This week’s interview is with Hershey Bliss C Spencer Kirkpatrick.
SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the key contributors on the East’s co-leading teams, Spencer Kirkpatrick. Spencer, thanks for speaking with us!
Spencer Kirkpatrick: Glad to do it. It’s definitely an exciting race!
SHLD: That it is! Your team in Hershey started the week in first. But now after an 0-4-0 week, you’re in a first place tie with New York, with Hamilton and Quebec nipping at your heels. The top four teams are separated by only three points!
SK: Yeah, it’s a real bumper-car derby at the top. This week was a real disappointment for us; we can’t afford to lose any ground.
SHLD: You guys obviously came out of the break flat. Do you think the week off disrupted your momentum?
SK: No question that it did. Hockey players are creatures of habit; we like playing a regular schedule, and a week off throws off our rhythms. But everyone else had the same break, so that’s not an excuse for us.
SHLD: Why do you think the division is so competitive this year?
SK: Good question! I think the East has been getting better every year I’ve been in the league, but it’s taken time to recognize that. Hamilton and Quebec made the playoffs last year, so it’s no surprise that they’re in the mix again. We won the Vandy in 2017, so it’s no surprise that we’re in the mix. We’ve proven that last year was just a weird fluke. And New York… I mean, I think you have to give [Nick] Foster some credit. He runs his mouth a lot, but he’s gotten his team playing the right way.
SHLD: Speaking of Foster, he made some headlines earlier this year calling the Bliss “soft.” How did your team react to that?
SK: We’ve heard that kind of crap before, so we just shrug it off. And we know that Foster is just trying to play to the fans and stir things up with the press, so we don’t pay attention to it.
SHLD: But doesn’t it make you mad, at least a little bit?
SK: I mean, sure. I think it’s ridiculous. Our guys are as tough as anyone else in the league. But we’re used to this kind of talk. It used to be that everyone called us chokers, but then we won the Vandy. So the best way to stop the talk is to win. Always.
SHLD: So looking ahead to the second half, what do you need to do to hold off the competition and make the postseason?
SK: I think we need to play hard-nosed hockey, avoid dumb turnovers, and make sure we’re getting quality looks on offense. On defense, we need to make sure we protect home plate. It’s not going to be easy, but we just have to play our game.
SHLD: Of the three other teams in the mix, which one do you fear the most?
SK: Hey, they’re all tough! But if you’re asking which is the toughest to play against, I’d say Quebec. The way they play, the way they trap and bang you into the boards, they’re just miserable to play against. Playing Hamilton, it’s skill against skill, it’s good. And New York, that’s just a track meet, flying up and down the ice. Quebec leaves me with the most bumps and bruises after, by far.
SHLD: The West is quite competitive, too. Is there an opponent out there who you’d prefer to face if you make the Finals?
SK: (laughs) No way! You’re not getting me to bite on that one. We’ve got to focus on getting to the playoffs first!
SHLD: Fair enough. We’ve spent this whole interview talking about your team, and not about you. What’s one thing about you that fans don’t know?
SK: Hmm… well, I’m the reigning Madden champion on the team. When we’re on the road, in a hotel, Madden is what we play. And I’ve won two seasons in a row now!
SHLD: Oh yeah? Which team do you play as?
SK: The Broncos. I’m Canadian, so I didn’t watch a lot of football growing up. But I’m from Calgary, and that’s big horse country. So the Broncos remind me of home.
SHLD: Pretty cool! Well, Spencer, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Good luck in the second half!
SK: Thanks! I’ll take all the luck I can get.