UND Hockey Alum Interview: Chris VandeVelde

(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.”

 

 

UND Hockey Alums Around the World:Ryan Duncan

With hockey season right around the corner we will be publishing some interviews with University of North Dakota Hockey alumni from around the world. We will be talking to alumni both currently playing hockey, and those that have used their education to pursue other ventures.

Today’s interview is with Ryan Duncan. He was a member of the Duncan-Oshie-Toews (DOT) line that featured some of the best forward play this University has ever seen. Duncan won the Hobey Baker award in 2007, and has gone on to play most of his professional career in Austria for Red Bull Salzburg. He has won four league titles with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria’s top league known as the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL). He has numerous accolades at the team and individual level both in college hockey and in Austria.

Below are our questions and his responses:

1. What has been your favorite off-ice moment playing since you started your pro career?

” The birth of my daughter. It was an incredible experience to be a part of. It changed my perspective on a lot of things. It was truly life-changing and an extremely proud moment.”

2. What are your plans when you are finished playing hockey?

” Great question. I don’t know exactly what I want to do for work quite yet, I hope to stay involved with hockey in some capacity but my top priority will be being there for my daughter and helping create a healthy environment for her to grow up in.”

3. How much do you follow the current UND team now?

” I follow the current UND team pretty closely. I’m a fan. Any outlet that covers the team or gives updates about the team I probably follow it. I love watching the highlights and tracking their progress.”

4. What did you do to celebrate UND’s National Championship in 2016?

” I was in the middle of a playoff run over here in Austria so there wasn’t the preferred amount of celebrating but I probably pestered my current teammates by gloating about my former team. Then when the time was right, me and my Wife (who is a former UND women’s hockey player) raised a glass to UND’s accomplishment.”

5. What are some things that UND fans might like about the European game?

” I think UND fans would like the style of play and the atmosphere in the arena. it’s a finesse game with a lot of skill and the atmosphere in the stands is a fun one with lots of drum banging and local chants.”

6. During your UND time, who were some of your teammates with the biggest personality?

” I played with a lot of characters at UND. Two I’ll mention are Brett Hextall and Matt Watkins. Brett is just a really smart and clever guy who makes people feel comfortable around him. Matt is a really unique and interesting person. He grew up in rural Saskatchewan so just the perspective he brings to life makes him really fun to be around.”

7. Who has been your favorite coach to play for at any level?

” My favorite coaches were Tom Ward and Dave Hakstol. Coach Ward was my coach in high school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s. He taught me so much about life and hockey. I developed more because of him than any other coach I played for. Coach Hakstol helped continue that progression once I got to college. He really encouraged and taught the professionalism that is needed on a daily basis to be successful in the game of hockey and in life.”

8. What do you most miss about UND and Grand Forks?

” I miss everything about Grand Forks and UND. What I miss most is Red Pepper and going to school with thousands of kids around your same age. It’s a special time in life. N ot too many better things than a Saturday night after at home weekend sweep in Grand Forks.”

9. What are some interesting things in Austria that you like to do or see in your off time?

” Me and my Wife like to explore the area around Salzburg in our off time. Salzburg is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains so there’s no shortage of adventures for us to go on.”

10. What are some hockey-related goals you want to accomplish before retiring?

” My hockey related goal before I retire is simple, make EC Red Bull Salzburg a better team and organization because I’m a part of it. It’s a great organization to play for and I want to help to continue to make it even better.”

11. How many more years do you want to keep playing hockey?

” I want to keep playing hockey as long as I can. I have no set time table. I love the game and I’m passionate about it so I hope to continue playing for many more years to come. It’s a great life.”

12. What are you most thankful for learning from UND?

” I’m most thankful for learning from UND how powerful a great community, culture, and tradition can be. I think a lot of communities, businesses, organizations, and teams strive to be like Grand Forks and UND but very few achieve it. UND is a special place. I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”