Lockout-Serie: Bryan Bickell im Interview
Der aktuelle NHL-Lockout bringt einige der besten Spieler der Welt nach Europa und auch in der EBEL tummeln sich seit Wochen einige Akteure, die heimische Eishockeyfans sonst nur aus dem Fernsehen kennen. THEFANBLOG hat sich einige der NHLer zum Interview geladen und sie zu ihrer bisherigen Karriere, dem Leben in der NHL und den aktuellen Erfahrungen in der heimischen Liga befragt.
Aktuell präsentiert sich Orli Znojmo-Stürmer Bryan Bickell im (englischsprachigen) Gespräch mit THEFANBLOG-Redakteur Alex Kern. Er spricht unter anderem über die Gefühlswelt eines gestandenen Eishockey-Profis nach dem Stanley Cup-Sieg und dass auch er noch in der EBEL etwas lernen und sich verbessern kann.
TFB: Bryan, with only 26 years of age you have already reached the greatest thing in hockey – you won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks. What were your immediate thoughts when you have realized that you and your teammates finally made it? Is it even possible to describe those feelings?
Everybody is growing up to play hockey and to win the Stanley Cup. I am very lucky that I have both. Of course, it needed some time to realize it. And you know what, hopefully I can do it again. It was unbelievable – something I will never forget! We had a great team that year. Looking back, there was an unique foundation there of trust, understanding and chemistry – on and off the ice.
TFB: A NHL season lasts very long (82 games plus post-season) and in the end the best team of the regular season is not always the one grabbing the trophy…
Bickell: To play the regular season is playing a different game. Los Angeles was not the favourite last season, played great games and did very well. We fell short against Phoenix in the first round. The Coyotes won the series in six games. They’d never captured a first-round playoff series since moving to Phoenix. Each team that makes it to the play-offs can win the Cup. And NHL history shows that this is often the case.
TFB: Each team member may spend one day with the trophy. What did you do?
Bickell: You get the trophy from 8 a.m. until midnight. I went back to my hometown Orono (Ontario), a very small town in Canada with only 800 people living there. I brought the trophy to my place and celebrated with my friends and family. I went fishing, gave autographs and did some fundraising things for the local hockey team where I started to play some years ago. These are moments and hours that you’ll never forget. I really do hope that I can make it once again.
TFB: You got drafted by Chicago in 2004 and played your first NHL game for the Blackhawks in the 2006-07 season. During the first three seasons with the franchise, you had to move up and down between the NHL and its AHL affiliate team in Rockford. Isn’t it difficult to change leagues, change teams and teammates frequently and only within a few days?
Bickell: The first three years being a pro I basically played in the minor leagues. For some weeks I was called up to NHL because guys got hurt. It is a different situation because lots of players come to the AHL with the aim to make it to the NHL, the best league in the world. Finally I made my way and hope that I can stay in the NHL.
TFB: Isn’t it quite frustrating when you get the call that you have to leave the NHL and go back to play in minors again?
Bickell: Yes, of course, it’s frustrating. You wanna be up in the NHL and stay there. I always went up and down. But I always knew that it is only for a limited time that I play in the NHL because other players got healthy again after an injury and it’s a fact that there is only a limited amount of players in a team roster. When someone was injured, I was called up and every time I did my best. In a long run it pays off.
TFB: …As it finally did pay off for you. For the last two NHL seasons you have been a constant part of the Blackhawks team, no ups and downs anymore. How did you convince the coaching staff with your performances?
Bickell: My big advantage was my consistency and another important thing is having confidence. I played well and worked on further developing the consistency in my game. I am glad that I finally made it because it’s easier to play in the NHL. Playing in the AHL is different. In minor leagues players often wanna shine for and with goals. They overdo and they are highly motivated, they show up maybe too much. It’s easier in the NHL because you have better players and more system-wise thinking and playing. Everybody knows where the other one is supposed to be on ice.
TFB: Now let’s move to your current situation: what was the main reason to join a team in the EBEL?
My US agent called me a couple of weeks after the lockout was announced. I was in very good shape and ready for the NHL season. It’s disappointing with no games and I felt that I have to play hockey and staying in game-shape. My agent told me that Znojmo is a very skilled team and that it would fit to me and my style of playing. Overall, I think it was a great decision.
TFB: What do you think of the atmosphere here in Znojmo?
Bickell: You know, it’s a very enthusiastic atmosphere. It’s special – like back in Chicago – because we have a great fan base. In the NHL fans scream and cheer when you score a goal or when you make a big hit, but here fans are screaming and partying the whole time during the game. They never stop cheering on, they always play the drums and make a lot of noise. It’s fantastic, I love playing in front of the Znojmo crowd!
