“I’m somebody who likes to try a number of things.”
Michael Hoffman says this to me with a twinkle in his eye, and an enviable amount of self-awareness. His smile is warm and bright enough to rival the actual sunlight filtering in through his apartment windows on an early Thursday morning. In the corners of my Zoom screen, I can see little hints into the life he leads with his roommate, Blair. Pictures selected with care stand out against the crème paint of their apartment walls. It’s a little peek into another person’s life. Later, he will show me the Washington Capitals memorabilia they have collected with pride.
For now, he simply speaks candidly with me about himself and his innumerable interests and life experiences.
As many would, Michael lists travel as one of his passions. When I ask him his favorite place he’s been to so far, Michael tilts his head back onto his shoulders and thinks back to a time long before COVID was a limitation, then he says with the utmost certainty, “It’s got to be Jerusalem.”
When Michael had been able to go on Birthright, a heritage trip to Israel spanning nearly two weeks, he was granted the opportunity to spend some time in the city. He recounts the places he had been with a wide infectious grin. The old temple. The wall. “It just kind of felt like the center of the universe,” he explains. Not just because of the prominence of Judaism, but the importance of the area for other religions as well. “There was so much there, and so many cultures.”
Another culture that Michael loved experiencing, he tells me, was the one in Mexico. He had the opportunity to visit a friend teaching out in Oaxaca. “That was just a really cool place,” Michael excitedly explains, just before recounting one of his favorite adventures there. They went to a wrestling match in Mexico City. “You had all these fans decked out in, like, masks and that was just amazing to see.”
Michael is quick to add Colorado to his list of favorite places as well, detailing different terrain there from the mountains to the desert. He describes his trip to Colorado Springs and his visit to the Garden of the Gods. “You have to go at sunset,” Michael recommends, when I tell him I’ve never been, before going on to describe the scene. Later, I find myself Googling it so I can try to see the world as Michael had. Earthy red tall rock formations jutting out of the earth like a giant’s craggy fingers, surrounded by grassy plains. Little tufts of foliage and trees part to make room for them as everything becomes tinted with warm oranges and then purples in the dying light. I can only imagine how incredible it must have been for Michael to have seen it in person for himself.
For a man as well-traveled as Michael is, I can’t help but wonder what’s next for him. There has to be a list. “I would definitely want to check out Brazil,” Michael is quick to say. “I would want to check out their beaches and carnival – just the culture out there! I guess closer to here? There’s a cool music scene in Nashville, I wouldn’t mind going back there…And I’m a fan of mountains. So maybe like, the Canadian Rockies.”
And, just to be thorough with me, Michael also lists Alaska, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. I hope when he goes – because after speaking with him, there is no doubt in my mind that he won’t – he comes back and tells us all about it.
At this point, I find myself wondering how Michael likes to spend his free time. From our conversation so far, I know that the answer will be good, because as he’s quick to tell me earlier, “I don’t mind taking chances on doing new things.”
His reply doesn’t disappoint.
His favorite involves his degree in print journalism, and his love of writing. In the past, he maintained a hockey blog for the Examiner. Unfortunately, they no longer exist, but when they did Michael applied to be their Washington Capitals blogger. When he got the position, he recalls that his reaction was, “Oh very cool! I can write about one of my favorite sports teams.”
His love for the team is clear when he talks to me about them, as is his pride in the press credential he received to attend the games and speak with the players. “That was an amazing experience, to actually talk to guys like Alexander Ovechkin and actually see some of the behind the scenes stuff.”
Michael goes on to recount a favorite memory where before a playoff game, Ovechkin and Nicklas Bäckström were on the Wizards’ basketball court, hanging out and chatting before the game. Another, he recalls for me, happened during a post game interview. “Bruce Boudreau was answering questions about a third period loss where they had collapsed,” Michael begins, explaining that this had happened for two straight games. Two people before him had asked the same question Michael had in mind…but Michael wanted a further response. So what did he do? He worded that same question a little differently, where Boudreau, “actually kind of blew up! He was like, “I just answered that same question! Pay attention!” and he just ended the press conference.” Michael chuckles affectionately, his smile wide. “Pay attention, as an answer, was fantastic! It was a good response!”
The list of hobbies and interests goes on from here. Poker and chess make the cut – a quick mention is thrown to the mountain bike he confesses he needs to fix – as do other sports ranging from the world cup to the winter olympics to baseball.
“You’re going to be like this guy is just too much! He needs to just focus on one thing!” Michael laughs, and I find myself laughing along with him…But looking at Michael and listening to his story, there is one thing I can say with certainty.
Michael isn’t too much.
He’s a person with a large, warm heart and a passion for life and all it has to offer.