(Photo Credit:Red Bull Salzburg)
Chris VandeVelde is in the middle of a long career in professional hockey. He played four years at the University of North Dakota before moving on to the pro ranks. The Moorehead,MN native has played 278 games in the NHL and 236 in the AHL.
Recently he made the move abroad to take his talents to Europe. After spending the 2017-2018 campaign with Lukko of the SM-Liiga in Finland, he then moved on to the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL), the top hockey league of Austria with Red Bull Salzburg.
There he found a familiar face in Ryan Duncan. The two played together for three years at UND. While Duncan has spent most of his career with Salzburg, VandeVelde has come to the European game after a career in the North American game where he often was a top depth center for whatever team he played for and a reliable penalty killer. Duncan also talked with me as well. Look for more from him in the next few days.
Both players are currently participating not only in the EBEL but in the Champions Hockey League. This tournament involves the top leagues in Europe (minus the KHL) and Salzburg is in the semifinals against their fellow Red Bull Side, Munich.
After the first game yesterday, the teams are tied at 0 (the CHL uses aggregate goals to determine winners in its pre-final elimination rounds over a two game series). They play the return game of the semis one week from today. The winner goes on to the Grand Final to play for the championship. If the pattern is the same as the first game, the second half of the semifinal game be broadcast in America on NHL Network at 1:20 PM Central Time.
Below are my questions to VandeVelde and his responses.
1. What has it been like playing with Ryan again this season?
“It’s been great and a lot of fun. He helped make the transition to Austria very smooth for my family and me. We haven’t got the chance to play together, since we are both centers, but it’s always fun watching him play.”
2. As a team, what do you guys need to build on to fly past Vienna in EBEL play who are lead by J.P Lamoreux in net, another UND alum.
“First off, it was great to see JP and to say hi to his family. To catch Vienna we are going to have to start stringing some wins together like we did earlier in the season. Just play more confident and limit mistakes.”
3. What does the upcoming semi against Munich mean in the CHL?
“I didn’t know much about the CHL before I came here, but it is a big deal and teams take a lot of pride in trying to win it all. With the two Red Bull teams making the semi finals it just makes it that more special and competitive.”
4. How has your side utilized the CHL to build your game for EBEL play?
“I think as a team we have realized how good we can be if we play well. We feel like we can beat anyone if we play our game.”
5. How would you describe the rivalry between Salzburg and Munich?
“I don’t know much about the rivalry. I have heard it’s pretty intense, which will make the CHL semifinal even more fun.”
6. What is one thing about Ryan Duncan fans do not know?
“Ryan is one of the healthiest eaters I have ever met. Except on his weekly cheat day. He has a lot of discipline and is very professional.”
7. What is your best Ryan Duncan off ice story from your time at UND?
” UND was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I remember I played a lot of halo on Xbox with some guys. I suppose we also did some partying. We also had a beer pong league.”
8. What has your NHL experience brought to the club?
“Most of all I would have to say leadership. Maybe some of the younger guys have watched some of the smaller things I have done on the ice. Which they can learn from and develop.”
9. Why should UND fans tune into the CHL semis and finals?
“It is a great rivalry and it’s really good hockey. I think it’s a lot of fun to watch compared to some other leagues. Also to support Ryan and me.”
10. What has been your favorite CHL city to visit and why?
“We haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time away from the rink in any of the CHL cities we have played in. I would have to pick Bern, Switzerland though. Just a really nice city.”
“What is the biggest area of your game Dave Hakstol helped you develop.”
11. “Hak has continued to help me throughout my career. In college he really helped me with my confidence coming in as a freshman and with some of the early struggles that came with that. He gave me plenty of opportunities. In Philadelphia he continued to push me to become a better player and to grow my game. He is one of the best coaches, if not the best, I have ever played for.”