Tom Cavanagh is a Canadian-born actor who got his start in beer commercials. He wound up on a hit TV series and now finds himself plying his trade in the United States. Sounds like Pam Anderson. But, don't worry, you won't be seeing the former star of "Ed" running down the beach in a red swimsuit any time soon.
In Hollywood circles, Cavanagh is a fairly decorated athlete and sports fan. You might find him shooting hoops at NBA All-Star weekend, running a marathon or, most recently, writing a playoff blog for NHL.com.
In this week's Facing Off, Cavanagh gives us the inside scoop on his upcoming hockey movie, his influence on NHL fashion and what chance he gives his hometown Senators to win the Cup.
Question from David Amber: You are writing a humorous blog on NHL.com during the playoffs. How did this happen?
Answer from Tom Cavanagh: Being Canadian, they just figured I was a hockey fan. They were right. Also, I live in New York and I go to as many Rangers games as I can, and that's a lot. So, I think there's some form of osmosis happening there. I also played basketball in college and I am basketball-obsessed, so I was writing a blog for March Madness. Maybe there was some cross-pollination there.
Q: What have been your observations so far this postseason?
A: I have been harping on the Canucks to wear their throwback jerseys. I have no idea how a stylized Orca logo can ever be better than an iconic hockey stick. That's about it; I don't really have any nuggets of wisdom except that I wrote a thing on the methodology of picking winners.
Q: Born in Ottawa and raised as a teenager in Montreal, where do your hockey allegiances fall?
A: I'm a fan of the Senators, but my team is the Montreal Canadiens. If the Canadiens had managed to secure two points and make the playoffs, I would be wearing my Guy Lafleur jersey all over the place. Without the Habs in there, I am pulling for my hometown team, the Sens.
Q: So who's going to win the Cup?
A: Wow, there's an awesome question for you. This year, there is no frontrunner. I see weaknesses in every team. Of course, I'm going to pull for the Senators. But one of the questions with the Senators is, if the game slows down and it becomes a grind-it-out game, how good are they? They have a lot of firepower, but I like to go with the team that can score and can also slow things down. It will all depend on what style they can play and if Ray Emery can be the goalie they need him to be. So, I'm going to go with my hometown team, the Senators. I'm no idiot. I want to be allowed back into my hometown.
Q: Much of your show "Ed" was shot in New Jersey. So, why haven't you adopted the Devils as your team?
A: I have to tell you, I hated the neutral zone trap. I just could not get behind that. They had some great former Montreal players as coaches with Larry Robinson and Jacques Lemaire and there were some awesome players in Jersey, but, truthfully, I just thought that was really bad for hockey. Clogging the neutral zone, and the way those guys won it ... it was hard to get behind that brand of hockey.
Q: Do you have any friends who play?
A: No, um ... OK, I guess that's not true. I am friends with Joe Sakic and I'm also a big fan of Jarome Iginla. But if you were to ask those two guys, they would say, "I've never heard of him" [laughs]. Actually, I do know Sakic, and there are a few others, but I don't want to sound like a namedropper.
Q: I read you played both varsity basketball and hockey at university in Canada. Is that true?
A: I played varsity basketball at Queen's University. I played hockey in the minor-league system in Canada, not for university. I don't know how you could play basketball and hockey at the same time. It would be impossible to mix the two seasons.
Q: How good were you? If you played varsity basketball, you must be pretty good.
A: I was the kind of guy who would lead the league in floor burns. That's the kind of player I am. Let's put it this way, I exude a lot of effort.
Q: If you could compare your style as a hockey player to a current player in the NHL, who would that be?
A: I'm going to go back and not use a current player and say possibly Eddie Shack [laughs]. I would love to be the Bob Gainey type, but, truthfully, it's more like one of the Hanson Brothers.
Q: You play in those NBA celebrity games during All-Star weekend. Who is the worst celebrity player?
A: [Laughs] Present company excluded?
