With the Melbourne Ice heading towards the 2012 Playoffs looking to win their third Goodall Cup in a row, I was able to talk to one of the Ice’s star imports Jason Baclig about his life down under as well as his past, present & future as a hockey player.
2012 is your third season in the AIHL. Do you now feel comfortable playing hockey here?
I am and have been very comfortable playing here since arriving actually. It took me few games to adapt to the different pace (as every league is different). I love playing in small rinks and it is a good change to go from playing at the Medibank Icehouse to the smaller rinks throughout this great nation.
Did you know much about the AIHL before arriving?
I didn’t know much at all as only one of my former teammates and good friend Brad Smulders (Gold Coast) played here previous to my arrival. To tell you the truth, all I thought was sand, ocean and sunshine!
You had a very successful stint with the Nijmegen Devils. Was it a hard transition from pro to semi-pro when arriving at the Melbourne Ice?
The transition was very easy for me. I have been fortunate to have played with the nicest locals in every country I’ve played in. If you don’t get along with your teammates off the ice, it’s certain you won’t get much done on the ice either. The Melbourne Ice is so well organized that it still feels as though I am playing pro. We are treated very well and have sponsorship and volunteers who work harder than anybody to get us on the ice.
You hold the record for most career points in the Western Ontario Hockey League. Do you look back on records like these with a sense of pride?
I think it is great that I still have records whilst representing my home Junior team. The WOHL has seen many players move on to the NHL and to have my name in the record books is pretty cool. It was an honour to serve as captain and to have played with so many talented and good hearted people who I have continued to be friends with.
2012 looks to be another strong season for the Ice. What is the secret?
This year is a little different from the past two years – we realize that this season has many obstacles and we will have to work harder than we ever have if we want to win another Goodall.
You guys are pushing for an AIHL first 3 Championships in a row. Do the players feel the pressure of such an honour?
Not really, I feel that all of this pressure to win 3 is drowned out by the pressure of winning every game that we are expected to win. We are gelling more and more as each game passes so I am anxious to see where our team will be come the big dance.
A core group of players have stayed together for successive seasons. Is that a testament to the culture at the Melbourne Ice?
I believe in that statement 100%, if the players didn’t like it here, we wouldn’t be here. That also speaks truth to the Melbourne Ice family that includes the sponsors, volunteers, wives, friends and supporters. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of such an awesome group of people?
Speaking of core players staying together. You & Matt Armstrong arrived in 2010, is there a strong Canadian connection between the two of you?
I think it has a lot to do with where we were in our hockey careers as well as our private lives. We are basically in the exact same situation. It has been the ride of a lifetime having won a championship with him in the Netherlands as line-mates, and now getting to play together here. We also had connecting apartment units in the Netherlands and were roommates for a year when we first arrived here in Melbourne.
Do you see yourself staying at Melbourne Ice for the immediate future?
Definitely, I love being a part of this growing organization as well as being a part of growth of hockey in Australia.
Paul Watson has been a constant figure at the Ice. What sort of coach is he and how does he compare to other coaches you have played under?
I have never met another coach like “Jaff”. He is one of the many perfect examples of what Melbourne Ice is all about. He has been around and is a players’ coach. He is always concerned with where players’ heads are on and especially off the ice. He’ll always be there to call you out when you’re under performing or if he senses something is off with you. I’m always good to lie to him when it comes to injuries haha.
Who would be the most impressive Ice player you have played with?
Well I didn’t know what to expect when I first arrived here. I thought that the talent was better than what I expected, and it has grown since then. Regarding the Melbourne Ice I have been impressed with everybody to tell you the truth. You’ll always see talent, but with hockey it’s a mental game and for guys to show mental toughness through sacrifice is unbelievable. We have the most talented local players as well as depth and I believe that is why we’ve been so successful. Just take a look at the national team roster and how many Ice boys are on it as well as the youth programs.
The Icehouse has become some what of a fortress, with large home support giving a helping hand. How much do the players feed off the crowds energy?
The crowd is great – everybody loves to play in front of a packed house. We always give it that extra push when we hear the crowd going nuts! Love every one of them.
I hear you can rock a mean guitar. Perhaps a musical career post hockey?
Haha, probably not as mean as my boys StickMike, but I can slap the 6 string a little bit. I’m definitely hoping that something comes about in music – My percussionist (Lachlan Hay – 2x Speed-skating Olympian <-just thought I’d add that in) and I have some material that we are going into the studio with in the next month or so.
Do you support an NHL club?
I will always be a LEAFS FAN!!!! I am a Collingwood supporter so they go hand in hand right?
Who is the most interesting individual in the Melbourne Ice lockeroom?
My boy Bangs (Tommy Powell), and my Baby boy Bangs (Toddi Graham). It’s never a dull moment when those beauties are in fine form.
I would like to thank you for your time & wish you all the best in 2012, as the Ice look to make AIHL history.
Anytime Andrew, let’s hope the hockey Gods are on our side!