Long before Michael Annett sped around race tracks in NASCAR, he sped around skating rinks as a junior hockey league player.
His final season of competition came in the 2003-04 season with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League.
You can watch the above video from 2015 for more on Annett’s hockey career.
While Annett’s life took him to auto racing, his captain that year stuck with hockey.
It’s worked out for Joe Pavelski.
After breaking into the National Hockey League in 2006, Pavelski is in his 13th season playing for San Jose Sharks and is captain of the team as it competes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pavelski and the Sharks are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven-games, first-round series against the Las Vegas Knights. Game 4 is set for 10:30 p.m. ET today on NBCSN.
“I watch it as much as I can,” Annett told NBC Sports of the playoffs. “Watching (Pavelski) captain the San Jose Sharks sharks now is pretty cool. They got to get their act together if they’re going to beat the Knights. They got to pick it up a little bit. The intensity of playoff hockey is so much fun. You usually wait 15 minutes for a goal or a big play and it seems like if you blink you’re going to miss something in the playoffs, it’s just so much fun to watch.”
The JR Motorsports driver said he and Pavelski were “real close” during their year playing for the Black Hawks in Iowa.
“You get those 30 guys from all over the country that you can find to play for one team for a season, you all grow really close like brothers,” Annett said. “I’m just really proud of him. I know what it takes, I know how many hot, little kids are hockey players and that’s what they dream of doing. To see him still doing it at the level he is as the captain of a team that’s made the playoffs (in all but one of Pavelski’s 13 seasons), just really proud of him.”
He was probably really proud of Pavelski last week when he accidentally scored a goal with his jaw in Game 1 and lost a couple of teeth in the process.
While they don’t talk by phone anymore, Annett and his former captain do keep in touch.
“It’s all through Instagram messages,” Annett said, noting Pavelski reached out to him after his first Xfinity win in February at Daytona. “When somebody does something pretty cool you reach out and tell him that ‘That was pretty awesome, I’m still following you.'”
Annett is 15 years removed from his hockey days and 11 years into his full-time NASCAR career.
Does he miss his hockey days? Only when the Stanley Cup is at stake.
“I really don’t miss it until the playoffs come around to be honest with you,” Annett said. “It’s the hardest time when the hockey is just so exciting, it’s so intense. You remember that camaraderie you had with the guys and how much hard works goes into a playoff run. This is the toughest time to watch.”
Here’s tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff schedule.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets; 7 p.m. ET on CNBC
New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins; 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues; 9:30 p.m. ET on CNBC
San Jose Sharks at Las Vegas Knights; 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN