Few modern NHL players have more fully embraced hockey’s dentistry dilemma than Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. Before the Avs’ preseason, which starts on September 17, the 31-year-old spoke with 5280 about how his life changed after an errant shot in 2011 knocked out three of his front chompers and made him, as Johnson says, “that guy without teeth.”

[Read More: The Inside Story of the Colorado Avalanche’s Historic Turnaround]

On Commuting

“Sometimes if I’m driving and someone honks or gives me the finger, I’ll just roll down the window and smile at them. It freaks them out. ”

On Phonetics

“Pronouncing words that begin with ‘F’ is challenging. I drop a lot of F-bombs, so that’s kind of tough. I have to roll the word with my upper lip now. ” [Editor’s note: Even then, it sounds like “phwuk.”]

On Scare Tactics

“No one on the ice is intimidated by [the gap]. It’s the NHL. ”

On Close Calls

“I took a shot off my mouth a few years later in practice with the Avs. It hit my lower teeth and bent the entire row all the way back into my mouth. A dentist was able to bend them all back into place, so I didn’t lose those.”

On Dating

“I’ve actually had a few women tell me I look better without the teeth. ”

On Personal Inventories

“It’s just one more thing to remember. When I leave the house, it’s like: OK. Phone, wallet, keys. And oh yeah, the retainer. ”

Editor’s note: Responses were edited for length and clarity