Interview of the Week: Eddie Costello

This week’s interview is with Portland Bluebacks C Eddie Costello.

SHLD Digest: We’re talking this week to one of the SHL’s top centers, Eddie Costello.  Eddie, thanks for speaking with us.

Eddie Costello

Eddie Costello: Long time no see!  I haven’t talked to you guys in a while.

SHLD: Yes, it’s been almost four years since the last time we interviewed you.

EC: Well, hey, glad to be back!

SHLD: The last time we talked, you were with Washington, and it looked like you might be there for your whole career.  But then last year, you were traded to Hamilton just in time to win the Vandy.

EC: Man, what a thrill!  We never quite got over that hump in DC, and it felt awesome to get to the mountaintop.

SHLD: Then, in the offseason, you left the Pistols and signed with Portland.  How did you choose to sign there?

EC: Well, it was clear that Hamilton didn’t have the cap room to keep me.  My agent explored the possibilities with them, but there just wasn’t a fit.  So I went to free agency, and Portland went after me very aggressively.  I really liked the construction of the roster, the organization as a whole, and I went for it.

SHLD: And now the Bluebacks have the league’s best record, just ahead of your former team.

EC: Yeah, wouldn’t that be wild?  Like being at a party with your new girlfriend and running into your ex.  Hopefully not as awkward.

SHLD: Any surprises with the Bluebacks so far?

EC: I’d say that the biggest surprise for me has to be Vince [Mango].  He has this reputation as a one-dimensional, selfish glory hog.  But he’s not like that at all.  He’s really sacrificing his chances to help the team succeed.  He doesn’t feel the need to be the focal point of the offense; he does whatever it takes to help us win.

SHLD: What do you think you need to do in the second half to stay on top?

EC: Just keep playing our game.  We know we’re in a tough division, so we can’t put it on cruise control.  We’ll keep the offense clicking, play smart in our own end, and keep the wins coming.

SHLD: Sounds pretty confident!

EC: Why not be confident?  I’ve got confidence in the guys in our locker room, the coaching staff, and everybody.

SHLD: We’ve heard reports of the sellout crowds there in Portland.  Do you find the crowds help you?

EC: Oh, no question about it.  We had some great crowds in DC, and in Hamilton too.  But the noise here is on another level.  It can be deafening.  And it gives you the boost, especially in the third period when your energy starts to sag.

SHLD: One final question, one we’ve wanted to ask for years: What’s with your hair?

EC: What, you don’t like the fork-in-an-electric-socket look?  I think it looks cool.  I kind of wish I’d come up in the era when hockey players didn’t wear helmets, because I hate the way it gets matted down when I play.

SHLD: Okay, fair enough!  Thanks for your time, and good luck the rest of the season!

EC: I’m gonna tell the guys you don’t like my hair.

SHLD: We never said that.

Interview of the Week: Justin Valentine

This week’s interview is with Hershey Bliss C Justin Valentine.

SHL Digest: We’re here this week with one of the SHL’s longtime stars, Justin Valentine of the Hershey Bliss. Justin, thanks for speaking with us.

Justin Valentine

JV: Man, about time you talked to me!  You’ve done interviews with Sweets [LW Lance Sweet] and Kirks [C Spencer Kirkpatrick] and Reeser [D Reese Milton], even our coach [Chip Barber].  I’m excited that I finally rated an interview.

SHLD: We’ve wanted to talk to you for a while!  You’re a busy man.

JV: It’s tough being a celebrity!  Everyone wants a piece of the action. (laughs)  No, seriously, let’s talk.

SHLD: Great!  You’ve been in the league for a long time.  When you started out, you were the anchor of the wildly popular “Love Line,” which was described as a “boy band on skates.”  Now you’re married, you’re solidly in the middle of your career, and you’ve won a Vandy.  How have you and the Bliss grown and changed over the years?

JV: Starting with a hard one!  Well, I’ve definitely changed a lot.  I’ve gotten a lot more mature.  I’ve gone from being a young, single guy on the loose to being a married man with a kid on the way.

SHLD: You’re expecting a child?  Congratulations!

JV: Yeah, it’s a boy!  He’s due in June.

