Liam O’Brien is an enforcer on the Arizona Coyotes, ready for fights and racking up 94 penalty infraction minutes.
He just laughs when asked about it.
“I think I’m a very competitive person,” the 27-year-old center said. “I just love to compete. I just love the feeling of playing. It’s a blast, and there’s adrenaline to it. It’s fun — between the guys in the room, the friends you make, people you get to meet, cities you get to travel to and the big game moments.”
A Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, native, O’Brien had a dream of playing hockey since he was 3 years old — and didn’t give it up.
There wasn’t an NHL dream in his hometown, so instead he admired the players of the Halifax Mooseheads, a Canadian major junior ice hockey club in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“I would go to those games with my old man,” he said. “I looked up to a lot of the junior players, especially from my area.”
In the NHL for eight years, O’Brien had stints with the Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche before signing with the Coyotes on July 28, 2021.
“My mom is super proud,” he said. “They were able to make it to the game there in New York City. It’s nice that they can come out and watch me live out my dream. For them, that’s all they could have ever asked for. They dedicated a lot of time, bringing me to the rink.
“They did so much for me. All their sacrifices, all the hard work, it all paid off.”
O’Brien — who calls the Coyotes a close-knit, great group of guys — trains during the off season, which is his typical summer routine. He spends most of his summers in Carlsbad, California, and he and his fiancée, Adéla Zahrajová from the Czech Republic, enjoy traveling. Their passport includes stamps from Thailand, Italy, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Greece and “all of Europe.”
On his wish list are Mauritius in East Africa, Madagascar and Peru.
“Traveling is something that we try to do as much as we can,” O’Brien said. “For hockey, I travel a lot within the United States and Canada. I think it’s important to see other parts of the world and other cultures and whatnot. That’s something we’ve taken the time to do over the last five to six years.
“I feel like we’ve been to a few other spots, too. I just really enjoy seeing the way other people live. I don’t think there’s anything cooler than that. You learn so much.”
He called Italy “amazing,” a place where the food is “ridiculous,” whether it’s a larger restaurant or a hole in the wall. “It’s the best food I’ve ever had.”
O’Brien hopes that the Coyotes’ rebuild will continue to improve.
“They’re building a culture — a strong culture — to win as many games as possible,” O’Brien said.
“We’ve really come together in the last little while, winning games against good hockey team. We’re coming together, and I think it’s the beginning of something special.”