K-W's Tanner Pearson on trades, family and joining Sidney Crosby

K-W native Tanner Pearson is headed for the playoffs, now that he's a Pittsburgh Penguin and not an L.A. King. In his first trip to Toronto as a Penguin last weekend, he spoke with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo about the trade, the team and his impending fatherhood.
"New number, new threads! " wrote Tanner Pearson on Instagram after the Nov. 2018 trade from L.A. to Pittsburgh. (Tanner Pearson/Instagram)

Even though the grass was much greener on Pittsburgh Penguins side of the fence when the Los Angeles Kings traded him three months ago the move was an emotional one for Tanner Pearson.

The Kings, after all, provided the native of Kitchener-Waterloo with an opportunity at a professional hockey career. He had been overlooked in two drafts before Los Angeles took a chance and selected Pearson with the final choice of the first round in 2012.

He then helped the Kings win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons in 2014. He checked in with a career-high 24 goals two years ago.

Last summer, he married his longtime girlfriend Meaghan Loveday. The coupled settled in for the season with the news that Meaghan was pregnant. But then, all of a sudden, they were to change addresses. They were moving from Tinseltown to Steeltown.

The news broke the morning after the Kings were soundly thrashed at home 5-1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Pearson was driving to the Kings practice rink at around 8:30 a.m. when his mobile phone rang. He checked his dashboard to see who was calling. It was Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake, a Hockey Hall of Famer.

"Any time you see your team's GM show up on your phone you know it's going to be a different kind of conversation," Pearson recalled. "He told me I was going to be shipped out. I called my agent, my parents and went back home, told the wife, and started to pack up."

After he packed up and hurried to the airport, Pearson took a moment to send the Kings organization and their supporters a heartfelt message via his Twitter account.

"[Los Angeles] obviously has a special place in my heart," he said. "I definitely have a lot of good memories from there. It was definitely a shock, I saw it coming. It was kind of one of those years where the team wasn't doing so well. When that happens in this business stuff gets changed, and I was that first change."

Funny how life evolves. Moving to Pittsburgh was sort of a homecoming for Pearson because when the Kings selected him seven years ago, the draft was held in Pittsburgh. Now he's playing with a Penguins club that won successive Stanley Cup championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The move east went smoothly. The Penguins put Pearson up in a hotel near the rink. Meaghan joined him a week later as she closed the furnished rental home back in Los Angeles. After about 10 days together in their new city, the Pearsons found a downtown apartment.

"It was kind of cool because that's where it all started, that's where I was drafted," said the 26-year-old left wing, who now has played 35 games with his new team. 

"So it kind of came full circle. It was nice because going from the history in L.A. when I was there, going to another winning organization, it definitely made the transition a whole easier because the same mentality is there with all the winning stuff."
Tanner Pearson, now a Penguin traded from the Kings to Pittsburgh for fellow struggling forward Carl Hagelin. The 26-year-old Pearson, who is making $4 million US this season, has one assist in 17 games. (Harry How/Getty Images)

A big part of the Penguins winning stuff comes from captain Sidney Crosby. Pearson admits he is often asked by friends and family what No. 87 is like as a teammate. 

"It obviously pretty cool," said Pearson, who won a bronze medal with the 2012 Canadian junior team. 

"Growing up and seeing him on the sports highlights and whatnot, seeing him interviewed and how professional he is. When you get him off camera he's just one of the boys. He likes doing things that normal hockey players like to do. He wants to be part of stuff. He's definitely a pretty cool guy to lace 'em up with."

Pearson has had three months to become accustomed to his new home, on and off the ice. He auditioned for a period with Crosby and played several games with Evgeni Malkin.

He now has a new centre in Jared McCann of Stratford, Ont. McCann was dealt, along with Nick Bjugstad, to the Penguins from the Florida Panthers. Seeing the two newcomers hurry into the Pittsburgh dressing room minutes before game time last Friday brought his own trade memories flooding back.

Pearson already had been acquainted with the 22-year-old McCann. They have the same agent and took part in a few offseason skates together last summer.

"I'll help him out wherever I can," Pearson said.

In the meantime, the Penguins will head to the playoffs while his old team hasn't had any traction since Pearson departed. He likes what he has experienced in Pittsburgh and sees similarities with the Kings championship team.

"There's a lot [of similarities]. Anytime you have that type of mentality or team morale," he said. 

"Once you get the feeling of winning you want another, and it definitely helps out in the long run. This team won back-to-back a couple years ago. This is a group that knows how to win and is hungry for more."

About the Author

Tim has covered the hockey landscape and other sports in Canada for more than 25 years for CBC Sports, the Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun. He has been to three Winter Olympics, 11 Stanley Cups, a world championship as well as 17 world junior championships, 13 Memorial Cups and 13 University Cups. The native of Waterloo, Ont., always has his eye out for an underdog story.