Interview of the Week: Cam Prince

This week’s interview is with newly-named Boston Badgers coach Cam Prince.

SHL Digest: This week, the Boston Badgers named their first-ever coach, Cam Prince.  And we have the honor of being the first to interview him.  Cam, thanks for speaking with us.

Cam Prince

Cam Prince: I’m glad to be here!  This is an exciting day for me.

SHLD: This is your first head coaching job.  How does it feel to be getting your first shot with a brand-new team?

CP: It’s a very cool opportunity, to tell you the truth.  It’s a total blank canvas here.  I’m so excited to be working with [GM] Jody Melchiorre to build this team from the ground up.

SHLD: What convinced you to take this job?

CP: A number of things.  I really like the opportunity to grow together with the team.  And I think Boston is just a tremendous hockey team.  So many diehard fans here.  Finding a way to win them over to the Badgers is going to be a lot of fun.

SHLD: Jody has said that he wants to build a scrappy, hard-working, defense-first team.  Meanwhile, you were an assistant coach for New York, which is a very offense-oriented team.  Are you prepared to coach a team full of grinders?

CP: Oh, absolutely.  My time with the Night definitely showed the limitations of an offense-only approach.  And as an expansion team, it’s generally easier to put together a scrappy team rather than a squad of elite scorers.

SHLD: Speaking of your time with New York: Do you think that was a factor in your being selected as coach?  Kind of trying to get started on the Boston-New York rivalry?

CP: I don’t think so.  I mean, that might have been one reason they interviewed me.  But it’s not like the Night fans have a lot of memories of me, or are going to have a grudge against me.  I mean, Preston Rivers, sure.  But I wasn’t as memorable as him.

SHLD: What about on your end?  Do you have a personal rivalry with the Night?

CP: There’s no love lost there, I can promise that.  I’ll definitely be fired up to coach against them.  And if we can finish ahead of them in the standings, that will be a successful season in my book.

SHLD: So far, you have a grand total of one player: Cary Estabrook.  Have you met him yet?

CP: (laughs) Not yet.  I talked to him on the phone this morning.  I told him I was looking forward to meeting the team.  He said, “Well, you just did.”

SHLD: Care to make any predictions about how your first season will go?

CP: Before I even have players?  Sure, we’re going to win the Vandy! (laughs)  Seriously, with the [expansion draft] protection rules, I think we’ll have a chance to put together a solid team.  Are we going to make the playoff right out of the box?  I wouldn’t think so.  But we should be able to re respectable, at least.  And like I said, if we can beat New York, that will be a win for me.

SHLD: Well, we should let you get back to building your team.  Congratulations, and good luck next season!

CP: Thanks!  I can’t wait to get started.

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Interview of the Week: Arkady Golynin

This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes RW Arkady Golynin.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the SHL’s brightest young scoring prospects, Arkady Golynin of the Dakota Jackalopes.  Arkady, thanks for speaking with us.

Arkady Golynin

Arkady Golynin: It is a great honor.  Thank you very much.

SHLD: You’re not a household name, but with the way you’ve been playing, you might be on your way to becoming one.  Last season, in your rookie year, you broke out with 23 goals.  This year, you’re on pace to match that mark. What’s the secret to your success?

AG: I have a good shot.  When I was a boy, I drew a box on the side of my house.  Every day I practiced shots at the box.  Aim for this corner, that corner, in the five-hole.  After many years, I got it so that I could make my shots with my eyes closed.  Now when I am on the ice, in the middle of a big game, I just pretend I am looking at the box.

SHLD: A born shooter like you must really enjoy playing for a team like Dakota, which is geared toward offense.

AG: Yes, I like it very much.  To me, this is the heart of hockey: speed and skill.  Close timing, skillful passes.  It is a ballet on skates, and it is beautiful.

SHLD: Obviously, other teams in the league have a very different philosophy, teams like Michigan and Quebec.

AG: Yes, their style is heavy and hard.  Hard hits, blood on the ice.  I think it is ugly, but I know it is Canadian and American style.  In Russia, we grew up on the game of Tarasov, Tretiak, like that.  Very fluid and beautiful.

SHLD: You are one of the smaller players in the league at only 5’7″.  Some of the league’s harder-hitting defensemen have targeted you because of your size, figuring they can push you around.

AG: Yes, but they are slow and I can skate around them! (laughs)

SHLD: So you don’t find that your size is a challenge when playing hockey at the highest level?

AG: No, I do not.  In the end, it is the skill that makes the player, not the height.  Would I like to be a tall man like Jumbo Joe [Freedlander]?  Maybe it would be nice, especially when dealing with ladies.  But for hockey, I am happy to be just as I am.

SHLD: Let’s talk about the Jackalopes for a moment.  Despite playing in a beautiful style, as you put it, you haven’t been able to keep up with the division powers in Michigan and Anchorage.  What do you think has held you back from greater success?

