Spitfires' Hall ready to make leap to pro ranks

Windsor Spitfires forward Taylor Hall, considered the top prospect in this summer's NHL draft, is ready to make the leap to the pro ranks.

The son rings his dad almost on a daily basis.

While most teenagers avoid their parents at all costs, Windsor Spitfires sensation Taylor Hall dials up his father, Steve, to share how his day has evolved.

Even on Wednesday, the younger Hall was busy preparing to strut his stuff in front of a bevy of NHL scouts and a capacity crowd in the annual CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Family Credit Union Centre in Windsor, Ont. But he found the time to pick up the phone.

"One thing we often talk about is energy," Steve said. "I can tell Taylor is pretty tired right now. He hasn't had a break since the world junior tournament. He's eventually going to run out.

"But he says to me that kids are running around Haiti right now trying to stay alive and compared to that his problems aren't bad at all."

It's this sort of solid-citizen way of thinking that has Hall at the top of the NHL prospect rankings. He has his feet firmly on the ground and isn't unnerved by all the attention he's been getting on the way to the 2010 NHL entry draft in Los Angeles in late June.

Steve and his wife, Kim, deserve the credit for their son’s demeanour. Taylor gets his cool-under-fire manner from Kim and his athletic ability and competitive spirit from his father, a former CFL slotback with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Ottawa Rough Riders as well as a former national team bobsledder.

"You have to have a fighter mentality in sports, but you also need calmness to get focused," Steve said. "When push comes to shove, he gets the work ethic and competitiveness from me and his calmness from his mother. She would be cool and calm in a hurricane."

Seeks counsel from parents

Steve was born in Australia but raised in Canada. Kim grew up in Northern Ontario. Her heritage is Slovakian and that's why the couple's only child was named Taylor Strba Hall. Strba is Kim's maiden name.

When Taylor calls his dad, he seeks counsel on the mental side of being an elite-level athlete and they talk through any life or sport matters that need to be addressed.

"I've learned so much from him, especially mentally," Taylor said.

Steve doesn't expect the daily calling routine to last.

"Taylor will want to one day go off on his own," he said. "But I think, right now, he likes to bounce things off me because I see him from a different angle. When you play sports, you often don't get the full picture when you’re right in the thick of things.

"I know that was the case when I was in bobsled. You need the feedback."

Learned hockey on backyard rink

The younger Hall was born in Calgary. He learned the game on the family backyard rink and it was there his passion for hockey was forged.

"It's always nice to have that rink in the backyard," said Taylor, whose best ability is his swiftness and ability to shift gears with the puck. "I really think that’s where I developed all my skills as a player."

Before the family moved to Kingston, Ont., when Taylor was 13, he was chosen from his minor team to attend a Calgary Flames game with a pair of Calgary Hitmen junior players. He had a puck signed by Hitmen player Jordan Krestanovich, a fifth-round NHL pick who played 22 games for the Colorado Avalanche and now plays in Cortina, Italy.

From this experience, Taylor learned the importance of making himself available to fans. He regularly visits children at Windsor hospitals because appreciates how they look up to him, even though he's the ripe old age of 18.

"I thought it was the biggest deal back then," said Taylor, as he recalls the Hitmen experience a decade ago. "They were only 19-year-old kids. But I remember how I felt hanging out with them, and so I think it's important to give time to young kids, even though I'm young myself."