Like most uncalled things in Jack’s life, this one starts with Mitch. Or, well, actually Dylan, but those two are inseparable at this point so it doesn’t matter all that much. The seed was planted by Dylan and then aggressively mothered into life by Mitch. Jack likes Dylan, and those years in Erie together have at least taught Dylan not to spring too much bullshit onto Jack, but that sadly never stops Mitch.
It starts like this: The Leafs have a game in Edmonton.
Customary to the situation, Dylan takes Mitch from the rink to some restaurant for dinner after the game, someplace small probably so they could do whatever they did in private. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing that should concern Jack and his entire existence in Buffalo at all.
Except a certain demon named Mitchell Marner constantly feels the need to involve him.
@marner93: @Jack_Eichel11 yo dyls and i went to this restaurant in edmonton that you HAVE to try
The tweet has the standard replies from fans about their so called “holy trinity” and people are freaking out about the idea of Mitch and Dylan hanging out together even though they’ve already posted a picture together on Mitch’s Instagram which feels redundant at this point. (Jack already liked it.) Whatever. Jack raises a suspicious eyebrow at his phone and lazily types out a reply.
In reply to @Marner93
@Jack_Eichel11: sounds good? Text me the name sometime.
His reply is really meant to serve as a gentle reminder to Mitch that yes, direct messages and texts exist and should be utilized whenever necessary. Whatever. It doesn’t work.
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11
@marner93: it’s called hearth!! The only restaurant of the ICONIC @cmcdavid97 who should think about opening one in toronto, don’t you think?
Okay. Maybe Mitch just met the chef and felt like the guy deserved some extra publicity which is something Jack could get behind. He still doesn’t understand why this exactly concerns him but he taps onto the handle in the tweet and gets taken to the guy’s profile. All it takes is for him to read the guy’s bio to frown.
@Jack_Eichel11: what the fuck is “canadian country cooking”?
He hits follow anyway.
The guy’s name is Connor McDavid, that much is apparent from his profile. The rest of the information that Jack now has about the guy is from some completely unnecessary digging. And by digging, Jack means reading the guy’s Wikipedia article which is definitely more fleshed out than his own, which, alright. They’re the same age apparently, and even though Jack is happily tearing it up in the NHL, it feels a bit young for a guy to have two shows on the Food Network, a million followers on twitter, and widely acclaimed restaurant.
According to the Wikipedia article, a lot of his success is from his appearance on the special season of the Great British Bake Off where contestants could apply from any of the empire’s old colonies or whatever. He was the youngest on the show at just barely eighteen and won the hearts of the world with his youth and humility.
Wikipedia’s words, not Jack’s.
Anyway, the guy made it to the finale of the show to win the whole damn thing with his supposedly brilliant trio of pies while continuously placing in the top three for the show’s technical challenge every week. When the competition ended he started his first show on the Food Network named Edmonton Eats which houses all of Connor’s “Canadian country” flavors.
When Jack watches the show one day after practice he gets a lot of Barefoot Contessa vibes, but with a much younger, more attractive Canadian male version of Ina Garten. Connor’s voice is pretty much monotone but it still has a soothing quality and his kitchen has a stunning view of Alberta that has Jack immediately questioning the namesake of the show because that is definitely not the Edmonton that he knows. But beyond that, there was hardly anything that grabbed his attention.
Maybe his mom would like this show, but Jack definitely preferred the more intense competition sides of Food Network. It was soothing, sure, but Jack didn’t understand the huge amount of praise for the guy.
“This guy is as boring as bread,” Jack says to his empty living room, pointing his fork at his television. It’s still the beginning of the show and when Connor announces that today’s bake will be a brie and date loaf bread Jack actually groans.
He isn’t sure why he keeps watching though. Connor goes through cooking some sauces and happily narrates everything with little interjected stories about his family. Standard cooking show shit. If Jack watches a little too closely when Connor pushes his sleeves up to knead the bread it’s only to watch the technique more carefully, that’s all.
“It’s quite a simple bread,” television Connor tells him. “The base is easy to make but it’s the flavor profile that makes it special and taste so fancy. It’s perfect for meals where you’re cooking for the in-laws or dates. Trust me, a good homemade bread is always impressive in these sort of situations.” And then Connor goes ahead and lets out a bit of a laugh that is nearly a giggle when he accidentally creates a cloud of flour when he he throws the dough onto his floured surface.
