Taylor Hall plays sports professionally. Taylor Hall is also an enormous sports fan. Taylor Hall sees nothing weird about being both those things simultaneously.
As the new Blackhawks forward approaches his 32nd birthday in November, he finds himself looking around at aging athletes playing all the sports he loves — not just hockey — for inspiration and examples of how to defy the aging curve.
Because defying the aging curve is exactly what he personally wants to do.
“I just love watching sports, and maybe that’s where the age-[related] motivation comes from,” Hall said. “You see a lot of guys in all sports where they get to 32 and they’re [done]. But then you see guys that are still just as good at 35 as they were at 27, and that’s impressive. Because, as you get older, you start to see how it takes a lot to be that good.”
Whenever a Hawks off-day falls on a Sunday, Hall — whose first child is due imminently — cherishes the chance to watch NFL football all afternoon. And during the offseason, he closely follows the Toronto Blue Jays, riding the waves of emotions after wins and losses that every MLB fan knows well.
This summer, he was frustrated by the Jays’ 89-win regular season, considering how many “guys on good contracts” they have. The playoffs provide a clean slate, but the Jays’ Game 1 loss to the Twins on Tuesday probably didn’t inspire him much either.
From the professional-athlete perspective rather than the diehard-fan perspective, however, the Jays do offer quite a few impressive examples of successful aging players. 35-year-old Brandon Belt had a great offensive year; 34-year-old Whit Merrifield, 33-year-old George Springer and 33-year-old Kevin Kiermaier were all solid, as well.
And looking around the Hawks’ own locker room, Hall sees even more examples, mentioning 38-year-old Corey Perry, 35-year-old Nick Foligno and 33-year-old Tyler Johnson. Indeed, those veterans are role models not just for the rookies on the team.
“When you see guys that do play until they’re 35 or 36, it’s not really an accident,” Hall said. “It’s one thing to play up until then, but it’s another to be an impactful player at that age. As you get older in your career, you look for certain things to motivate you, and that’s one that has stayed with me.”
One thing Hall started doing this summer to try to extend his prime was more “track-type workouts” like sprinting and running stairs.
The latter activity proved very doable at his new property on Lake Muskoka, a three-hour drive north of Toronto. There was a small cliff between the cottage and dock with a steep staircase connecting them, so two or three times a week, Hall would get out there and run up and down.
He didn’t count exactly how many stairs there were, but he didn’t need to.
“Sprinting up, the fastest I got to was just under 13 seconds, and that’s going full-bore,” he said. “Let’s put it this way: when you’re going down to hang on the dock for the day, you bring a lot of stuff down, because you don’t want to be doing the trek back and forth.”
The idea is those workouts will help his speed and explosiveness on the ice stay at peak levels. So far, the results look promising. On transition attacks during the preseason, he and Connor Bedard have looked dangerous.
“Everyone’s got their thing…but this is something that’s key to me,” Hall said. “As you get older as a player, you start to realize you just have to do what makes you good. You don’t have to be a jack of all trades. One of my hallmarks is speed and skating, so if I can maintain that, that’s going to be good.”
Hall’s MLB playoff predictions
If his beloved Blue Jays don’t finally realize their potential and make a World Series run, Hall has a few more realistic ideas for which teams might this year.
“I would guess the winner is coming out of the National League — either the Dodgers or the Braves,” Hall said. “I don’t think Baltimore is as good as their record [suggests]. But we’ll see.”