For Episode 10 of our 2013 Summer with the Stars off-season feature, we make our second visit to Toronto. Texas Stars broadcaster Owen Newkirk interviewed rookie right wing Brett Ritchie, who made a fantastic pro debut with the team at the end of the 2012-13 season and into the Calder Cup Playoffs.. Below are some highlights of our conversation with the Stars young forward, along with a link to the full audio interview.
Listen: CLICK HERE.
Getting ready for your first full season of professional hockey, did you attend another Dallas Stars development camp in Frisco in early July?
You know what, I wasn’t there this year. I had my tonsils out a couple days before the camp started. So I was in rough shape and I was advised by J.J. McQueen and Jim Nill down in Dallas that it would be a good idea to rest and get back to full health. It was something that I really had to get done; I was getting a couple of tonsil-related illnesses a year. It was something that was pretty important on my list to get done in the off season.
Last year you worked out during the summer with former NHLer and fitness guru Gary Roberts. But we heard that you were working with someone different this year.
This summer I’ve been working with a guy named Aaron Downey. I think that might be a familiar name with the Dallas Stars fans. He played there ten or twelve years ago for a little while. So he’s sort of a tough guy for many years. He has a gym, he lives out in the country down near my house, about 20 minutes north of my hometown of Orangeville. So we sort of work, six or seven of us, out of his garage that he’s set up like a big gym that he made. There’s a lot of unique stuff in there, he’s sort of a farm boy, and he makes his own equipment. It’s pretty neat.
What kind of unique fitness and strength training exercises does he have you doing?
Yeah, the list could go on. I’ll give you a few examples. For instance, tomorrow we have a day called gladiator day. It’s all based around cardio, strength and endurance. So we’re out in his backyard, he has all kinds of different…it’s almost like obstacle courses. He has the homemade hurdles. So we’re jumping over those with a heavy log in our hands, acting like a hockey stick. We have these big wooden crates made of logs with handles, so you have to grip the handles and walk with it called a farmer’s walk. We take big boulders, we climb up stairs and throw them like a chest throw into the forest. And then we also have a big rope that we climb up arm-by-arm until you get to the top, you tap the top and then you come back town. Those are just a couple of examples of the types of things you’d see that are different than your average home or commercial gym. I think it’s really unique and I really like the different variety that you come in everyday and you never know what you’re going to get.
You scored a goal in your Texas Stars debut on your first career pro shot. That had to be really exciting in your first pro game.
Yeah it was. I‘ve got to admit that I was a bit nervous because I didn’t really know what to expect. I did have a few practices under my belt that week, but obviously it’s going to be a different level. I was lucky enough, it wasn’t much of a goal, but the puck sort of squirted to me in the slot and I threw it in. Obviously it helps with your confidence. It’s more luck than anything that it happened so early, but at the same time I was fortunate in the fact that it helped my confidence a bit and got the ball rolling.
You missed the Stars’ last four regular season games due an injury you suffered in practice and I just happened to be on the bench watching when it happened. You were hit in the cheek by a puck and it swelled up almost instantly. It looked like you had a walnut in your cheek.
It was an unfortunately play. I think somebody took a shot and it just deflected off a stick. I was off to the side of the net and it hit me sort of flat on the face. Like you said, it blew up pretty quick. Luckily I was fine, there was no structural damage. I was pretty immobile there in my facial area for a few days and we had to try to protect it with a cage. I used to wear one of those when I was younger, but haven’t in a long time. It’s just not as comfortable. You feel so free with a visor on. I think I did use it for a few practices, but once the playoffs rolled around there, Game 1 against Milwaukee, I took it off. It was pretty good timing that way.
You returned in time for the first game of the playoffs. What was it like to not only get your first AHL playoff game under your belt, but also to score the overtime-winning goal in Game 1?
It was exciting. Obviously I made the jump to the pros and then I had to make the jump into the pro playoffs. It was a pretty quick transition. That whole series was a really tight-checking series. I was lucky enough to get the puck in the slot there in overtime and put one over the goalie’s shoulder. Obviously it was a great feeling. It was huge to get that Game 1 win and in overtime it was even more exciting. I think that sort of set us up for that whole series.
You were teammates with Jamie Oleksiak in juniors with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL during the 2011-12 season. What was it like playing with the Big Rig in junior hockey, was it just a man vs. boys?
Yeah it was actually. [Laughs] It’s even like that sometimes in the pros, so you can imagine him in juniors. You’re playing against 16-year old kids sometimes and they are 150 pounds and he’s almost twice their size. It could be scary at times for some of those guys and even for a big guy like me in the league I looked up and said “oh my god he’s huge!” He was a great player for us down the stretch in the playoffs, we went the finals and he was sort of our one-two punch with Dougie Hamilton, who plays for Boston now. He was great and he made a smooth transition to the pros. It just sort of shows he was out-growing the junior level.
I asked Jack Campbell about his success with Team USA at the World Junior Championships and he admitted he would love to play for his country again someday at the senior level at the World Championships or even the Olympics. Do you harbor any of the same ambitions?
Oh absolutely! You obviously want to play in the NHL and they have that opportunity at the end of every year. If you’re out of the playoffs the World Championships are every year at that same time. I know a lot of guys can’t wait, even though their season ended with a bit of a down, then you have that chance to play for Canada. It’s sort of like when I went to Texas at the end of the year, it’s a second chance. I know I sort of speak for everybody in Canada, they love putting on that jersey. So I think anybody would be crazy not to jump at those opportunities.
-- Texas Stars --