This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy D Patrick Banks.
SHL Digest: Today we’re talking to one of this year’s big-name free agents, Patrick Banks. Thanks for talking with us, Patrick.
Patrick Banks: No problem. I don’t know about “big-name,” but thanks.
SHLD: Last year, you won the Vandy with Michigan. This year, you signed with the team that you beat. What went into that decision for you?
PB: Well, when we played in the Finals, I noticed that the Galaxy guys seemed to have fun and have chemistry with each other. And when I came out here to visit as a free agent, they really made me feel welcome. Guys like Thurm [Casey Thurman], Jeff [McNeely], and Lenny [Wright] treated me like a member of the family already. It’s like when you visit a college campus and you can immediately see yourself going there. That’s how it was for me here.
SHLD: And now that you’ve been here a while, do you still feel welcome?
PB: Oh yeah! Coach [Rodney] Reagle is a loon. He’s always cracking jokes, talking in funny voices, sneaking up behind guys in the locker room. He keeps things light and loose, and the team follows that example. We really are a family. One big, crazy family.
SHLD: Michigan’s off to another great start, and Washington’s in the thick of a tough race in the East. Any regrets about leaving a potential dynasty in the making?
PB: No, I don’t. I had a great experience with the Wolves, and I’m happy I got my ring. But Coach [Ron] Wright takes things very seriously. You play for him, you’re going to work hard. It was a great education, but I’m glad to have a chance to play and have fun at the same time.
SHLD: We understand that you’ve started a charitable foundation. Can you tell us about that?
PB: It’s called the First Nations First Goal Foundation. It’s dedicated to funding youth hockey in First Nations communities.
SHLD: That’s got to be a cause that’s close to your heart. You’re one of the few players of Inuit descent in professional hockey.
PB: Yeah, I’m from Nunavut. There’s been a handful of First Nations players, but I think there could be a lot more. In communities like mine, young people need opportunities. There’s a sense of hopelessness, a lot of guys who take to the bottle because they don’t see a better alternative. Hockey can be a way out.
SHLD: Sounds like a worthy cause. How does your charity help with that?
PB: To start, we’re focused on providing proper equipment, skates and sticks and nets and pads. But as we continue to raise money, I’d like to be able to start organizing leagues and camps, and pay for top-quality instructors to come and work with these kids. I had the chance to go to a camp that was run by some ex-NHL coaches, and it really changed my life.
SHLD: Wow, that sounds great! Well, good luck with your charity and with the rest of the season.
PB: I really appreciate it.