SHLD: Very cool.

JV: So my life has changed a lot off the ice.  But it’s changed on the ice too.  We’ve had some glorious times – we even reached the mountaintop a couple years back – and we’ve had plenty of heartbreak too.  But that’s just made us tougher and stronger.  The Love Line is still going strong, but now our fans love us for our play, not just because we’re cute.

SHLD: Last season was definitely full of ups and downs for you.  You made it back to the postseason, which had to feel good after the stumble you guys had in 2018.  But then you got bounced in the first round by Hamilton, who went on to win the Vandy.  How did you feel about the way last season turned out?

JV: For me, it was more of a positive thing than a negative.  We showed that it wasn’t an accident that we won [in 2017], and that felt good.  Obviously, the ending stung; we felt like we could have taken it.  But that gives us more fuel for this season!

SHLD: What do you think you’ll need to do to get back on top this season?

JV: It’s not going to be easy.  The East is getting better every year.  Hamilton’s been just as tough again, and so are Quebec and New York.  Boston’s coming up too.  I think the key is for us to play within ourselves, play smart hockey, and keep the pressure up in the offensive end.  When we get our shots, we win.

SHLD: One last question.  Out of the original Love Line trio, Christopher Hart is the only one of you who’s still single.  Do you ever envy him for still having that freedom?

JV: (laughs) What are you trying to do, get me killed?  My wife is going to read this!

SHLD: Sorry.  You don’t have to answer the question.

JV: No, I’ll answer it.  Chris is obviously having a good time playing the field, but I’m happy to be married and I’m going to be thrilled to be a dad.  This is the next chapter of my life, and I’m ready.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Thanks for your time, Justin, and good luck the rest of the season!

JV:  Thanks. It should be a crazy ride!

Interview of the Week: Flim Dahlgren

This week’s interview is with Dakota Jackalopes coach Flim Dahlgren.

SHL Digest: We’re here today with Flim Dahlgren, who is in his third season as coach of the Dakota Jackalopes.  Coach Dahlgren, thanks for speaking with us.

Flim Dahlgren

Flim Dahlgren: It feels at times as though interviews are my primary job duty.  But I’m pleased to speak with you.

SHLD: You’ve earned a reputation as a coach with a philosophical streak, the kind of person who can turn a routine season-in-review question into a musing on the meaning of winning and losing.  Do you think that reputation helps you in working with a young team?

FD: I find this reputation somewhat hilarious, since it is largely based on an interview in which I was in a rather odd mood.

SHLD: Fair enough.  But your postgame press conferences are generally considered more eloquent and interesting than most.

FD: I also find it hilarious that any player or coach whose comments deviate from Standard Athlete Cliches #1 through 100 is promptly termed a “deep thinker.”  I don’t consider myself a particularly deep thinker, but I do find the Standard Athlete Cliches fairly tiresome.  If I repeated them after every game, I would bore myself to sleep.

SHLD: Let’s talk about the Jackalopes, and the ever-present rumors of financial trouble.

FD: A subject I find even more tiresome than Standard Athlete Cliches.  But I suppose there is no avoiding it.

SHLD: The Jackalopes have the smallest payroll and the worst attendance in the SHL. In spite of that, the team has been competitive.  What’s been the secret to your success?

FD: “Success” seems a bit generous, but thank you.  I’ve found that being the underdog is a powerful motivating factor.  If there is a secret, I suppose that it has been in getting the players to tune out the off-ice distractions, and focus on the game.

SHLD: But that’s no small task.  Every week, it seems there are new whispers that the team may not make payroll or will have to move.  Do those rumors make your job more challenging?

FD: Certainly they do; this is not something other SHL coaches have to deal with.  Our players read the same news stories you do, and they can look up in the stands and see the empty seats.  If every day, someone was telling you that the Digest was about to fold, would you be able to pay attention to this interview?

SHLD: Probably not.

FD: Exactly.  I don’t attempt to pretend the stories don’t exist; that would be ridiculous.  But I’ve also told them these facts: None of my paychecks have bounced.  Neither have theirs.  The hot rumor from last year was that the team couldn’t afford to re-sign Ryan Airston; they did.

