Truth be known, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Calvin de Haan is not a true beer connoisseur.
“No, not really,” he said. “I’m the part-owner of a brewery back home.”
That would be Carp, Ontario, population 2,000, about 20 miles outside Ottawa. That’s where you’ll find Ridge Rock Brewing Co., located in a building that dates to the 1860s and can hold up to 150 patrons,.
It’s a popular place. De Haan said the taps have “run dry” a time or two in the brew pub, which may be an exaggeration, but demand is high.
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“We’re having a hard time keeping up right now, which is a good problem to have,” he said.
De Haan said his personal beer options for a long time were two-fold: “Bud Light or Bud.” But he has gotten past the red and white of Budweiser to sample some of the craft beers that are so plentiful in Raleigh and the state, not that he knows a lot of the names or has any real favorites.
“When I go to the market I always try to grab a random six-pack, something like Trophy Wife by Trophy (Brewing),” he said. “If something has a cool label or something, I might try it. It’s a nice little treat.
“I have come to appreciate craft beer more. I don’t think I’ll drink Bud Light or Bud anymore to be honest. I really liked it but I’ve learned to appreciate the craft and the time and the effort that goes into the process of brewing craft beer. It’s not an easy job to do it. It’s a grind.”
When de Haan signed a four-year, free-agent contract with the Hurricanes in July, the beer story was an easy hook. The Canes promotional people soon had him at Lynnwood Grill & Brewing Concern sampling various craft beers. TV interviews with de Haan can lean in the same direction.
But de Haan, more than anything, is a businessman and investor when it comes to beer. A Carp native, he joined with three good friends -- Jake Sinclair, Jason Lalonde and Ryan Grassie -- in opening Ridge Rock Brewing Co. and is anything but an absentee, silent partner playing professional hockey some 800 miles away.
“I get the (financial) reports and everything,” de Haan said. “I have to know if things are going well. I do have a voice and I feel like I need to know what’s going on.”
And things are going well, he said. Ridge Rock’s blonde beer and amber have been the two big sellers in the first few months.
“We’re making money, which is good,” de Haan said, smiling. “We haven’t gone under yet, which is good.”
While the partners in Carp run the place, de Haan said a new employee has been a valuable addition: de Haan’s father, Bill. Deciding 35 years in the landscaping business was enough, Bill has become a handyman, the fix-it guy at Ridge Rock.
“He can fix anything, from like a lawn mower to an airplane,” de Haan said, “We needed a guy like that and he loves it.”
De Haan said Ridge Rock opened in September with a simple business plan: sell a lot of beer.
“The demand in-house has been pretty wild so far,” he said.
About two weeks ago, de Haan said, the first cans “went out the door” and distribution of the beer began.
That should be welcome news to Canes’ Justin Faulk, de Haan’s defensive partner this season.
“I know I haven’t seen any cases show up in the locker room yet,” Faulk joked. “Maybe there’s some big import fee or something. Seems like someone could drive a case down here.”
De Haan laughed, saying, “With all the tariff stuff going on I don’t know if I can get it here. Maybe one day.”
Until then, he will go about his full-time job of playing hockey. De Haan, 27, isn’t a flashy type with a cannon of a shot. He’s steady, positionally sound, the kind of D-man who can be the goalie’s best friend, and his plus-7 rating is the best plus/minus on the team.
“We communicate well and try to make the game easier for each other,” Faulk said.
De Haan had perhaps his best game of the season on Sunday, finishing plus-3 in the 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes. He had five of the Canes’ season-high 48 hits and helped thin out the traffic around goalie Petr Mrazek, who had 23 saves in his first shutout of the season -- Mrazek was named the first star of the game and de Haan the second star.
De Haan had two assists, the second on a quick pass out of the neutral zone that set up Sebastian Aho for his 12th goal of the season and a 3-0 lead.
“He was physical, which he needs to be, and had a little bit of edge to his game,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “He contributed on the offensive end but that’s secondary to what he needs to do, which is to be noticeable defending.”
De Haan recently took a stick under his helmet shield from William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs, just missing his left eye and causing a gash under the eyebrow that took six stitches to close. He was left with a black eye that has given him a pugilistic look.
For de Haan, it’s all part of the business. His hockey business, that is.