Performing for crowds in Canada is different than performing for crowds in the United States, says Paz, the man behind (and onstage for) the Hockey Circus Show at the Saskatoon Ex.
“I understood hockey as an American, which is a very factual understanding,” he says. “When I toured, I got to understand it as a culture and what it meant to the very fabric of Canadian life, which is awesome.”
Paz was born in the United States but has made Canada his home for more than two decades. It’s been a winding path. He went from a tennis-playing career to developing a circus show that combined two of his greatest loves: performing and hockey.
If someone wrote a scouting report on his skills, it would probably sound pretty good: great stick handling, strong skating, friendly personality, willing to work hard and take risks. Paz’s show features a lot of juggling — hockey pucks and sticks, some of which are occasionally on fire — all while wearing a pair of skates on the asphalt.
His interactions with the crowd are a big part of his act. Paz said he considers himself more of an entertainer than a performer because of the dynamic he wants to build with people who see the show.
“You never know who’s in your audience, what they’re going through,” he said. “There’s a lot of stress in life. If I can, for five minutes, get them to stop thinking about that, that’s why I do what I do.”
He was a hockey fan from a young age, but didn’t really develop a deep love of the game until his adult life, while living in Los Angeles. He said guys would regularly get together to play street hockey games near the beach — mostly Canadians living in the American metropolis — and would always stop to watch the sunset when they were playing.
The hockey community in Los Angeles was large and varied, he said. Celebrities like Canada’s Mike Myers would often stop in to play, and games would move from outside to in-line roller rinks throughout the evening.
“It was so cool, such an international vibe,” he said.
After his tennis career, he was drawn to the circus because it had a “beautiful combination of artistic, academic, and athletic” to work on, he said.
Paz has performed around North America and the rest of the world (and toured with Rogers Hometown Hockey for four years), but nowhere else compares to Canada in terms of the hockey culture and passion for the game, he said. In 2015, the Hockey Circus Show appeared on a BuzzFeed list of 21 Of The Most Canadian Things You’ll Ever See — which made him particularly proud, especially since he was placed above Justin Trudeau.
“I’m really fortunate. I’m an ambassador for hockey around the world,” he laughed. “When non-hockey fans enjoy my show, I take that as a huge compliment.”