SHLD: The lesson being: don’t believe everything you read.

FD: Precisely. I’ve urged my players to focus on what they can control, which is our play on the ice.  But I’ve also told them to come talk to me if they do read something that concerns them, and I’ve promised them honesty if I hear any news they should know.

SHLD: Speaking of rumors, there’s one we should address: the claims that you were contemplating resignation at the end of last season.  Care to comment on those?

FD: How much value is there in reliving the past?  Obviously, I remain the coach.  I made a commitment to this team and these players, and I intend to honor it.  This is a unique job with a unique set of challenges, but I embrace that in full.

SHLD: If the team does wind up moving, would you remain the coach then?

FD: That is tomorrow’s question.  My focus remains on today.

SHLD: Understand.  Well, thank you for your time and a very interesting interview.

FD: Certainly.  I hope this interview hasn’t ruined my deep-thinker reputation.

Interview of the Week: Walt Camernitz

This week’s interview is with Quebec Tigres LW Walt Camernitz.

SHL Digest: This week, we’re talking with one of the league’s strongest two-way wingers, Walt Camernitz.  Walt, thanks for speaking with us.

Walt Camernitz: Glad to do it.

Walt Camernitz

SHLD: You’re sort of an unsung hero in the SHL.  Your name isn’t typically mentioned among the league’s big stars, but you’re a consistent 20-to-30-goal scorer and you’ve been to three SHL Finals.  Why do you think you get overlooked?

WC: Well, I’m not a flashy personality.  I’m definitely more of a lunch-pail guy.  I get my share of goals, sure, but I focus on the unglamorous parts of the game, like wall work and getting into the dirty areas.  I don’t have a big hard slapshot or a fancy goal celly.  So it makes sense that people don’t think of me next to those big names.  It doesn’t bother me.

SHLD: On the other hand, you are highly appreciated by your teammates.  Everyone we’ve talked to in Washington and Quebec says you’re the perfect teammate.  Why do you think they appreciate you so much?

WC: I think of myself as a glue guy.  Some players focus on themselves first, and others focus on team first.  I’ve always had that team-first mindset, and I think other players appreciate that.  Especially here in Quebec, where it’s a team-first clubhouse.

SHLD: You’re now in the third year of your five-year contract with the Tigres.  Before that, you’d been with the Galaxy, and you were an integral part of the team there.  Was it tough for you when Washington let you go in free agency?

WC: I understood the situation.  Thurm [LW Casey Thurman] and I both came up for contracts the same year, and [then-GM] Ace Adams made it clear that there was only room in the budget for one of us.  They picked Thurm, and I get it.  He’s a great player, and he’s got that star personality more than I do.  You sell more tickets with Thurm.

SHLD: And Quebec certainly made you a generous offer.

WC: That’s the way I prefer to think about it.  Instead of thinking about whether DC wanted me or not, I thought about how much Quebec wanted me.  The first thing Coach [Martin] Delorme said to me when we met was, “You are the player we are missing.”  Obviously, it’s flattering as hell to hear that.  And they backed it up with a lot of cash.  They made my decision easy.

SHLD: And you proved your worth in your first season there, leading the Tigres to their first-ever Finals appearance and winning MVP honors.

WC: I honestly didn’t think I deserved the MVP, but it was nice of them to pick me anyway.  Going to the Finals was the best part.  I really want to see us get back there.

SHLD: The East looks highly competitive this season.  You’re right there in the mix with Hamilton and Hershey, and Boston and New York are hovering around the periphery.  What do you think you’ll need to do, individually and as a team, to get back to the postseason?

WC: On a personal level, I’m not lighting the lamp the way I should be.  So I need to be crashing the net a bit more, generating some opportunities.  As a team, we’re playing good lock-down D, our special teams are solid, but we need to generate a little more heat on offense.  I think that’s our key.

SHLD: Do you think you’ve got a good shot at the Vandy?

WC: If we play up to our best, absolutely.  There aren’t any pushovers in this division, but we’ve got what it takes to get there.

SHLD: All right!  Well, thanks for the time and an interesting interview.

WC: Thanks!  Hopefully, I’m holding the Vandy the next time I talk to you.