Oct. 22, 2012
• Watch Eaves, Kerdiles News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves and freshman forward Nic Kerdiles spoke with members of the media on Monday.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' and Kerdiles' comments can be found below.
Eaves: First talk about the upcoming weekend. They're at 2-2. They split this weekend against Notre Dame, and they split at home against Ohio State. As we look at their club, they have seven seniors, highly touted freshmen and a couple of goaltenders they're trying to figure out who's going to be number one. In watching them this past weekend, they probably played too hard for their coach. They had to kill off about three five-on-threes Friday night. We're excited to get on the road. It's a unique experience to try to get some points when you're on the road. We're looking forward to that challenge. We had a good week of practice. We'll continue to build this week and see if we can get down on the road. With that being said, young Nic would like to make a statement, and we'll have questions for both of us at the end of that. Nic, with that being said, it's all yours.
Kerdiles: I'd like to make a statement here. Dealing with the unexpected questions and controversy surrounding my NCAA eligibility has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I still do not understand everything that has happened to me in this process or why it has happened at all. But I appreciate the support of my teammates, coaches, and the university have shown me through this ordeal. The NCAA appeal decision which reduced the withholding penalty assessed against me allows me to move forward with my character, reputation, and integrity intact. While I'm still disappointed and frustrated that any penalty was imposed, I have considered my options carefully and do not wish to create a continuing distraction for my team or prolong this matter further. My goal is not to turn this situation into any kind of adversity that my team would have to overcome. Therefore, I'm choosing to move forward, put all my energy and focus into being the best student-athlete I can be, and prepare myself to rejoin my teammates competing on the ice as soon as possible. Growing up in California and playing youth hockey, I always looked up to the older players from the area. Most signed to play in the major junior league up north, the WHL, but many made commitments to college. Those guys like Brett Bebe, Garrett Haar, Troy Power, and Rocco Grimaldi, to name a few, showed my family and me another option, a chance to play high level hockey and still continue with earning a degree. That is why I'm here at Wisconsin, to be the best student-athlete I can be, and to work toward my degree at an amazing university. It is my turn to be a role model for young hockey players in California and the West Coast. I take that responsibility very seriously and would be devastated to see any of them change their path from college route to junior just because of the adversity I faced as a student-athlete. I still want to be that role model for California and West Coast hockey players. I want them to consider and understand going the college route. I will pursue that goal by staying here at the University of Wisconsin. By serving a penalty that remains enormously difficult to accept and by representing my university as a true student-athlete. I've loved every second of my first couple of months here, even with all of this stuff going on. I truly believe that I am meant to be here and meant to continue pursuing my ultimate goal of playing in the NHL. I'm so glad to be able to call myself a Badger and to continue doing so. I want to thank my teammates, coaches, and university staff for all their assistance and support, and I look forward to seeing you on the ice very soon. Thank you.
Eaves: Thank you, Nic. We've got about ten minutes, and we'll be happy to take questions for either Coach Eaves or Nic.
Question: Mike, that's a pretty mature statement from a freshman. Can you just talk about how Nic, from what you've seen, has persevered through this process, which obviously has been very difficult for both you and him.
Eaves: It has been an interesting process, to say the least. Every once in a while, you have a true freshman come in who is beyond his years in emotional and mental state, and Nic is one of those young people. I think it speaks to his upbringing with his mom and dad. This has been difficult for them as well to understand. But they've kept cool heads. And the upbringing that Nic has had has certainly helped him get through these tough times, no question about that.
Question: Mike, could you detail the complaint that the NCAA had with Nic and what the basis of the appeal was about.
Eaves: No, andy, I'm not going to get into that. I think that Walter Dickey's statement was the statement I'm going to lean on here. We don't need to get into that. I just feel that we're going to put this behind us and move forward.
Question: Nic, was there ever a doubt that you'd remain with the Badgers? Ever a doubt?
Kerdiles: I'll be honest with you, no, there was never a doubt. You guys know us pretty well. This campus is amazing. The facilities unbelievable. Great coaching staff, great teammates. It was really an easy decision for my family and I, and I'm just looking forward to getting back on that ice and rejoining my teammates. That's going to be November 30th. I promise you, I have that date circled on my calendar right now.
