Who: Hans Benson of the San Francisco Bulls hockey team.
Neighborhood: Born in Menlo Park, lives in Parkmerced.
Years in the Bay Area: Life.
Current Gig: Benson has traveled across the globe for hockey, but now he's back in his hometown playing right wing for the San Francisco Bulls, the new San Jose Sharks feeder team and the city's first professional hockey organization since 1996.
As if the grand opening wasn't enough, the minor league hockey team is already in the spotlight due to this year's NHL lockout, a labor dispute that has delayed the season's start. (On the day of The Huffington Post's interview, San Jose Sharks alternate captain Ryane Clowe was on the ice for his first practice after signing with the Bulls.)
Benson sat down with The Huffington Post after practice to talk about the lockout, the best local SF spots and turning San Francisco into a hockey town once again.
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Hans, you've been travelling for hockey for almost 15 years. How did you end up back in your hometown on San Francisco's first team in over a decade? Oh, it's been a scheme for about two years in the making--ever since San Francisco put in a bid for the team. I was playing in Bakersfield at the time, and when they actually got the team about a year ago, I was like, "Heeeeyyyy."
What's it like to be playing back in San Francisco? It's unbelievable. My family and friends come to the games and I get to play in the Bay Area. Traveling has given me such an appreciation for where I'm from. The Bay Area's the best: the food, the wine, the people, the pot.
The pot? Washington and Colorado legalized entirely earlier this month, but California is still struggling. It's better that way.
How so? Marijuana is a part of our culture here in Northern California. If we fully legalize it's going to bring all of these jerks to the scene, flooding the state, monopolizing the clubs and turning it into something ugly. I think we should keep it to the small farmers who are really passionate about it. I've got to stop talking about this or I'm gonna be like Timmy Lincecum--next thing you know I'll be in High Times!
Alright, alright. So tell me how you got into playing hockey. San Francisco isn't exactly a hockey town. I loved hockey as soon as I saw it as a kid. I would go down to the ice arena and watch it, and then new neighbors moved in next door and they had nets. One night they told me there was a tryout for a traveling team. I didn't have any gear and I come from a really working class family. But I went down to Play It Again Sports [a used sporting goods store], laced up from head-to-toe and made the team. I never looked back.
How has the NHL lockout affected the team? You know, it's good for hockey and it's bad for hockey. It's certainly made our league a lot better.
Most of the guys on your team are from Canada or the East Coast. What do they think of San Francisco? Oh, they're loving it. We have a super close team on and off the ice. And they thought the Giants playoffs was crazy; they couldn't believe it. But that's just how we do it, and that's what I love about it here. You can walk into a bar by yourself but when a guy gets on first base, everyone is celebrating together.
What have you been doing since moving back to San Francisco? I'm a bit of a homebody so I spend a lot of time with my friends. I cook all the time and try out new recipes. But I do love going out to eat, especially for brunch.
Where do you go for brunch? Best brunch in the city, hands down, is at Jones. Five stars for the food and there's a sick rooftop. I went with some friends a few weeks back and we had an unbelievable time. They have bottomless mimosas and solid food. So many places in the city are overrated. Like Park Chow, you know that place? That's brutal. The food is so bland--five thumbs down. I wish I had more hands to give them more thumbs down.
You sound like you're pretty into food. Well, I am from the Bay Area--I'm a foodie. I love wine, too. My friends own Darioush; it's a sick winery that you should check out. I drink reds; usually Pinot Noir. At home I always have some Mark West Pinot on hand. And recently I tried this great, cheap Moscato by Menage a Trois. It's not too sweet so you can drink it anytime. Except maybe before playing hockey.
So how do you work all this food and wine off? I train at Empower. My trainer, Tareq Azim, he's a sick fighter. He's an animal; a legend. He coaches a lot of fighters who fight for a living. I'm having a good time with him right now. I've always fought, it's part of my game. But this is helping me a lot. He's making me stay sharp so I can get out in the rink and f*ck people up.