TFB: As a former Stanley Cup winner moving his talents to Europe. What are the main differences between the EBEL and the NHL?
Bickell: The rink is smaller and I am not really used to it. I only played twice in Europe for exhibition games in Zurich, Switzerland and Helsinki, Finland. Players are smaller as well. It’s obvious that the players in Europe are not as tall but they are very quick. Here it’s a lot of skating, forechecking and always go, go, go which has to do with the larger rink. I think that the skill level is a little bit better in the NHL and the game itself is more system-wise, more tactics to overcome your opponent. But the main advantage is that I will be in really good shape in skating when I go back to the US because this seems to be the most important thing over here. I can learn a lot. I feel that playing in Europe helps leverage my game in a way.
TFB: Orli Znojmo is kind of a surprise this EBEL season. What are the reasons for the team’s current success?
Bickell: I watched them before I got here. They had a really good start. The coverage of the four lines is very strong, from the top to the bottom. There are very good skaters, good checkers, good players and if you put all together you really get a good, strong and motivated team. We had a great last game before we went into the international break with a big road win in Linz. It’s always good for the whole team to have confidence. That might also be the secret sauce (smiles).
TFB: How far can Znojmo go this year? What is your target and what is realistic?
Bickell: The first and most important step is to make the play-offs, and this is more than realistic. Then it’s a different game and it depends on our opponents – the teams we play against. Our players are motivated and we are all looking forward to it because we know that we can defeat every club in the league. And I think we’ve already proven it. We want to be known as a hard-working team on and off the ice, a very disciplined team, and then naturally the winning will come as a by-product of that.
TFB: You are very important player for the team scoring. You scored 16 points in only 13 games. What is your role in Znojmo and what is your role in Chicago?
Bickell: Here I am kind of a leading guy and it’s expected that I score goals. I am passing a lot and I am not really used to it. It’s very different because here is more ice and there are more players I can bring into the game with good passes. It’s something I still need to get used to. In Chicago, I am playing third line, which means that we are the checking line to play against the top lines of our opponents. We play against the highly skilled players like Nash, Crosby, Ovechkin and our main aim is to avoid that they are scoring goals. You can’t really compare the roles.
TFB: There are daily rumours about the lockout. What is the status-quo and who informs you about the current situation?
Bickell: Steve Montador keeps the team posted. He goes to all the meetings. There are some positive things going on over there and we think that it’s getting close now that the lockout finally ends. I can get a phone call tonight to go back to Chicago. I do not know the exact circumstances, how long it would take that everybody is ready for training camps and when the season could start at the earliest.
TFB: For European hockey fans, it’s great that NHL players like you are playing in the EBEL but of course, we do not hope that the NHL lockout remains. Will you extend your contract with Znojmo if things do not change?
I have a month-to-month contract with the team but I will be released immediately to get back to Chicago. But yes, I would stay here as long as possible to stay in shape and play hockey. Znojmo is a great place with fabulous fans.
TFB: What are your plans and intentions for the future? Would you like to stay in Chicago, at a team which is obviously one of the usual suspects every single year to win the Cup?
Bickell: I enjoy and love Chicago. I cannot imagine a better city — this is a premier hockey city in the world. It’s the only team I have ever played for in the NHL and it’s running well. I also know some guys for a very long time now and I like it very much to be with them. Most of them are good friends, we spend much time together and we all hope to win more Stanley Cups for the Blackhawks franchise. A lot of other guys in the NHL are talking about Chicago being a special team to play for.
TFB: What did you do during the (international) break – have you been going back to Canada for a week?
Bickell: No, I stayed here. We have been training a lot these days, sometimes twice a day and we only got two days off. It did not make any sense to fly back home because the time was too short. We wanted to be prepared for the next game right after the break against KAC. I enjoy being here in Europe with the beautiful countryside and all the fantastic cities. I visited Brno, Budapest and Vienna already. There is so much history and we want to explore it. I am always taking a lot of photos and showing them to my friends and to my family at home. Europe has so many great things to offer, I’m just happy being here and doing some sightseeing in between.
Bryan Bickell (26) kam über kanadische Nachwuchsligen (GTBHL, OHL,…) als Zweit-Runden-Draft-Pick (2004/ Rang 41) in das System der Chicago Blackhawks. Nach Lehrjahren in der AHL stand er in der Saison 2009/2010 mit den Chicago Blackhawks dann ganz oben und gewann die begehrteste Trophäe der Eishockey-Welt, den Stanley Cup. Zum ersten Mal spielt er nun – aufgrund des Streiks in der NHL – in Europa und entschied sich, für Orli Znojmo die Schlittschuhe zu schnüren.