Welcome back! What was your reaction to being re-signed?
I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t want the signing process to drag out all summer and Wendell (Young) and Gene (Ubriaco) didn’t either. There was a lot of happiness on both sides with what we were able to work out. The process started pretty much right at my exit meeting in April when I met with Coach Arniel and then talked with Wendell and Gene together. They were really happy with how I played in any role they put me in. So it took a bit of time to come together but I was ready to get back to Chicago. This is a great organization with the best fans in the league and really great facilities. It’s a win-win.
Last season was your first in the AHL. What were those 39 games like for you?
The pace of the game is the most recognizable difference and the first thing I was really trying to adjust to. Things were happening a lot faster than in the ECHL. It took me a while to get my legs under me. At first I was just trying to hit as many people as I could and then I was more focused on making good plays and getting the puck into the zone. As my confidence built, it put me in a good position to contribute more to the team and get better as a player.
What was your biggest takeaway from being with the Wolves last season, in terms of what you want to improve for this season?
I was given some things to work on, like lengthening my stride, keeping my feet quick, increasing my endurance; things like that. You take something away every season that you really want to work on in the summer. I’m focused on getting better and I know my teammates are too. You want to take the positive reinforcements you’re given but not let them distract you from the things you want to fix. I have always felt I have a sharp mental game so I also want to keep that up.
You’re originally from Traverse City, Michigan. Did the opportunity to continue playing close to home factor into your decision to sign with the Wolves?
Absolutely. Playing in Kalamazoo (with the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings) was a treat because it’s just a couple hours away from Traverse City and my family could always get out to games. My brother lives in Chicago now and it’s still pretty close to home so it was an easy decision to come back. My parents made it to quite a few home games last season and they will come out to Milwaukee and Grand Rapids. It was my dad who really got me into hockey in the first place, when I was about five. I wanted to play like my big brother but I was terrible at first and I quit. But my dad kept taking me to the rink to watch my brother and after a while I thought, “I’m not just going to keep sitting here.” So I eventually toughened up and started again. It’s been a blessing ever since.
What are you most looking forward to about next season? Especially with a whole different team of players compared to last year?
Obviously, I’ve built some friendships over the years being in the Vancouver Canucks organization. I wish those guys the best, but I’ll give them hell when we play each other. The Wolves are going to have a good core group this year and it will be different but I know we will do well. I’m excited to see what St. Louis has to offer and what we’re going to look like.