“Fuck me,” Jack whispers, pulling his beer closer because he’s going to need it.
At the end of the show where Connor is letting out a hum of approval as he slices a piece of crusty bread to garnish the plate of some fancy and beautiful yet still rustic food.
“And that’s it!” Connor announces with an awkward yet gleaming smile for the camera. “Tune in next time and take some of the flavors from the Canadian countryside home with you.”
After the entire episode and seeing the beautiful food Connor’s made, Jack puts his Tupperware of reheated pasta on the coffee table and stares at it in distaste. He’s about to turn the television off when an opening sequence of clips of Alberta starts playing and Jack just keeps watching for the rest of the night.
Connor’s other show feels both more like a joke and confrontational to Jack. It’s called Costco McDavid for crying out loud and Connor just shows people how to make simple home cooked dinners with the occasional store bought item to make it both cheaper and easy. The episode Jack catches has guest starring NHL players: none other than Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle who follow Connor around the super market with a measure of hesitation that makes Jack snort. On the show, Connor goes out of his way to buy them the entirety of the spices section.
“I thought these meals were meant to be cheap,” Hall whines as he obediently puts all of the spices Connor instructs him to into the cart.
“These will save you money in the long run, trust me. Spices last forever and are cheaper than flavor packets,” and the voice Connor uses is very much Food Network host. Then he breaks into an easy smile. “Plus you can definitely afford it with both of your contracts,” he adds sweetly. Jack cracks a smile when both Hall and Eberle balk at his words.
He goes on to introduce them to the wonders of buying certain foods in bulk like chicken and fish so that way they could portion it at home and freeze it for later. He warns them off pre-seasoned meats though, and keeps them from buying three-packs of things like ketchup while throwing a twenty-pound bag of brown rice and another of quinoa into the cart like it it’s nothing. Which, to Jack, is definitely nothing. But to a Canadian pastry chef and Food Network show host? Jack doesn’t know where he’s going with this.
“Pre-seasoned stuff usually has a lot of salt, so with your diet plans, I would be cautious. For other people, it’s a perfect and quick alternative for dinner with a bunch of people. So, if you’re having people over for dinner who aren’t hockey players, sure. Go ahead.”
In the show they go back to Hall and Eberle’s shared apartment where Connor immediately puts them to work to show them two meal options: a quick and easy pregame pasta heavy with carbs and protein as well as a protein packed meal prep that should last the week as post-workout meals. It all looks easy enough. Both Hall and Eberle don’t fuck up with Connor’s watchful eye and easy to follow instructions. Also, some of it is impossible to fuck up since the technique Connor is showing them for roasting vegetables is literally throwing them onto a lined baking sheet, drizzling olive oil on top, and seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic before just kind of pushing it around with your hands.
It clearly works though. Hall and Eberle are impressed with the meal and even high five Connor when it’s all plated. Jack could do this in his sleep.
By the end of the episode Jack can easily decide that the two shows have completely different audiences just based on skill alone. He figures he’s better than both Hall and Eberle combined in terms of cooking skill because he can make a mean smoothie, so yeah, fuck it.
Jack’s definitely more of an Edmonton Eats kind of guy.
He’s wrong though.
It starts like this: he keeps watching Edmonton Eats. He downloads the episodes before flights for roadies on his Netflix and just binges the seasons in between his naps before and after games. When he’s on roadies, he’s gotten into the not bad but questionable habit of going on the William and Sonoma website while watching the show. Currently, he’s bought a cast iron skillet, a wooden rolling pin, pie tins, and a food processor all because it seemed like a good idea when he was watching Connor cook while in his hotel room in places like Detroit.
At first it seems like a good system because he’s not home so he can’t try the recipe, but when he is home and wants to cook, he’s obviously going to need these tools when he does. He even orders two sets of everything, one for himself and one for his mom, obviously.
Then, when he finally gets home, he decides it’s time. He cracks his knuckles before he walks into the grocery store and just fucking shops like it’s his job.
He doesn’t buy too much though. He has a week-long roadie in a couple of days and he’s not going to have all of his groceries go bad immediately. So, he’s starting small.
