Sept. 20, 2013
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves appeared at the 2013 Big Ten Hockey Media Day at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Thursday. Below is the full transcript of his news conference. Watch the video above.
Mike Eaves: Like most everybody in the room, we are excited about this Big Ten season and all the new things that it will bring to the world of hockey. I note other coaches have touched upon it, but it will be interesting to see how all this spreads and the excitement that comes with it. So we're excited to be part of it.
Q. Can you talk about the transition for Nic Kerdiles this year, starting off with the fresh start? He had obviously the suspension last year, and now you're talking about moving him from the wing to the center and all that makes your depth a little more down the middle for the forward this year?
Mike Eaves: Well, I think when you look at your hockey team you build out, you start with your goaltenders, then you move to your blue line. As a forward group, you want to be strong down the middle. Nic has been a center in his life. I think he likes that position. I think he gets more touches in the middle. So it's pretty natural progression. He's had a year under his belt and understands what the responsibilities are by watching other centers on our team and what we need him to do with and without the puck. So I think it's a pretty natural progression for him.
Q. What do you think of being picked as the favorite and what kind of additional pressure does that put on your shoulders? Mike Eaves: I think the reason we were picked in that position is because you take a look at our lineup and we're an upperclassmen team. If I look at teams, that's the first thing I look for are returners and such. It's almost a natural thing to happen because of the fact that we are an upperclassmen team. So no surprises there. I don't think it changes anything we do in terms of our expectations and the way we want to conduct our business. It's just a pretty natural position to be in because of the upperclassmen we have on the team.
Q. What are some of the big advantages of moving to the Big Ten this year?
Mike Eaves: I heard Donnie (Lucia) talk about the fact that for the college hockey fan, they'll know where to go to find college hockey. I think we have a really fun product. It's a good product to watch, and the fact that exposure level will be at such a high and constant level, people will know where it is and where to find it. I think having that on the table will help people find the game, and we'll get more fans because of that.
Q. What is the degree of difficulty trying to keep a team together like this so you have as many seniors as you have, juniors as you have given the number of players that you've lost to the NHL?
Mike Eaves: I don't know if there is a concise answer to that. Every young person that comes to your program has a different agenda, background, goals. The young man that we lost last year, Brendan Woods would have never left. But there was an opportunity to turn pro, and that was really important to him for various reasons that I am not going to share now. So every young man is different. We have a group -- we had potential to lose just Brendan this past year. For different reasons, and each boy decided they wanted to stay for one year, to build their role, physically, mentally, emotionally. It's something that we really don't control. So this year we had young men stay. And we looked and we have an upperclassmen team for the first time in a long time, and based on that, if you look at college athletics, teams that are successful are upperclassmen teams. To answer your question concisely, I think kids staying is a case-by-case decision for them.
Q. You have had a couple of years to recruit now knowing what the Big Ten conference would be. What impact has the name had in recruiting?
Mike Eaves: Frank, I think that that would be hard to quantify because I haven't asked that question directly to the kids that have committed to us knowing that we're going to the Big Ten. My thought process is the fact that that would be something that exists in their head. That's a part of why they may choose to come, in this case, Wisconsin. But to quantify, is it 50 percent, I don't know. The attractiveness of the Big Ten Network, playing in the Big Ten, it's a recognizable product that young people are aware of, and I'm sure it has a factor.
Q. Your goaltending, obviously, you've got two very good ones too. How do you balance that in practice? Could you explain to everybody how you go through the process of a particular goaltender every game?
Mike Eaves: That is top secret, Brian. I can't tell you. It's interesting with Gary Andersen, our football coach at the beginning of training camp, they have this quarterback controversy. I think that competitiveness that he had with his quarterbacks is what we have with our goaltenders, the fact that they come in every day and they push each other. We do a lot of small area games. When we do these types of drills, we know which ones are scoring, and there is a natural push from the inside that keeps both young men sharp. The last year, in the beginning of the year, we've done this the last couple of years, we've switched back and forth. And then at the end of the year you want to see who is doing well and who has the hot hand and you try to ride them a little bit more. But it's a competitive situation every day in practices, and I think that's what makes them better.
Q. Shootouts a good thing, bad thing, do you like it? You prepare for it in practice?
Mike Eaves: From the aspect of a fan, I think it's tremendous. In the game of ice hockey now people get excited about, well in the old days fights, goals and shootouts. I mean, at the end of the game they're all standing, watching it. I think it really appeals to the public that they're going to have something like this. The purist in me says the concern was always well, it can't affect the RPIs, we want to make sure it doesn't do that. So we'll need to talk to Coach (Red) Berenson, and he shares some of the things that they do. But they've rehearsed it. They get on the Zamboni in the middle of the week and they keep track. I think most teams will do that now. But for the fans, it's going to make their experience coming to the game at another level.
Q. The first couple months of last season, injuries, suspensions, coaching changes, all of that, you end the season hoisting a trophy in this building and make the NCAA Tournament. What was the lesson or what did you take away from that about resiliency?
Mike Eaves: You talk to any coach at the end of the season, they're going to tell you all the tough spots that they run into. We had ours at the beginning of last year when we had three or four storms come together. The life lesson in there that we spoke to our kids about is we have choices every day to make. How we come to work, how we decide to work. We could be fatalists and say woe is me. But the lesson was every day come to work, make a choice on where we want to be, how we're going to make changes. It proved its worth. It's a fundamental truth about making choices. So I think in a life lesson type of thing as they move on in life they can look back and say I've been through this. I've been through some tough times. This is what we need to do and by doing these things it's going to turn around and there will be better days. So in the big picture thing, I think that's something they can take with them.
Q. You guys are a very veteran team this year. Are there any younger guys, recruits or otherwise that you're looking to step up into a bigger role this season?
Mike Eaves: One thing about working with kids at this age is every summer they go away. They have a chance to mature physically, mentally, emotionally, and then they come back and they can be a different young person. We sure hope the guys that are coming back have that growth. I think history tells us that teams that are successful, they need a group or one or two freshmen to step up and be a factor after Christmas and be a contributing factor and we're no different this year. We've brought in five young men. Out of that five, we'll need a couple of them to step up and hopefully be positive factors after Christmas-time, because it will take a little bit to get used to this level. But if we have that happen, it would be very good for us.