There is more to Toronto Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman than meets the eye.
Apart from writing his own award-winning, best-selling children’s books and launching his own esports company, Hyman has partnered up with Schick Hydro’s “Man I Am” campaign to talk about life away from hockey. The campaign is about embracing the man that you are, so having Hyman and NHL legend Gary Roberts represent the campaign seemed fitting.
“I like to do things other than just be a hockey player, so I feel like this idea really fit me,” Hyman said. “… And then I got to partner with Gary Roberts, who was one of my childhood heroes growing up.”
Hyman might have his off-ice ventures, but he does focus on being a hockey player first. Since his NHL debut in 2015-16, the 26-year-old has increased his points total every season. In 2018-19, Hyman tallied a career-high 21 goals and 20 assists in just 71 games for the Maple Leafs.
“Being more comfortable in your role and working on your skills,” Hyman said of the strategy he uses to help him improve as an NHLer. “I think every year you learn more about yourself and what you need to do to take your game to the next level. I think it also comes with experience, but you need to put in the hard work.”
Hyman’s 41 points helped the Leafs to their third straight 40-win season and a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. However, they could not handle the Boston Bruins in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, losing in seven games at TD Garden. The Leafs have not beaten the Bruins in a playoff series since 1959.
Despite losing at the hands of the Bruins yet again, there is a lot of hope for this young, offensive-driven team. Hyman believes every new season is a new opportunity to grow.
“We’re getting closer every year. I think we’ve been building and getting better. We have a great group of guys and we’re excited for next year,” said Hyman, who suffered a torn ACL during Game 4 of the series with Boston. He underwent surgery in late April and is expected to be out at least six months, including training camp and the first few weeks of the 2019-20 season.
There is also a good chance that Hyman will not be playing with the exact same “group of guys” when he returns from his injury next season. Defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade, and veteran forward Patrick Marleau looks to be on the move along with other pieces in the Leafs organization.
Hyman believes it’s hard not to be aware of what’s going on with the team – it’s all part of the business.
“Every year things change, people move on and people come in,” Hyman said. “It’s natural during the off-season, and obviously when you play with someone for a long time you build good relationships with them. You have to try and tune out the white noise and when something happens you just have to go from there.”
Tuning out the white noise is something Hyman and the Leafs have done since exiting the playoffs early and watching the Bruins go the distance. Boston is currently in a dog fight with the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.
“We can’t focus on what would have happened,” Hyman said of the Bruins making it to the Cup Final and whether Boston’s successful playoff run validates Toronto’s loss in any way. “I’m just focusing on the Raptors’ [NBA Finals] playoff run, and cheering on my good friend Tyler Bozak.”
Bozak, a member of the Blues, played with Hyman in Toronto from 2016 to 2018 in his nine-year career with the Leafs. Bozak had 40-plus points in five of his nine seasons with Toronto.
Hyman believes having a life outside of hockey has been a key to his early success. Some young players coming into the NHL have struggled with this, but the Toronto native has been able to find a balance that works for him on and off the ice.
“I think you need to have things outside of hockey – you can’t have hockey fully consume your life. You need to have family, friends, and other interests. Whether I’m in the corners grinding or writing a children’s book, I’m still Zach Hyman."
“I think it’s important to show something outside of just being a tough hockey player.”
Hyman is an open book with most of his interests outside of hockey, but when asked if he has any personal goals for next hockey season, he’s keeping it to himself.
“Sure I do, but they’re personal.”