Interview of the Week: Kenny Patterson

Our interview of the week is with Hamilton Pistols LW Kenny Patterson.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with one of the league’s classiest veterans, Kenny Patterson.  Kenny, thanks for talking with us.

Kenny Patterson

Kenny Patterson: Sure thing.  Glad to talk with you!

SHLD: Obviously, the first thing we should talk about is how well you guys are doing!  How does it feel to be surprising the experts?

KP: Well, we don’t care a lot about what the “experts” think.  From the first game of the season, we’ve absolutely believed we could win this thing. [Coach] Keith [Shields] is a big believer in positive thinking, and he’s made sure we all believed in ourselves and our potential.

SHLD: Obviously, it’s more than just self-confidence that’s helped you succeed so far.  What would you say have been the keys to your success?

KP: Obviously, it starts with our top line.  They’ve just been magic!  We’ve got one of the league’s best goal scorers in Steven Alexander, and a guy in Laffer [Claude Lafayette] who knows exactly how and where to feed him.  And then Calvin Frye… he fits right in with those guys.  They look like they’ve been playing together since they were kids.  It’s like they’re in each other’s heads.

SHLD: And at the other end of the ice, you’ve had a great goaltending tandem in Lasse Koskinen and Dennis Wampler.  How much have they contributed to your success?

KP: They’ve been huge.  Seeing what Lasse’s done as a rookie, it’s remarkable.  Most young goaltenders, it takes a while for the game to slow down for them.  But with him, he looked comfortable out there right away.  And Wamps is way better than your typical backup goalie.  When Lasse got hurt and missed a few games, Wamps stepped up and we didn’t miss a beat.

SHLD: Last year, you came over to Hamilton from New York at the trading deadline, and you seemed much happier with the Pistols.

KP: Just night and day.  The two organizations couldn’t be more different.  In New York, everyone was obsessed with pumping his own stats.  No cohesion, no unity.  The locker room was just full of so much negativity.  But here, it’s totally different.  Everyone feels positive, everyone’s supportive and cheering each other on.  Everyone’s pulling for the team to do better, even if they have to sacrifice individual stats to get there.  It’s a way better situation.

SHLD: You’re one of the few veterans on the club.  How does it feel being surrounded by all these young players?

KP: It’s great!  I feed off of their energy.  And they kind of look to me as a sort of assistant coach.  I try to teach them some of my veteran tricks.  (laughs)

SHLD: Do you feel like they look up to you?

KP: It’s funny.  I grew up in TO [Toronto], rooting for the Leafs.  Mats Sundin was my hero.  Now I imagine a kid growing up here, looking up to me like I looked up to Sundin.  It’s kind of crazy to think about.

SHLD: I’m sure.  Well, thanks for your time, and good luck the rest of the season!

KP: Thanks.  Don’t be surprised to see us go all the way!

Interview of the Week: Vladimir Beruschko

This week’s interview is with Michigan Gray Wolves LW Vladimir Beruschko.

SHL Digest: We’re here with one of the SHL’s most veteran players, Vladimir Beruscko.  Thanks for speaking with us, Vladimir!

Vladimir Beruschko

Vladimir Beruschko: It is my pleasure.

SHLD: So, your team is off to another strong start, with the league’s best record.  Do you consider yourselves the favorite to repeat as champions?

VB: (laughs) No, no.  Coach [Ron] Wright would kill me if I said such a thing.

SHLD: He doesn’t want you to consider yourselves the favorite?

VB: He says that to be the favorite is a curse.  You get soft and lose your edge.  To be hungry, to hustle, this makes a champion.  This is why Coach Wright does not like to be the favorite.

SHLD: But you’re a very talented team.  You have the best goal differential in the league.  Arguably, you have the best goalie in the league.

VB: No, no argument!  The Bear [Dirk Lundquist] is the best.

SHLD: Well, if you aren’t the favorite, who is?

VB: Anchorage is a very good team.  Dakota is very good, score a lot of goals.  Washington and Hershey, both good.  We take nothing for granted.

SHLD: Fair enough!  So, you’re one of the older players in the league.

VB: Yes, I am old man.  More grey hairs every day.

SHLD: Your production has dipped the last couple of seasons, and some have suggested that you might be nearing the end of the road.  Are you thinking about retirement at all?

VB: Absolutely not!  I feel young, still, even though I am old.  I am good with the passes and good with the defense.  I think maybe I will play until I am 50.

SHLD: We hope you do!  One more question: One of the things you’re best known for in the league is your feud with Petey the Polar Bear.  That’s been quiet lately.  Any chance it might heat up again, especially if you and Anchorage are battling for the division again?

VB: No, no. no.  Petey and me good now.  Petey my friend.  When I see Petey, I blow him kisses.  Happy times.

SHLD: Glad to hear it!  Well, thanks for the chat, and good luck the rest of the season!

