One-on-one with Worcester Sharks energizing rookie Curt Gogol

Worcester Sharks energizing rookie Curt Gogol in action against the Springfield Falcons at the DCU Center on Dec. 2, 2011. Photo courtesy of Steve Lanava of www.telegram.com

Special thank you to Eric Lindquist and Curt Gogol for this opportunity. Enjoy.

Did Tommy Wingels come back and pay his rent after scoring his first NHL goal on Jan. 15?
{Laughs} No, he hasn’t paid his rent yet. I always joke around about him paying rent but he’s always on top of it. He’s in good standing with the landlord so we’re in the clear.

Did you find yourself conflicted when watching the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames game on Wednesday night {Feb. 8}?
I was a little bit. I’ve grown up in Calgary and the Flames were always my team growing up. However, they were one of the teams that passed on me in the draft. I’m more of a San Jose fan now and the more they succeed, the happier we’re in Worcester. As much as I love Calgary, I’m cheering for San Jose to do the best.

Has the team officially embraced the "GoonSquad" nickname?
{Laughs} I don’t know if it’s the team that has embraced the nickname more so than the players. We have a tough team with skilled players that like to call ourselves goons and the whole team has jumped on the bandwagon.

How did you first become interested in hockey and was there a particular moment when you knew you wanted to be a professional hockey player?
Growing up, my dad played pro hockey. He always helped us out and encouraged us to play sports. My older brother played hockey and I looked up to him growing up. It just worked out playing hockey and I was able to make a career out of it.

Your dad, Brent, set the WHL record for most penalty minutes in a season with 511 in the 1977-78 season for the Victoria Cougars and Billings Bighorns when the league was called the Western Canada Hockey League {WCHL}. Did you find yourself being tested more by players because of your dad’s reputation?
I wouldn’t say tested. It’s more in my blood to play that way and when you play that way, you’ve got to back it up. It has nothing to do with my dad. It’s just the way I play and the style I’ve embraced.

I read on the Kelowna Rockets website that you and your dad would put on the boxing gloves and practice sparring in the backyard. What was that like and did one of your punches ever land flush on accident?
{Laughs} No, we didn’t really practice. It was just more competing against each other to see who was tougher, which was funny because he was a lot older than me. On the ice, we would throw the gloves on, spar and wrestle around to get the feel of it. I don’t think I ever landed punches, thank God.

How much of an influence has your dad been for you both on and off the ice?
He’s been there and helped me out quite a bit by giving me tools and skills to use on the ice that I’ve taken with me. I owe my mom a lot of credit too for getting me to the arena, and sacrificing her time with family and friends to get me to the rink to play the sport I love. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without my family.

The Rockets drafted you in the eighth round {165th overall} of the 2006 WHL Bantam Draft. Two year later, you earned a spot on the team as a 17-year old rookie, and helped lead the Rockets to the WHL Championship in an energy role with linemates Mitchell Callahan and Evan Bloodoff. When you look back on that season, what do you remember most?
It’s funny because I was drafted as a skilled, smart puck moving defenseman. However, we had such a good lineup on the back end with Tyler Myers, Brandon McMillan, Tysen Dowzak, all very good players at that time, and it was either sit in the stands or play forward. I chose to accept the role of playing on the energy line and couldn’t have played with better guys than Bloodoff and Callahan. There’s a reason why they have succeeded thus far. They helped me out and I wouldn’t be here without them either.

The following season {2009-10}, you were traded to the Saskatoon Blades after you and Rockets head coach Ryan Huska didn’t see eye-to-eye on your role with the team. What made you request a trade?
We went to the Memorial Cup the year before and a big part of the success was with the energy line. The next year, my linemates were moved up to the top two lines while I was still on the fourth line. There were rookies playing ahead of me and I wanted a bigger role, not a different role. Coach Huska didn’t want to give me a bigger role. For 11 straight games, I was either involved in a fight or altercation and no one else was doing it. Coach Huska looked at me on the fourth line to do that but I’m not really an enforcer.
I thought it would be in the best interest of my career to have a change of scenery so I could play quality minutes. You can’t develop while sitting on the bench. I felt like I was getting buried on the fourth line and thought if I didn’t speak up and ask for a trade, I wouldn’t be having the success I am today. I was happy I got out of there and got to play for two other teams {Saskatoon Blades and Chilliwack Bruins}. The Blades gave me a great opportunity and I can’t thank them enough for trading Colton Sissons, who’s going to be a top draft pick this year, and a second round pick for me. They believed in me, and developed me as a person and player, as did the Bruins with coaches Pat Conacher and Marc Habscheid.