Question: As you went through the past month plus, what was the toughest part of this whole process in going through it for you personally?
Kerdiles: I think it was just the uncertainty and also just my family going through it. It kind of -- it's not great that my family got pulled into this, and they've been amazing through this whole process. Again, like I said, the uncertainty of where I was going to play and what was going to happen. So those two things, I'd say.
Question: Mike, what's your greatest source of frustration about this particular episode?
Eaves: Well, my greatest source of frustration has been dealing with Nic and trying to see how he's handling it. Sometimes in life things aren't rational, they're not fair. And trying to have a young man understand what he's done supposedly wrong and just making sure that he kept his head on straight and not awful. We talked -- if anything, one of the benefits of this is getting to know Nic and his family better. Knowing that, if we could push through this incident, that we would be a lot closer, and we are a lot closer because of it. I think it's brought his teammates closer to him. But just making sure that we were keeping our heads on straight and moving forward in the right direction and controlling what we can.
Question: Mike, hockey is a unique sport at the college level. Are you fearful at all that instances like this may continue to arise in this sport?
Eaves: Well, I'm sure that, because of Nic's situation here, that there's going to be a lot of attention to detail with the hockey players coming into college hockey and the situation with family advisers. There's no question. I think that Nic's case was in some instances a test case for family advisers and young college hockey players. So I think there's going to be a lot of attention given to what's going on, and people are going to have to make sure they're dotting their I's and crossing their T's correctly when dealing with family advisers.
Question: Mike, to what degree has this been a disruption inside your dressing room?
Eaves: I think, for inside our locker room -- maybe Nic could address this because he's inside there. But it seems to us that we as coaches and we as administrators were like a duck on water. We looked pretty calm on the surface, but underneath the water, our administration and coaching staff was working hard to be up on what was going on. Our administration did an outstanding job. Katie Smith, had a chance to get to know her a lot more through this process. She was outstanding. Walter Dickey, all our people were right there and a great source of resources and information for Nic to help him get through this time. I don't think it was that big of a distraction in the locker room, Nic. Maybe you can address that a little bit.
Kerdiles: Not at all. Like I said, I've got a great group of teammates. They've been behind me since day one that this thing has been blowing up That's what made my decision a lot easier. Great group of guys. They've had my back the whole time.
Question: Mike, when Nic comes back, what's he going to add to your lineup?
Eaves: Oh, he'll have a lot of goals. Nic's innate ability ranged from his ability to play at a high pace and be a power forward and be able to put the puck in the net. Right now I kind of look at it -- you know, Nic's got an injury right now, and he's out of our lineup. Now we have to have the other young men step up and do his part. But when he gets in there, we'll have an impact player back in our lineup.
Question: Nic, what's the prevailing lesson for you from this? Ten years from now, somebody's going to ask you about this. What's the thing you learn most?
Kerdiles: That's a tough question to answer. I've learned a lot through this. My family and I, we believed the whole time we were following the rules and still truly do believe we did. One thing that Coach here taught me, it's you can only control what you can control. And I've been doing exactly that. I feel that some of these things are out of my control, and that's just how it is. And I had to live with that. And whatever I could control, I'm doing. So right now what I'm going to do is control my strength and get bigger in the weight room and worry about that stuff. But other than that really, there's nothing else.
Question: Nic, did this detract from your ability to practice? Did it detract from your ability to be a student? Did you find yourself drifting off, kind of caught up in all of this, and maybe not be able to give all you wanted to the process of being a being a student-athlete here?
Kerdiles: I don't think so. Just the way I was brought up, I think I have a good work ethic and I compete hard. Whether that's not really getting as many reps as I should have or -- I think Coach did a great job giving me all the reps I could have in the situation I was in, and that didn't change my work ethic or my compete level. I went out there and practiced, worked hard. I've been on the ice almost every day now. Even yesterday, I'm doing extra things that I can to get better and be ready when time comes. Academically, I've always been a good student, I believe. I focused on getting my homework done, preparing for tests. So it was in the back of my head, but other than that, I still focused and did well in school and still am doing well in school.