights" got a well-timed break from shooting his latest project to catch the World Cup, and he's been hooked.
"I've been watching pretty much every game and I've been loving it," Kitsch told NHL.com. "I'm just pumped that hockey's back. It's such a kick-start the way we're doing it with the World Cup."
Kitsch is pulling for Team Canada, who he says has been playing unbelievably well and will be tough to beat, but he also took a liking to Team North America, which didn't advance to the semifinals.
"I was on board with everyone in just not knowing what to expect and it's a short tournament, you never know how it's going to play out, but those guys, the speed was just insane," he said. "It's an energy thing too. They were just relentless. Especially in these short tournaments, you get these young guys all of a sudden just jell together and have a lot of confidence. They were no joke. It was a blast to watch."
Fellow British Columbia native Steve Yzerman was his favorite player so Kitsch grew up a Detroit Red Wings fan and still roots for them, though he admires the job Yzerman has done as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning and wants to see them do well too.
Kitsch remembered meeting Yzerman almost 10 years ago when he flew to Detroit to watch a friend play in an exhibition game for the Red Wings. Kitsch was just as star-struck as any fan would be when Yzerman walked by him in the tunnel at Joe Louis Arena.
"I was too much of a wimp to say anything," Kitsch said. "I watched him go by and then I literally called myself out and screamed his name. And he stopped. You had to stop because I yelled it. And he was probably 20 yards away and I kind of did an awkward wave and he came by and I just told him what a big fan I was. At first he was looking at me, like, how did I get down here, but he was nothing but a gentleman and gracious."
Kitsch played junior hockey in the British Columbia Hockey League before a knee injury forced him to pursue a different career. But he still plays up to three times a week when he's not working and he watches hockey as much as he can with his busy schedule.
Kitsch said his experience as a hockey player has translated to his acting career in many ways, especially as he takes on roles such as Riggins the football player, Navy SEAL Lt. Mike Murphy in "Lone Survivor," or as a firefighter in the upcoming film "Granite Mountain," based on a true story about 19 firefighters who died fighting a wildfire in Arizona in 2013.
"There's the leadership quality when I play a guy like Mike Murphy in Lone Survivor," Kitsch said. "You learn all these attributes and you learn pieces of yourself through hockey and losing. My work ethic, I kind of attribute to where I'm at now and that's from the sport, from just grinding it out. I was never this, like, all-time first-liner, it was just more or less grinding it out and you just learn so much about yourself through that."
No matter where he is, Kitsch is never too far from the game he loves. He'll return to London in a couple of weeks to finish shooting "American Assassin," in which he stars alongside Bruce Willis and Michael Keaton, and he foresees a lot of late nights keeping up with the Red Wings and the rest of the NHL.
Said Kitsch: "I live for it."