AG: It is difficult for me to say.  But I think one important thing is that those teams, they can dictate their type of play.  Michigan likes to slow it down, and it is very hard to prevent that.  Anchorage is faster, but they are very smart with possession; they control the ice.

SHLD: There’s some talk about Dakota rebuilding this offseason.  Are you worried what might happen to the team in the future?

AG: I have many friends on the team, and I will be said if they are not around anymore.  But I am sure we will still have many good players, and we will still be a good team.

SHLD: One last question.  You’ve been in Dakota for almost two years now.  Have you ever seen a jackalope?

AG: (laughs) When I was a rookie, some of the older guys on the team took me and the other rookie out to the Badlands to go on a jackalope hunt.  They sent us rookies out ahead to do “scouting,” while they went back to Wall Drug and had some beers.  I never saw a jackalopes, but I saw a snake.  I do not get along with snakes at all.  When I saw him, I think I ran all the way out of the Badlands by myself.

SHLD: Sounds like quite the adventure!  Well, thank you for your time, Arkady, and best of luck.

AG: This was a fun talk.  I hope we can do it again.

In the Stands: A Fan’s View

In lieu of our usual interview segment, this week we’re running a very special feature.  We’ve invited one of the SHL’s biggest fans to tell her story!  Amber Bonner is a partial season-ticket holder for the Washington Galaxy.  We invited Amber to tell us about why she loves the Galaxy and the SHL.  Her story is below.

– – – – –

As a fan, I get to enjoy sitting and watching the game. To a real fan it is a much more immersive experience. While I won’t say that it is like I am playing in the game, it does feel like I am a part of it.

My tickets are right in the first row. Being able to sit right in front of the glass has the action literally right in front of your face. Once you get over the feeling like they are going to ram into to you whenever a player skates near your seat, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience… where the adrenaline rush is transferred from the players to the fans.

It isn’t required to sit right in front to get a rush; just being in the stadium gets me hyped! I love how you are able to feed off of the energy of the players, staff, and of course the other fans. It is a truly amazing feeling to know you are a part of a large group of people who all share the same goal as you: to win the game. It is also really cool to be in the same building as all of your favorite players acting like they are celebrities. You get to see them doing what they love, what they have a passion for: playing hockey.

If you are able to sit up close, you get to see the true precision and accuracy the players use just to skate on the ice, let alone take shots and make passes. You get to see how it’s like a well-oiled machine, where all of the players of your team are working together to make it function. It is quite beautiful to watch as the skates glide along the ice and turn in a fraction of a second.

I also love how hockey is a constant action sport (except for intermission of course),  meaning there is something to watch at all times. As a person with a limited amount of money, it is great to be able to really get the bang for your buck in terms of entertainment. Even if you aren’t super interested in the game, you can just watch all of the fans cheering, holding up posters, and having a good time watching the game. I recently went to a game which ended up tied at the end of regular time and had to go into OT. It was truly fascinating to see that something as simple as the end of a sports game can bring such strong feelings to so many people who aren’t really affected by the outcome. As a fan, you become a part of the team; that’s an experience I would never trade for anything else.

Interview of the Week: Lance Sweet

This week’s interview is with Hershey Bliss LW Lance Sweet.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with a man in the thick of a playoff race, a member of the Love Line, Hershey’s Lance Sweet.  Lance, thanks for speaking with us.

Lance Sweet

Lance Sweet: No problem.  Always glad to talk hockey!

SHLD: All right, let’s talk hockey!  Your Bliss have been out front in the East for the season, but lately you’ve fallen behind Washington.  What do you think you need to do to catch back up with the Galaxy?

LS: That’s definitely the question of the moment for us right now.  I think the key is going to be staying strong on both ends.  Especially defensively; lately, we’ve been playing in our own end too much.  We’ve got to be strong at denying entry and winning the puck battles in the neutral zone.

SHLD: Washington’s won the division title the last two seasons in a row. Does that put more pressure on you guys to get over the hump?

LS: I’d be lying if I said we didn’t think about it.  Definitely the way last year ended, that really hurt.  But the way we look at it, that gives us some extra fuel.  This is our chance to prove ourselves.  So I don’t think it’s pressure so much as inspiration.

SHLD: Washington certainly seems happy to fuel your rivalry.  What did you think of their “Hershey-pocalypse” bit?

LS: It definitely got us fired up, for sure.  I mean, it was a total waste of a lot of good chocolate.

SHLD: Do the Bliss plan to do anything to get back at them for it?

LS: As far as I’m concerned, the best revenge would be for us to beat them on the ice.

SHLD: Makes sense!  Let’s talk about the Love Line a bit.  To most SHL fans, when they think of the Bliss, they think you guys are the whole show.  A couple of years ago, when you got hurt and missed significant time, it sank your team’s season.  Is the Love Line still central to the team’s success?