He grabs a carton of eggs and milk and some pre-made pie crust. Jack already has all of those basic items that never go bad like most spices and a thing of rice, flour, and sugar. His mom thought ahead when she came to help him move into his apartment.
“This episode is all about pie,” says Connor from Jack’s laptop. He’s already taking a knife to some cold butter and Jack is fumbling around with all of his pans to find the right one. Half of what Connor is saying isn’t even relevant anyway since Jack figured to just bypass the whole homemade crust thing mainly because of the butter. If he doesn’t physically put the butter into the crust himself, his nutritionist can’t hold it against him, right?
“I’m going to show you how to make three different sizes of pie. The smallest are Hong Kong style egg tarts, or dan ta. So, not really Canadian country food, but delicious nonetheless. Also, it’s a good place to start for learning how to make custard based pies,” Connor explains while he’s portioning out his dough. Meanwhile, Jack tears open the package of his premade pie dough and gets rolling.
“I’m choosing to make it with a short-crust pastry instead of puff pastry, mainly because I want to make everything from scratch and puff pastry takes a lot more effort,” Connor says, huffing out a laugh. “Anyway, whether you’re using puff pastry or short crust like me, you’re going to want to roll it out somewhere between one fourth and one eighth of an inch. Then, we’re going to cut them into four inch circles for our cupcake tin…”
Jack is racing to keep up with Connor on his show and forces himself to pause the episode just so he can grease and line the cupcake tin, which takes for fucking ever. This isn’t even the first time he’s watched the episode but he still didn’t even think to do this before he started and fuck it, Jack is sweating at this point.
When it’s time to put the actual crust into the tin, Jack fumbles with it. Each time he tries to pick up his carefully cut circles, the pastry tears and sticks to his counter. Frustrated, he presses play on the episode again to hear Connor explain the step.
“This is why flouring your surface is so important… it prevents the pastry from sticking so that way you can just lift the dough and put it into the pan.” Connor does the motion with so much ease that Jack’s blood is beginning to boil. “I’m using a pastry cutter to pick up the dough, but if you have a spatula, that works too. Pastry cutters are just…. Life savers when you make a lot of pie, especially during clean up and you want to get the flour off the counter easily, eh?” Connors voice trails off and Jack stares at his definitely unfloured counter with disdain.
After a lot of scraping and flouring and rolling, Jack’s managed to somewhat get the dough into each cup of the pan and he even patches up the occasional hole with some extra dough. He’s on fucking fire. He presses play on the video.
“Now, just pour the custard into the tins,” Connor says smoothly while pouring his custard from a measuring cup with a steady hand into the little mini pies.
“When the fuck did you make the filling,” Jack deadpans and has to fucking rewind just to watch Connor heat some eggs and milk and sugar on the stove before pouring it expertly. Jack can do this, so he does. He messily pours the custard and hastily shoves the tray into the oven just to take in the messy state that his kitchen is in with a heavy sigh. He starts cleaning and is wiping down the counter when he realizes he forgot to set a timer.
He curses loudly and uses the towel to retrieve the egg tarts violently from the oven, practically throwing the hot tray onto the stove since the heat was coming through the towel and burning his hand. Thankfully, they’re not too burnt, and he sighs in relief.
But when he tries to take the tarts out of the pan, they just… don’t. So, Jack sits on the floor and tries to dig through the dough with a spoon instead. He can already tell that the crust is overcooked and is rock hard and he can hear Connor McDavid’s fucking voice warning him not to overwork the dough because then he won’t have a flaky pie crust.
When he tries the actual filling, he grimaces. It’s like eating sweet scrambled eggs which is less than ideal considering that when Jack makes his eggs he only eats the whites anyway. Again, he can hear Connor’s voice talking about the importance of tempering eggs or some shit to avoid scrambling the custard instead of having a smooth, dense filling.
The episode continues playing in the background while Jack checks the Food Network website on his phone to see the reviews on this recipe to see if maybe it’s not him and instead it’s just Connor’s fault. Instead all he finds is praise from what have to be middle-aged moms for Connor’s flavor combinations for his other pies and just how easy his pie crust is to make.