In Saskatoon, you played with Sena Acolatse and Marek Viedensky. Do you remember the infamous line brawl with the Red Deer Rebels on March 21, 2010?
Yes {laughs}. In Saskatoon, we had one of the toughest teams in the league and toughest teams for a while. There was me, Randy McNaught, Charles Inglis, Darian Dziurzynski, Sena and the list can go on. The whole team was willing to fight and reminds me of the team we have now in Worcester.
I wasn’t involved in the line brawl because I had been kicked out on the play before that. Coach Lorne Molleken sent me, Sena, Charles, Randy and Teigan Zahn out for the power play and right away, the referee kicked me and Inglis out of the game. He knew we weren’t out there for the power play and gave us 10 minute game misconducts. Thank God he did that because I had three suspensions that season and probably would’ve been out for the rest of the season {laughs}. I think once you get that reputation from the referees, they kind of look to give you penalties and kick you out of games to make their life easier.

You won a WHL Championship, fought players of all sizes but weren’t drafted at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. How much did not being drafted motivate you to make all the NHL teams regret passing you over?
I didn’t really have the year to get drafted in my draft year. That was the year I asked for a trade and Kelowna waited until the last minute to trade me so I couldn’t come back into the division. I didn’t have the best reputation after asking for a trade. As soon as the draft was done, I had eight teams call and ask if I wanted to tryout. At first, it upset me because I wasn’t drafted and then they called me. My dad and agent calmed me down by talking to me and saw my best chance for a contract was with San Jose, whom I was fortunate enough to sign a deal with. If I ever get a chance and am fortunate enough to play in the NHL, I’ll play more upset at the teams that didn’t draft me.

What was your first thought when you stepped on the ice the first day at San Jose’s 2010 Training Camp?
I was pretty nervous because I had never been to an NHL camp before. The camp is so professional and you get treated like a professional, which is something you’re not used to playing in juniors. Plus, you’re walking around the dressing room with guys you’ve grown up idolizing on television, especially in San Jose with all the great players they’ve had. I tried to not make any mistakes but the more mistakes I made, the more comfortable I became with the coaching staff, whom have been wonderful and have helped me along the way.

You registered 18 penalty minutes in three games at the 2010 Young Stars Tournament, including two fights, one of which you TKO’d Taylor Ellington. When you got the news five days after the tournament ended that San Jose was signing you to an entry-level contract, what went through your mind?
The Young Stars Tournament was the highlight of my career as it was in Penticton and every building was sold out. It was fun to play in that tournament with a bunch of great hockey players, such as Jordan Eberle.
Signing with San Jose wasn’t even surreal to me. I went into camp and the tournament knowing that if I played my role, I could earn a contract. However, there were lots of doubters that said I wouldn’t get signed and that San Jose would keep an eye on me as a free agent. When I got the call and signed the contract offer, it was another highlight of my career and something I will never forget. Walking in and signing that contract in Doug Wilson’s office was a dream come true. After signing that contract, I knew there was a ton of work that needed to be done with my hockey in order to pursue my dream of playing in the NHL.

The Blades traded you to the Chilliwack Bruins {now Victoria Royals} on Nov. 2, 2010. Was it weird having Pat Conacher as an assistant coach as he played with your dad on the Billings Bighorns?
It really wasn’t. It was a dream come true to play for coach Conacher as he is a great guy on and off the ice. He helped my career so much. Knowing my dad, he couldn’t have been a better guy to have as an assistant coach along with head coach Marc Habscheid. They were unbelievable and gave me opportunities. I can’t say enough good things about coach Conacher as he is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s now head coach of the Regina Pats and has taken them from last place to first place. That shows guys want to work for him. Coach Conacher commands respect and gives it, which is something you need as a player.

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Photo courtesy of Steve Lanava of www.telegram.com

I read Mike Ricci took you under his wing at San Jose's Training Camp. What is it like having him as a development coach?
Lots of guys have helped me out in the San Jose organization and stuck their head out for me to sign here. Everyone has done great things for me. After the Young Stars tournament, Ricci sat me down and wrote about a novel full of things I needed to work on. He’s always the one guy coming up to me and asking me if I’m working on those things. He’s put a lot of time and effort into me and it’s something I appreciate.