LS: I don’t think so, and that’s a good thing.  The book on us used to be “Stop the Love Line, and you can stop Hershey.”  But now, if one of us went down – knock on wood – I think we’d be fine.  Maybe not Justin [Valentine], but if I got hurt, I think we’d be fine.  We’ve got so many other weapons: Kirks [Spencer Kirkpatrick], Horny [Russ Nahorniak], Connie [Henry Constantine], and more.  We’re a more balanced team, and we’re a stronger team.

SHLD: Since we’re talking about the Love Line, one last question: are you guys still as popular with the female fans as you were in the beginning?

LS: [laughs] Uhh… well, to be honest, yeah.  The ladies love us.  Of course, it’s a little different now, ’cause Justin’s engaged and I’ve got a girlfriend.  But Chris [Hart] is still single!  We send all the girls his way now.

SHLD: Can he handle that?

LS: I haven’t heard him complain.

SHLD: That’s good.  Well, thanks for a fun and interesting conversation, Lance!  Good luck the rest of the season.

LS: Thanks!  It’s been fun.

Interview of the Week: Stellan Fisker

This week’s interview is with Quebec Tigres LW Stellan Fisker.

SHL Digest: Today we’re talking to a man whose name has been in the news a lot this week.  Stellan Fisker, thanks for talking to us.

Stellan Fisker

Stellan Fisker: Thank you.  It has been an interesting time.

SHLD: As we know, this week was the SHL trading deadline, and your name came up frequently in trade rumors.  Several teams were said to be trying to acquire you: Hershey especially, but also Washington, Anchorage, and others.  How does it feel to hear your name being bandied about like that?

SF: It is very strange, definitely.  Obviously, you hope that when everyone is talking about you, it is because you are playing well, not because you might be leaving town.

SHLD: Not the headlines you’re hoping to make, definitely.

SF: And it’s strange because they’re talking about your life, and it seems to change in a blink.  One minute, you’re headed to Hershey.  Next minute, no, you’re off to Alaska.  And then no, you’re staying put.

SHLD: How do you listen to the rumors without letting it make you crazy?

SF: Mostly, I tried not to listen.  I talked to my agent, and he told me he’d let me know if any talks were getting serious.  But it’s impossible not to hear anything.  Reporters ask you questions, or you overhear something in the halls.

SHLD: In the end, you didn’t get traded.  Was that a disappointment or a relief?

SF: A little bit of both, really.  On one hand, you want to be involved in the playoffs, and a trade could put me into that.  But I like it here; Quebec is a pretty city, I like Coach [Martin] Delorme and my teammates.  And having to overturn your life in the middle of the season, that’s not fun.  I know my wife was very much hoping for us to stay here.

SHLD: I’m sure you would have liked to be involved in the playoff race here in Quebec.  But that hasn’t happened.  Why do you think that is?

SF: Well, we were just an expansion team last year, so we are still growing.  [Goalie] Riki [Tiktuunen] has not been able to stay healthy, and that has been a problem for us.  But in general, our offense has been the big problem.  You cannot win if you do not score.

SHLD: That’s true.  What do you think you’ll need to do to get to that next level?

SF: I think if we had one or two more scorers, we would be doing well.  We have a strong defense, and we have Riki in net as long as he stays healthy.  That is another important key for us.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Well, thank you for talking with us, and best of luck the rest of the season.

SF: Thank you.  I am glad to know that I will be staying here.

Interview of the Week: Cary Estabrook

This week’s interview is with Boston Badgers F Cary Estabrook.

SHL Digest: Today, we have a unique opportunity.  We’re speaking with the Boston Badgers’ first-ever player, Cary Estabrook.  Cary, welcome to the SHL!

Cary Estabrook

Cary Estabrook: Thanks!  I’m really excited about this.

SHLD: So, how did you become the Badgers’ first player?

CE: Well, [Badgers GM] Jody Melchiorre had scouted me for Anchorage when I was a senior at Western Mass, before last season’s draft.  But I wrecked my knee just before the end of the season, so the Igloos didn’t draft me.  But obviously he remembered me.

SHLD: Obviously, he thought well of you!

CE: Well, the surgery was successful, and my rehab’s gone well, so we felt confident that I’d be ready to go for ’18.  And the fact that I’m a local boy didn’t hurt.  I’m from Rhode Island originally.

SHLD: How does it feel to be the only Badger so far?

CE: It’s really exciting, but it’s a bit of a mixed blessing, you know?  I mean, no matter what I do the rest of my career, I’m going to be part of SHL history.  That’s definitely cool.

SHLD: No question about that!

CE: But I don’t just want to be the answer to a trivia question, you know?  I want to be remembered for being a great player.  I’ve got to keep working hard to make that happen.

SHLD: Do you think you’ve got a good chance to make the team?