“… and that’s my cranberry apple bourbon pie. Next up is a flavor beloved by some friends who are still warming up to living in Canada: it’s my lingonberry rhubarb strawberry pie,” Connor cheerily narrates as he places a slice of beautiful pie on a plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“What the fuck is a lingonberry?”
(He asks this question again at practice when he gives a very thorough narration of his pie disaster only to get shoved by not one but all of the Swedes on the team.
“I’ve had that pie before, it’s good.”
“Yeah, me too. My mom makes before I leave at the end of the summer.”)
For the most part, Jack says fuck it all and stops trying any of Connor’s recipes before he even really starts. It’s just easier that way, and his trainers already have given him recipes so he’s pretty confident in what everything should look like. Granted, he’s learned since the egg tart incident that he should have actually read the recipe before just jumping in and cooking along with the show because that’s what normal people do according to the older guys on the team.
So, one night, when he’s cooking for himself, he feels defiant and tweets out a picture of his plate of food.
@Jack_Eichel11: honestly, 10x better than that Canadian country cooking crap.
The tweet’s definitely more censored than the first, mainly because his publicist called him after the first time and literally just sighed at him over the line. It isn’t until he’s finished eating and starting another episode of Edmonton Eats begrudgingly that he realizes his plate of pasta, chicken, and egg whites definitely wasn’t all that impressive. And all of twitter seems to know it. Most of his notifications are people mocking his cooking skills and how bland it all looks. In between all of the replies calling his dinner “quintessential white food”, something catches his eye.
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11:
@cmcdavid97: nice caramelization on the chicken! Still looks… a little bland though. Lemon pepper and garlic salt go a long way, my friend!
@cmcdavid97: Also, try adding some fresh spinach to your sauce while it’s still hot! It’ll balance our the dish more, add freshness, and get you some iron :)
Jack has to blink a little bit at first just to make sure his eyes aren’t fucking with him and that the account is really Connor’s and not Mitch being the actual worst as always. He doesn’t get why he’s suddenly feeling so nervous in his empty living room staring at an empty but dirty plate. He tries to come up with a response and ends up cursing at himself before turning the television off just so he can focus without that episode’s Connor telling him which type of pasta goes best with different types of sauces.
In reply to @cmcdavid97
@Jack_Eichel11: Thanks. I’ll give it a try sometime.
And he does. Two nights later before a home game and he’s expecting fireworks to go off in his fucking mouth because he got this advice directly from Connor himself, and it was personalized for him. It doesn’t happen though, and Jack is disappointed. The dish definitely looks more appetizing than the last one though, and he tweets about it because of course he does.
@Jack_Eichel11: definitely tried harder this go around… still kind of bland. #disappointed
It’s a lot like the last time he tweeted his cooking, but there is a bit more positivity this go around at least.
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11:
@AM34: you vs. the guy she tells you not to worry about
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11:
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11:
@cmcdavid97: next time you’re in Edmonton, stop by the restaurant so I can make up for my less than perfect advice. I make a mean pre-game breakfast!
The thing is, Jack knows too much about Hearth, Connor McDavid’s restaurant in downtown Edmonton. He knows that it opens at like ass crack in the morning to serve coffee and pastries from the café counter in the front of the dining room and starts serving brunch around ten for only an hour. Then, it closes for an hour for lunch prep, and opens again for lunch service before transitioning into dinner service. So, Jack’s watched a documentary on Connor when he ran out of Edmonton Eats episodes on Netflix.
Sue him. Anyway, the point is, Jack knows that Hearth couldn’t possibly serve him a breakfast that he needs before a game.
In reply to @cmcdavid97
@Jack_Eichel11: pastries as a pregame breakfast? Not gonna work bud.
In reply to @Jack_Eichel11
@cmcdavid97: Everything we serve you will be definitely off menu. How else am I supposed to make sure NHL stars are properly fed?
Maybe Jack is reading into it too much, but it definitely feels like Connor is doing some type of flirting with him. Part of him thinks maybe it’s just polite Canadian jargon that is messing with his head but at this point he’s not even sure. His phone buzzes and oh, okay. Connor’s sent direct messages.
Connor: seriously though, I’ll feed you next time you’re in Edmonton
Connor: here’s my number, text me what day and time you want to eat and I’ll have everything ready to go.
