Sunday, April 9, 2017

My interview with newest Flyer Mike Vecchione


Photo by Hans Pennick
    Every hockey player dreams of making it to the NHL. On April 4, 2017, that dream came true for C Mike Vecchione, who made his NHL debut for the Philadelphia Flyers that day. Vecchione, who tied for first in the nation in points while playing for Union College, signed a one year, 2 way entry level deal with the Flyers on March 31st. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award (best college player), but lost to University of Denver's Will Buchter. Vecchione, 24, won a NCAA championship with Union in 2014, the first in school history. The Saugus, Mass. native was undrafted, had 176 points (71 goals and 105 assists) while in college. When he signed with the Flyers, Vecchione joined former Union teammate Shayne Gostisbehere on the team.
   I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Mike. Here are the questions I asked him.

  Me: "You could have turned pro last year, but stayed at college for another year. Was that a hard decision to make?"
  Vecchione: "At first it was. But talking to my parents and people close to me, I realized that staying at school, getting that degree, and get that program back to the national stage was a lot more important than moving on to the pros. The amount of positives going back to college was so high that I didn't have it in my heart to leave early."

   M: "This year, you were nominated for the Hobey Baker award. Was that a great honor?"
   V: "After learning about what Hobey did, and how good of a hockey player he was, just to be mentioned in the same sentence as him, and be part of the Hobey hatrick was a tremendous honor. I was really happy to represent Union, and it would have been nice to win it, but Will [Buchter] was a deserving candidate."

   M: "In the past couple of years, Union has produced some NHL players, including yourself. Is there any more Union players we should watch out for in the NHL?"
   V: "Spencer [Foo] is moving on, I'm sure after playing my first NHL game, I think he'll fit in quite fine. Nick DeSimone is already a pro. For the underclassmen I think [Ryan] Scarfo has a good chance. He's got really good work ethic. Cole Maier and Brett Supinski, and some of those younger guys are really skilled and work hard. Don't forget about [Sebastian] Vidmar. He's a big body guy. I think that group of guys, you should definitely keep an eye on them, and watch them.
  
   M: "When you joined the Flyers, you also joined former Union teammate Shayne Gostisbehere. Did that factor in your decision?"
   V: "It didn't factor as much as people think it would've. I was looking for the best place for me, it's all about opportunity in this league, you want to find the best place for you to make an impact, and stick. I felt Philly was definitely that spot. Having Ghost here, and just being a friend of mine was just a much easier transition. Once I got here, he took me in and showed me around. I didn't really have to be on my own, which made it a lot easier to transition from college to the pros. The guys on the team treated me like family immediately. Having Ghost here was just a positive, but my decision was ultimately based on my opportunity this year. It's been great so far.

   M: "What was it like to make your NHL debut after playing in college the week before?"
   V: "It was a little difficult. I'd lost to Penn state, and a week and a half later I'm playing in my [first] NHL game. I was nervous, I didn't know what to expect. Like I said, the guys took me under their wing, and made sure they were going to talk to me, and help me out any way they can. I think after the first, I had a couple of good shifts. In the second and third period I turned it on and felt my game, got my feet moving. I had a couple chances. [I] was strong on the faceoff circle, which was huge for me. As the game went on I got more comfortable. I felt like I belonged up there. That was one of the best things for my confidence, to know that I can hang with these guys, I can skate with them. I'm looking forward to my next chance tomorrow."

   M: "Being undrafted, did that motivate you more to make the NHL?"
   V: "As a kid, you want to go to the draft, put the jersey on in front of your family, hear your name called and all that stuff. When I realized that wasn't going to be in the cards for me, I had to prove people wrong. I think not being drafted was that fire underneath me that kept burning. Like I said, I had to battle through high school to be a great player, and to get drafted. I thought I should of, but it helped me grow so much that I've out overlooked once again. Same thing happened in college I ended up at Union. I started as a 4th line guy and battled my way to the top. That feeling that people don't think I'm good enough, it feels the fire for me. It always has. He's undersized, he's not that skilled, whatever it is, that they put against me, I always have to go out there and earn people's respect, and work as hard as I can to make it. It was a good feeling to sign my contract, and play in my first game, knowing that so many people doubted me, and I got to prove everybody wrong.

    M: "How do you think you can help the Flyers moving forward?"
    V: "The Flyers are having a little bit of a down year, talking to the GMs and the coaches, I feel like my role is 3rd/4th line guy, bottom 6 for now. I'm just trying to provide some secondary scoring for them. I have a pretty good offensive touch. At the same time, I'm strong defensively, and can play that 200 foot game. They're looking for me to do both, obviously. I need to be an impact, bottom 6 guy that's going to help out on the score sheet, but also keep some pucks out of our net. Just having that duel responsibility is something they really appreciate. That's how I'm going to try to help them out."

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