CE: Hard to be sure until I can see the competition, right?  But Jody assured me that I’d have every shot to make it as long as I can stay healthy.

SHLD: If you were to compare yourself to a current SHL player, who would it be?

CE: Maybe a guy like Vonnie McLearen.  He’s a guy who worked hard to get where he is; he’s not the hardest shot or the fastest skater, but he’s a real competitor who works hard and plays solid on both ends of the ice.  That’s my game too.

SHLD: Have you had a chance to meet any of the fans in Boston yet?

CE: Yeah, actually.  We just had a season-ticket-holder event on Friday.  Jody said that we’ve already got over 5,000 season ticket holders, which is huge.  I love the fans here; they’re really smart, dedicated, totally into hockey.  Our arena’s in Southie, so we’re gonna draw those great working-class fans.  The atmosphere is gonna be off the charts.

SHLD: Can’t wait to see it!  Well, thank you for your time, and best of luck with your SHL career.

CE: Thanks.  No offense, but I’m really waiting for the next time you guys interview me.  That time, I’ll know you’re talking to me because I’ve made it.  That’s the dream for me.

Interview of the Week: Rodney Reagle

This week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with Rodney Reagle of the Washington Galaxy.  I have to say, Coach Reagle, we’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time.

Rodney Reagle

Rodney Reagle: I get that a lot.  A Rodney Reagle interview is a gold mine of insanity, a writer’s dream come true.

SHLD: Suffice it to say, you are one of the league’s most colorful characters.  You’ve coached games in costume, you’ve given post-game interviews in a wide variety of accents, and you’ve provided an endless stream of hilarious quotes.  What makes you so funny?

RR: You mean funny ha-ha, or funny what’s-wrong-with-that-guy?

SHLD: Funny ha-ha.

RR: Well, a lot of coaches are frustrated generals.  I’m a frustrated comedian.  When I was a kid, I wanted to either play hockey or be on Saturday Night Live.  Now, in a weird way, I can do both!

SHLD: Were you considered a funny guy during your playing days?

RR: Well, I was a goalie.  And everyone knows that goalies are crazy.  My teammates called me “Radio” because I liked to do the play-by-play on the ice when the puck was in our end.  And I liked to act out my favorite SNL bits in the locker room.  So, yeah, kinda funny.

SHLD: Your humor is pretty popular around the league, but there are some critics who call you a clown and say you should be more serious.  How would you respond to those critics?

RR: I mean, what can I say?  There are some people who think sports is like war, and you need to treat it like war, and be serious all the time.  That if you’re cracking jokes or being silly, you’re disrespecting the game.  But you know what?  A season is a long grind, and if you play every game like it’s life and death, you’re going to burn out.  So if you can keep the guys loose, get them laughing and joking for a bit, it makes the grind a little easier.

SHLD: That makes sense.

RR: And if the critics are fussing about me wearing a funny costume or saying something silly instead of talking about one of our guys being in a slump, it takes the pressure off.

SHLD: If we could switch to serious topics for a minute.

RR: You really want to do that?  Wouldn’t you rather talk about silly stuff?  I’ve got some really killer impressions.

SHLD: Tempting!  But we should talk about the Galaxy for a bit.  You’ve been hovering around the .500 mark for most of the year, and you’ve been trailing Hershey consistently.  What does your team need to do to repeat as division champs?

RR: Well, our defense has been strong, and Rogie [Roger Orion] has been great.  Offensively, we’ve had a little struggle.  But our tempo is good and we’ve been getting plenty of shots, but they haven’t been going in.  So I guess what we need to do is convince opposing goalies not to stop so many of our shots.  I’m thinking about offering bribes.

SHLD: It doesn’t sound like you’re too concerned.

RR: Don’t get me wrong.  The Bliss are having a great year, and they’re not going to be easy to catch.  But honestly, there’s not a lot we could be doing different.  I could give you some jive coach-speak answer like, “We need to increase our net-front presence and improve our quality-shot percentage,” but that’s just silly.  We’re taking shots, and they’re not going in.  If more of them went in, we’d be doing better.  Sometimes it really is that stupid.

SHLD: Fair enough.  One last question: You have yet to coach a game in costume this season.  There have been rumors that either the league or your team’s ownership has asked you to stop.  Will we see you in costume on the bench again?

RR: First of all, let me deny the slanderous rumor that ownership has put the kibosh on my costumes.  Mr. [Perry] Dodge has been consistently tolerant and even supportive of my numerous eccentricities.  The league, maybe a little less, but they’ve never officially ordered me not to do it.  Mind you, I’m not just going to do it just as a stunt.  Only if the spirit moves me.  Will it move me this season?  You’ll have to stay tuned.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Well, thanks for your time, and good luck the rest of the season!

RR: Thanks.  I hope it was as good for you as it was for me.