Connor: also, send your coffee order when you text to set it up! Can’t forget that : )
Jack definitely wasn’t expecting this at all and honestly, it feels a lot like flirting. He types out a hasty quick thank you and then goes to check the game schedule to find the next date against the Oilers. Part of him wants to text Dylan and ask if Connor has ever done this for him too considering he basically brought Connor into his lives albeit indirectly through Mitch, but even that feels uncomfortable. So, he sends Connor everything he asked for and his phone buzzes once more.
Connor: okay, thank you! It’s a date.
Jack feels completely and utterly frozen when he sees those words because this is really happening. He takes a quick second and asks himself, does he even want a date with Connor McDavid? Then he remembers just last night he watched a seven-minute long video of Connor explaining how to chop onions in different ways not because he didn’t know but because he wanted to. That’s all it takes for Jack to decide that yep, he’s completely and utterly gone at this point.
His phone buzzes once more.
In reply to @cmcdavid97
@marner93: ok, but how come i don’t get breakfast when i’m in edmonton?????
The first impression Jack gets of Hearth when he walks in is that it feels like home.
The entire space is light and airy yet warm in a way Jack doesn’t understand. The walls are lined with shiplap or rich wall paper but there has to be at least three red brick fire places in the space that radiates warmth with all of the warm textures and fabric. For all Jack knew about Connor and Hearth, he didn’t know about what it looked like or really what to expect. It feels like a home despite being completely empty even though it was six in the morning and would normally be bustling with employees working rapidly to to get all of the pastries they’ve been baking since the early morning hours to serve the morning crowd.
But it’s basically empty and Jack can hear his footsteps echoing around him. He was let in by a quiet boy named Ryan who motioned towards the back of the restaurant that was still dark as the sun still hasn’t completely illuminated the dining space. The only light is over the bar that doesn’t look over wines or whatever. Instead, beyond the short glass barrier atop the bar is the pastry work station where Connor stands meticulously kneading bread with an expertise that is impressive because of how natural it looks and because it’s so fucking early and Jack still feels asleep.
He stands there near the archway of the dining space just watching until Connor looks up and an easy smile appears across his lips.
“Hey, come on in,” he says, motioning for Jack to come closer as he wipes the flour on his hands off on a towel. He comes around the bar and Jack holds his hand out for a handshake but instead is pulled into an awkward hug by Connor. That alone startles him because they’ve never fucking met but Connor hesitates at the sight of Jack’s hand and obviously just goes for it. Alright, this is happening.
“Sit,” Connor nearly commands in a voice that Jack usually only hears from his captain, so he listens and just watches Connor move so seamlessly in an environment that is so undeniably his. “Ryan’s brewing up your coffee now, so I’m going to go grab your breakfast. There are some newspapers out, so please, help yourself.” He smiles warmly at Jack and stands there until Jack nods before he bustles off beyond the kitchen doors. Sure enough the boy that let him in brings him a mug of coffee and something else.
“Biscotti. Almond and cinnamon, it’s good. You gotta dip it in the coffee though,” Ryan explains when Jack tries to chew on the cookie to little success. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.”
The thing is, Jack wants to. He wants to eat all of this stupid supposed Canadian country food because it was made by a stupid Canadian that Jack has decided he likes a lot even though they’ve never even held a real conversation. It’s a celebrity crush, but Jack feels like he knows Connor enough to have a real crush. He will be the first to admit that it’s creepy as hell and pathetic, but these last few months his mind has been cycling through hockey, Connor, and food pretty regularly now, Connor being the new addition to his thoughts.
He keeps mindlessly dunking the biscotti into his coffee after drinking at least half of it. Then, Connor reemerges from the depths of his kitchen and the smells that come with him make Jack blink and sit up straighter because oh.
“Sweet potato hash, egg white spinach scramble, house chicken sausage,” Connor narrates, pointing to all of the components of the dish that he places in front of Jack. “A side of Greek yogurt chia seed pudding with almonds, fresh fruit, and agave. Oh, and a buttermilk biscuit with honey butter for good measure.”
Jack is pretty certain his mouth is hanging open as he looks at all of the food because the entire spread looks absolutely beautiful in a way that he had determined was fake and unattainable. When he looks back up at Connor, who has a slight flush high up on his cheeks.