VB: Thanks, I will try for that.

Interview of the Week: Mutt Metheny

This week’s interview is with Seattle Sailors D Murphy “Mutt” Metheny.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with one of the SHL’s more colorful characters, Murphy “Mutt” Metheny.  Thanks for speaking to us today, Murphy.

Murphy “Mutt” Metheny

Murphy “Mutt” Metheny: Nobody’s called me “Murphy” since I was in diapers.  Call me Mutt.

SHLD: Okay, Mutt.  Where did you pick up that nickname?

MMM: Well, my mama says it’s because when I wanted something, I was like a dog with a bone, and I wouldn’t stop ’til I got it.  My daddy says it’s ’cause I was a real ugly baby.  They’re probably both right.

SHLD: Where are you from, Mutt?

MMM: I’m from Pickle Thicket, Arkansas.

SHLD: Pickle Thicket?

MMM: Yessir.  When I say that, everybody thinks I made it up.  But it’s a real place.  About a half hour from Little Rock.  Not that you’d find it on a map; it’s a little flyspeck of a place.

SHLD: Pretty small, huh?

MMM: There were about 300 people there when I was a kid, and it’s probably gone downhill since then.  There’s one stoplight, one gas station, three churches, and a half-dozen bars.  If you aren’t a drinking man, you can go down to the creek and watch the moss grow.  That’s about all there is for entertainment.

SHLD: You’re the only professional hockdey player ever to come out of Arkansas.

MMM: That’s right, but it’s also kind of a cheat.  We moved to Minnesota when I was about six.

SHLD: That must have been a culture shock.

MMM: More for them than for me.  Those Minnesotans didn’t know what to make of a big ol’ goofy kid who sounded like Forrest Gump.  But eventually I found out about hockey.  They made me a defenseman, probably ’cause they figured I was already dumb and ugly enough that a few concussions and missing teeth wouldn’t hurt me none.

SHLD: We’ve heard that you’re a collector.  What do you collect?

MMM: Keychains.  I’ve got over 10,000 of ’em.

SHLD: Wow!  How did you get started collecting those?

MMM: Well, my daddy was a long-haul trucker, and he’d be away from home for weeks at a time.  But every time he’d come home, he’d bring me keychains from all the places he’d been through.  When I grew up, I picked up the same habit.  Every time I’d pass through a new town, I’d get me a keychain or two.

SHLD: And from there, you built up to thousands?

MMM: Well, once word got around that I was a collector, people started sending ’em to me from all over.  I’ve got keychains from every state, every Canadian province, and a bunch of foreign places too.

SHLD: Do you have them displayed at home?

MMM: I had to.  My wife got sick of me filling up the garage with tubs and tubs of the things, so she told me I needed to do something with ’em or they were going straight in the trash next time I went on the road.  So I had a friend who’s a woodcarver make me a big wooden map of the USA, and I stuck the keychains from each state up on the map.

SHLD: That sounds cool!  Does your wife like it?

MMM: I dunno,  I think she might wish I’d just left ’em in the tubs.

SHLD: Do you have a favorite keychain?

MMM: Yup.  It’s a purple one from Miami, and it’s got a palm tree and a marlin and a sunset on it.  My daddy brought it back from a long haul he took in the dead of winter.  After that, every time I got cabin fever from the cold in Minnesota and I missed my daddy, I’d take that one out and imagine being out there on the beach with him.  It kept me from going crazy, or crazier than I already was.

SHLD: So, your Sailors have had a tough run after a surprisingly good start.  Do you think you can get it turned around?

MMM: Probably not.  I mean, we suck, so I figure we’ll probably keep sucking.

SHLD: Fair enough.  Thanks for one of the more interesting interviews we’ve ever had.

MMM: The pleasure’s mine.  Send me more keychains!

Interview of the Week: Sam Castor

This week’s interview is with Anchorage Igloos coach Sam Castor.

SHL Digest: Hello, Coach Castor.  Are you excited that the SHL’s new season is here?

Sam Castor

Sam Castor: Absolutely! During the offseason, I get bored and irritable.  It’s hard for me to sleep.  During the season, that’s when I feel normal.

SHLD: Glad the season is back, then!  So, it seems like everyone’s assuming it’s going to be you and Michigan for the Western division.

SC: I don’t assume that at all.

SHLD: You don’t?

SC: Nope.  I mean, Michigan’s going to be a tough competitor, for sure.  But Dakota got a lot better this offseason, and Seattle’s looked surprisingly competitive this week.  I don’t automatically assume it’s going to be Michigan or us.

SHLD: Fair enough.  But Michigan won the division – and the Vandy – last year.  The year before, it was you guys.  I know you’d like to take it back.

SC: No question about that.

SHLD: So if you are going to win it all again, what will you need to do to beat Michigan and the rest of your competition?