A: Well, you know we Hollywood actors are always hobknobbing with beautiful girls at fancy parties. I don't want to drop someone's name and then find myself rubbing up against Leonardo DiCaprio at some party and then have to apologize to his posse [laughs].
Q: Fair enough. Last year, you finished the New York City Marathon in less than three and half hours. That's a great time. What was that experience like?
A: It was good. I had a hard time grabbing the subway from Jackson Heights to the finish, but aside from that, it was really great [laughs]. I recommend the New York City Marathon to anyone. It really is a great experience. One way of describing it is, if you ever doubted New York City's heart, then run the marathon. It is basically a celebration of New York and every borough. The amount of support people show, not just for their friends they have running, but to everybody running, is really an eye-opener. I really wasn't ready for the amount of support the city shows to everyone. There were bands all along the race route and people cheering from rooftops in Brooklyn. It really was spectacular.
Q: Hollywood is known for all its pretty boys. A real athlete like yourself, with the running and basketball, must be the exception?
A: That's why I live in New York, my friend [laughs].
Q: Both you and fellow Canadian Pam Anderson got your acting careers started in beer commercials. It must be nice to be in the same type of company.
A: I wondered where you were going with this. I was thinking, "What the heck do Pam Anderson and I have in common aside from all the sex tapes?" [Laughs]. Did she do Blue Light commercials, too?
Q: Yeah, she did. She was discovered at a CFL game in a beer ad.
A: Wow, that's cool. You've done your homework. I'm surprised you haven't asked me about the gay hockey movie yet.
Q: I was just getting there. So, later this year, a film you star in called "Breakfast With Scot" will be released. Is this basically "Youngblood" meets "La Cage aux Folles"?
A: That is an awesome description. Do you mind if we steal that? [Laughs] For the last year, all my friends keep asking me, "So, how's the gay hockey movie going?" I take a lot of ribbing, but my feeling is, the more attention we get, the better.
Q: In the movie, you play a gay retired hockey player who becomes the adoptive father to a young boy. What was this project like for you?
A: It was amazing, it really was great. It's based on this book by Michael Downing. We shot it with Miracle Pictures in Toronto and they have an executive producer from Los Angeles, Howard Rosen, who has a proven track record. The production company and producer have five movies at Sundance between them, so they were really good. For me personally, the best thing was we spent so many days on the ice. If you're a kid, and you spent any time playing shinny and pond hockey growing up, you just can't believe it when you get paid to play hockey. It's ridiculous. We had one sequence we shot at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, and at one point I was on the ice by myself and I look over and think, "Wow, that's the wing where Gretzky passed to Lemieux at the 1987 Canada Cup." It was a moment filled with reverence. It really was great.
Q: The Toronto Maple Leafs have come on board as the first professional sports franchise to give their approval to have their logo and real team name depicted in a film with a gay theme. As an actor, what is it like to be involved in a landmark production like this?
A: I was shocked when I heard the Leafs would lend their logo to this script. I was really, really happy. We got instant authenticity and legitimacy with our hockey scenes by having the Leafs' blue-and-white jersey out there. It's like Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday" and they're wearing the made-up Chicago Fire uniforms, or whatever, and it's different. As a sports fan, you have so many years of habitude and familiarity with these colors and teams, it kind of picks up the backstory for you; that's what the NHL and the Leafs giving us their blessing did for us.
Q: Because of its gay theme, what kind of opposition did this film face?
A: To be honest with you, I am genuinely surprised that this is an issue in 2007. Maybe I was naïve, but I was generally surprised that there was some controversy. It just didn't seem worthy of any fuss. Truthfully, I guess that's kind of the world we live in. But really, it's one of those cases where a small faction can make a lot of noise. It's kind of crazy that there are no openly gay athletes in the big four sports. You know they are out there. It's a funny thing that the sports world is one of the last hurdles, one of the last societal taboos for someone to be gay. Sooner or later, somebody is going to come out, and possibly, it won't be pretty. Who knows. Hopefully, we have learned enough that it can be accepted.
ESPN reporter David Amber is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.