“Just… some of my favorites. And some… alternative ways to get some protein,” he says, sitting down at the bar next to Jack and taking the second cup of coffee that Ryan’s left for them. “Minus uh, some yolks. You prefer just the whites, right?”
All Jack can do is nod dumbly and stare until Connor basically commands him to eat before it gets cold. That, Jack can do, so he does and practically moans once he can taste it all.
“Holy fucking shit,” he mumbles as he just keeps eating absolutely everything.
“That good, eh?” Connor asks teasingly with a knowing smile on his lips. Again, Jack could only just nod as he keeps shoving food into his mouth. Except he stops and tries to chew more so he could speak a little more coherently but Connor just shakes his head. “Don’t worry about me, just enjoy.”
So, that’s exactly what Jack does. He just keeps eating until the entire plate is clean and he slumps back in his chair with a sigh.
“I take back all the shit I’ve said about Canadian country cooking,” Jack says, stifling his incoming yawn with another sip of his coffee. “Honestly, I’d marry you in a heartbeat if you cooked like that for me every day.” Then, when he looks over at Connor and just sees him smiling shyly and blushing while completely avoiding eye contact, Jack practically chokes on his coffee. If Jack choked and died right then and there, it could have been fitting in all honesty. Death by Connor McDavid’s coffee didn’t seem all that bad.
“I mean, I said it was a date,” Connor says quietly, staring into his mug and Jack’s head is actually spinning.
“But you don’t even know me.” Which is dumb, especially coming from him considering how he’s pretty sure he feels about Connor, but it’s the truth. He just needs to deal with it too. Jack didn’t think it was possible, but Connor’s cheeks just get darker.
“Well, I’ve always kind of… had a crush on your hockey?” and when he says it, Connor practically winces as he finally peeks at Jack nervously. “But then Dylan eats here practically every day, and he sometimes tells stories about you… and I just really wanted to meet you, in person. Dylan mentioned it to Mitch when they were here, and then Mitch went and tweeted you and… now we’re here.” Connor’s voice was tiny at this point and Jack was silent because he was fucking right. Dylan planted the seed and Mitch aggressively mothered the hell of it to life.
So, Jack can’t help himself. He starts laughing. Full body laughter as he hunches over the bar, and there are tears in his eyes because of course his practically nonexistent love life was somehow plotted out by fucking Mitchell Marner.
He can see Connor starting to squirm with an anxious uncertainty and Jack tries shaking his head to somewhat reassure him.
“Okay, okay, listen,” Jack says, rubbing his hand over his face. “I’ve watched every fucking episode of Edmonton Eats.” He watches as Connor’s expression shift from pure anxiety to confusion and a wide eyed look that could only be described as maybe. “I’ve even tried making those… fucking egg tarts and failed. But whatever it is that is going on here is mutual, because I willingly watched your videos on cooking pasta and chopping onions because your voice is just soothing, alright?”
Now, Connor was laughing and Jack couldn’t help but smile at the unrestrained sound.
“God, are you serious?” Connor manages to get out between his fits of laughter. “You can’t eat dan ta. They’re basically just cream and sugar, your nutritionist is going to kill me for that. The egg isn’t for protein! It’s just a thickening agent for the custard, oh my god.” Then, he pauses in his own rambling that Jack is listening to intently. Connor meets Jack’s eyes, freezes and melts into an easy smile before he shakes his head. “What are we even doing?”
Jack shrugs, still smiling as he watches Connor wipe below his eyes as the laughter finally fades.
“I don’t know,” he offers sheepishly, because it’s true. They’re in different time zones, different careers, different completely packed schedules. They barely know each other, but they want to know each other and that’s all that should matter. “I’d like to kiss you if that’s okay.”
Connor’s expression softens as he carefully nods and Jack just pulls him in for a gentle, tentative kiss. Kissing Connor, as it turns out, feels a lot like walking into Hearth for the first time. It surrounds Jack with a simple, reassuring warmth and he can taste the coffee he smelt from first walking in on Connor’s lips. So, for a first kiss, it’s pretty good, rated pretty high in Jack’s book, honestly.
And he tells Connor that, who yet again, bursts out laughing and Jack can’t stop smiling. So, for good measure, he kisses Connor again. This time it feels a little bit like a promise and a lot like a beginning.