SC: For us, the key is going to be balance.  The Wolves have a great goalie in [Dirk] Lundquist and a top-notch defense, and that’s their game and their identity.  Us, on the other hand, we try to be equally strong on both ends.  That allows us to match any style of play that we have to face.

SHLD: Are there particular players that you’re looking for to step up and take you to the next level?

SC: Offensively, obvious Jake [Frost] is our catalyst, but we’re looking at our secondary options taking on more of the load.  Jerry [Koons] has really done great so far.  Les [Collins] has been getting better every season.  Ben Summers got off to a great start before he got hurt.  Those are the guys we’re looking for to come up big.

SHLD: And on defense?

SC: We have a new third pairing this year; Sebastian [Pomfret] promoted off the bench and then the rookie, Tony Citrone.  In our system, all three of our lines get plenty of playing time, so we’re counting on them to get up to speed quickly.  If they can do that, we’re going to be deep and dangerous from top to bottom.  Overall, I like out chances.

SHLD: Getting back to you and Michigan for a second, the rivalry even extends to your mascots.  Do you expect any further hostilities between Petey the Polar Bear and Wally Wolf?

SC: Nah, I don’t think so.  Ever since they buried the hatchet back at the end of ’15, they’ve actually become close.  They exchange Christmas cards and everything.  They’re cool now.

SHLD: So, is it safe to day we’re not expecting any polar-bear-themed mishaps this season?

SC: I think that’s a pretty safe assumption.  Although you never know… some idiot on another team might decide to take a poke at Petey, and none of us are gonna stand for that.

SHLD: One challenge that your Igloos face that’s different from the rest of the league is travel.  You guys spend more time on planes that any other team in the league.  The closest road city is Seattle, which is almost 1,500 miles away.  Does that put you at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the league?

SC: Yeah, I suppose so.  But we aren’t looking for excuses.  When other teams fly out to play us, they’re at a disadvantage.  The travel wears on us sometimes, but we’re professionals and we’re here to do a job.  That’s where our focus is.

SHLD: Makes sense!  Well, good luck the rest of the season, Coach.

SC: Thanks, it was a pleasure.

Finals Interview: Dirk Lundquist

Michigan SmallWe caught up with Michigan Gray Wolves G Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist shortly after his team claimed the 2016 SHL championship.

SHL Digest: We’re here with Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist of the newly crowned SHL champion Gray Wolves.  Dirk, how does it feel to win the Vandy?

Dirk Lundquist
Dirk “The Bear” Lundquist

Dirk Lundquist: Whooooeeee!  Let me tell you, it feels really great.  The Vandy’s a shiny, shiny trophy, and getting to hold it, it’s like when I held my daughter for the first time.  So beautiful!

SHLD: If you had to pick one thing that propelled you to the championship, what was it?

DL: Our team spirit.  We’re a tough bunch of guys, no question.  The NHL passed us all over, and that gave us a little extra motivation to show what we can accomplish.  And we’re a blue-collar team.  We’re not in it for glory, we’re in it for hard work and getting the job done.

SHLD: In the first two games of this series, you posted back-to-back shutouts.  That’s the first time any SHL goalie has ever done that, and you did it in the Finals.  Does that show that you’re at your best when the stakes are highest?

DL: It shows that we all are, as a team.  I wouldn’t be nearly so successful as a goalie if I didn’t have a great defense in front of me.  They sacrifice their bodies to block shots, they throw themselves into the wall work, they work hard to deny the other team good looks at the net.  I wouldn’t be here without them.  This is a whole-team effort.

SHLD: We heard that your famous beard might undergo some changes now that you’ve won.  Care to comment?

DL: Well, my daughter Lindsey, she keeps telling me she wants to braid my beard.  So I told her that if we won the championship, I’d let her do it.  Now we’ve won, so I guess I’ve got to do it.  She’s 5, so I don’t know what kind of job she’s going to do.  It should be interesting!

SHLD: Good luck with that!  Now, you mentioned the NHL before, and getting passed over.  After the kind of job you’ve done the last couple seasons, I imagine some NHL teams might come calling.  Is that something you’d consider?

DL: Hell no!  I’m right where I belong.  The only place I want to be next year is back here in Michigan with my friends, defending our title.

SHLD: One last question: Now that you’ve won the title, what are you going to do next?

DL: Well, first I plan to drink all the beer I can find.  Then I’m going to sleep for about a month.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Well, congratulations, Dirk.  Go celebrate with your teammates!

DL: Thanks.  Wolves forever!

Interview of the Week: Leslie Mills

This week’s interview is with SHL co-founder and Anchorage Igloos co-owner Leslie Mills.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week talking to the league’s founding mother, Leslie Mills.  Welcome, Leslie!

Leslie Mills: Hi, I’m glad to be here!