In your AHL debut in Providence on Oct. 9, 2011, you scored your first professional goal, which was also the first goal of the season for the Worcester Sharks, and had your first professional fight. Was that the debut you had imagined?
{Laughs} I was kind of joking around in the dressing room saying I was going to score the first game. I knew if I didn’t score in the first game, it might be a while before I got my first goal because I didn’t score my first goal in juniors until Christmas time. I kind of expected the fight more than the goal for my first game {laughs}.

How are you able to maintain such a high level of energy when you play?
That’s a good question. I guess it’s easier for a guy like me, who doesn’t get first line minutes, to go out and run around. It’s something you get used to if you do it in juniors and your body adapts to it. Causing havoc and running around is something I’ve been able to do and not get tired of.

Currently, you lead all AHL rookies with 13 fighting majors and are second with 107 penalty minutes. Do you find that fights in the AHL take a harder toll on your body than fights in the WHL did?
Playing in the AHL is different than juniors because you’re fighting men who are stronger and I haven’t had success fighting in the AHL as I did in juniors. I need to work on my boxing in the summer with my coach as well as my balance. Players in the AHL are here to make a living and will do anything to win a fight as they have a family they’re fighting for. In juniors, there aren’t a lot of guys that fight as it’s not necessary to fight.
[Author's Note: Gogol had his 14th fighting major of the season in the game against the Monarchs on Feb. 10. He now has 112 penalty minutes this season].

Have you checked out any of your fights on YouTube? I think there is close to or over 40 of them.
In juniors, I’d check them out because I was winning them but not so much in the AHL because I haven’t been winning them. I’d probably be too nauseous to watch them.

What’s your response to the critics that say fighting has no place in the game and should be banned like Olympic hockey?
It’s funny how they’ve said the hockey deaths over the summer and the concussions had to do with fighting. If you look at UFC fighters, they fight five minutes for three rounds {five rounds for championship and main event fights} and take punches to the head. In a hockey fight, we’re lucky to land two or three good shots.
I’m not saying this because I enjoy fighting but fighting is something that needs to stay in the game. If not, guys will start running around and take liberties with the better players. With players running around, you’ll see more concussions and injuries. Fighting is something you need in the game to hold players accountable and maintain the sports identity. Why make a sudden change now?

What have you enjoyed most about playing in Worcester this season?
We have a great group of guys that all get along and hang out. We do things outside the rink together and have a good time. The year has flown by because of the good group of guys having fun together. We make the best of what we have out here. I can’t say enough about our team chemistry. It has made my first year so much fun.

What has been the biggest difference going from the WHL to the AHL?
The game is a lot faster and you’ve got to make plays quicker as you don’t have much time with the puck like in juniors. The guys are bigger, stronger, faster and honestly, better hockey players than in juniors. It has been a big transition for a guy like me but that transition has been made better by having great coaches and teammates.

What do you like to do in your downtime?
We don’t really have much down time. I bought a ping pong table so we have tournaments and go watch movies. If we’re not at the rink, we’re at home resting and preparing for the next game. Nothing too crazy.

What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
I’ve received a lot of good advice from my parents, grandparents and great coaches in Chilliwack. I guess coach Conacher, who told me that "you got to want it more than the guy beside you and be willing to succeed." There are a lot of things I can’t remember but little things like that have stuck with me and helped me along the way.

Have you gotten any Hollywood offers since appearing on the Worcester Sharks "Lord of the Rinks" movie poster?
No I haven’t and I’m kind of disappointed I haven’t received a call. I’m going to have to talk to my agent and see if he got any offers. I’d be up for anything. I’m open for offers {laughs}.

Curt Gogol Quick Hits

Nickname..... "Gogs"

Favorite Musician..... Luke Bryan

Favorite movie..... "Slapshot"

Favorite TV show..... "Sons of Anarchy"

Favorite NHL Team growing up..... Calgary Flames

Favorite road city..... St. John’s

Favorite professional team {other than Sharks}..... Miami Heat

Favorite sport {other than hockey}..... Ping pong

Favorite book..... Bullpen

Favorite MMA fighter…. Jon "Bones" Jones

Favorite food..... Chicken Parmesan

Favorite website..... Twitter

Favorite holiday..... Christmas

Favorite magazine..... Hockey News

Favorite pre game meal..... Chicken and pasta

Favorite pro athlete..... Tom Brady

Favorite hockey moment..... Going to the Memorial Cup

Hockey idol..... Ryan Smith

First job..... Hockey instructor

Hidden talent..... Ping pong

Favorite Restaurant..... Earls

PS3, Wii or Xbox360….. Xbox360

If I wasn’t playing hockey..... I would be going to school to purse a degree.

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