SHLD: How do you feel about the league after two seasons?

LM: I am very happy with where we are right now. I think that we have had a very successful and fun run so far!

SHLD: Why do you think the league has been so successful?

LM: I think it really has to do with the cooperation the entire SHL community has had. We have a really good comradery, and all of us together have made something really amazing.  

SHLD: What was your favorite moment from this season?

LM: I think my favorite moment has to be all of the little mishaps that occur over the season. I can’t pick just one! They just prove how many things are funny looking back, and shows the league’s flexibility and how we aren’t afraid to have fun.

SHLD: What are you most excited to see in the coming seasons?

LM: I am excited to see how it all plays out and all of the exciting and funny memories we will create in the future.

SHLD: Who is your favorite player in the league and why?

LM: It has to be Ryan Airston because his bunny obsession is really cute and fun. He isn’t afraid to be different, which I think is something very important about the SHL.

SHLD: Is there anything you’d like to see change in the SHL?

LM: I don’t think anything major is necessary. If anything I would say we should do more league-wide events, so the teams aren’t only seeing each other on the ice.

SHLD: Your team, the Igloos, won the coveted Vandy last season.  Is the trophy as shiny as everyone says it is?

LM: It is super shiny and cool. Admittedly, it is not something I would drink out of. But it looks like a perfect fit in its display case. The Vandy not only has physical value, but it commemorates the whole first season we had. It proves that teamwork gets the win in the end.

SHLD: The Igloos didn’t make the playoffs this year.  What do you think you’ll need to do to get back into the playoffs next season?

LM: I think that there are some very fast-paced and strong teams in the league now, which is a little different than last year. We need to focus on making sure we are equally strong on all areas of the ice. And focus on what we are good at and not try to get too fancy with it.

SHLD: Care to make a prediction about the Finals this year?  Who do you think will win and in how many games?

LM: That is a difficult question! I think it could easily go all the way to Game 7 but in the end, my money is on Michigan. They have been such a strong team this year.

SHLD: What would you like to say to the fans who have faithfully supported the SHL for the last two seasons?

LM: I would like to say and gigantic thanks to all of you. Thanks for sticking with us through our first 2 seasons. We love all of you guys and here’s to many more great seasons to come!

Interview of the Week: Jefferson McNeely

Washington SmallThis week’s interview is with Washington Galaxy RW Jefferson McNeely.

SHL Digest: Here we are again, talking to the top scorer of the Washington Galaxy, Jefferson McNeely.  Jefferson, thanks for speaking with us.

Jefferson McNeely

Jefferson McNeely: Glad to be here!

SHLD: So we’re headed into the last week of the season, and you’re locked in a tight race with Hershey for the title in the East.  You won the division last year.  Do you think that gives you an edge, even though you’re behind right now?

JM: I think it does, yeah.  The fact that we’ve done this before, that we’ve gone all the way, it gives us a real sense of confidence.  We believe in ourselves because we know we can do it.

SHLD: Last season, you didn’t face any serious challenge on your way to the division title.  This season is a different story, obviously.  What do you think made this year different?

JM: I have to give the credit to the Bliss for that one.  I think we’re playing as strong as last year, but Hershey’s taken things to the next level.  Last season, when they lost Lance [Sweet], it basically tanked their season.  This year, he’s healthy and the Love Line is really clicking.  And the trade they made to get Jesse Clarkson answered the question in net for them.  They’re a really strong team.

SHLD: What do you think gives you the edge?

JM: The experience factor, like I said.  And the fact that we’re such a balanced team.  I think they rely a lot on the Love Line.  We’ve got quality scoring threats on all three lines.  We can match any style that other teams throw at us.

SHLD: There are those who say it doesn’t really matter who wins the East, because you’ll just get routed in the Finals by whoever wins the West (most likely Michigan).  What do you say to those people?

JM: I’d say those people must have short memories.  Because that’s the same thing everyone said last year, that we were going to get slaughtered by Anchorage.  And we took the Finals to the limit, and we very nearly won the whole thing.  So anyone  who wants to write us off, go ahead.  We’re not scared.

SHLD: Let’s shift the focus to you for a minute.  You’ve really had a breakout year this season; you’re one of the top goal scorers in the league.  What have you done differently this year that’s allowed you to succeed?

JM: I think the key for me has been varying up my game a little bit.  I think last season, some of my moves and the spots where I liked to shoot from, they were a little predictable, and I think other teams were keying on them.  I know I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting the clean looks I’m used to.

SHLD: So how did you fix that issue?

JM: This year, I started skating to the goal mouth more often, looking for tip-in tries, and working with the coaches to change up my moves some.  I’ve just become a better, more complete player.

SHLD: Sounds like you’re ready to give it a good run this season.  Best of luck!

JM: Thanks!  We’re ready to go out there and capture the Vandy.