The Langley Rivermen are set to open up their extended training camp exhibition season on Friday night as they head down the highway to faceoff against the Coquitlam Express. With no fans able to attend the games due to COVID-19, I felt like fans aren’t able to get really get to know the players up close this season. I got in touch with rookie goaltender Brandon Milberg to see how things are going so far.
We spoke for just over a half an hour about how he feels the season will go, what his expectations are, and how training camp has gone so far. He even gives us a sneak peek at who the best and worst dressed guys on the team are.
Mac Guardiero: So with training camp essentially over and the exhibition season about to kick off, how has your experience been so far in Langley?
Brandon Milberg: I’ve been here for about a month now and I have been loving it actually. I am living with an amazing billet family and they have a younger son who is a goalie so I was able to fit right in and feel at home. Obviously, it is a big change from prep hockey in terms of conditioning and on-ice but I have adapted, it has been going well and we look pretty good. I am excited for this week to get our first exhibition game in.
MG: How has your body felt during camp?
BM: It feels pretty good. Obviously, at the end of the week, your body gets a little sore and the legs feel a little heavy but nothing crazy. From week to week it gets better, I’m getting used to it.
MG: What would a typical day in the life of you look like right now?
BM: On a typical day I usually wake up around 7:30 in the morning and head to the rink to be there at 8 am. We have a warm-up at around 8 o’clock and we hop on the ice at 9 o’clock for a couple of hours. After that, usually, the boys will go out to grab some lunch quickly and then head back to the rink for a workout that lasts around an hour and a half to two hours.
Then after the workout, I’ll either head out to grab some food again or just head home to chill out for the rest of the day. I like to head home and either nap or rest for a couple of hours. I’m usually in no rush to get anywhere so after a long day I just want to come home and relax the body.
MG: What has the leadership level been like in the dressing room? Has anyone stood out to you?
BM: We don’t know who our captains are just yet, but obviously any of the 20-year-old guys can fill that role easily. Outside of the 20-year-old guys, you have players like Riley Wallack and Ryan Helliwell who really stand out. We’ve got guys that are vocal but we also have guys that lead by example on the ice, so we have a good mix there in terms of leadership.
When I came here I felt included right away and it was the veteran guys that made me feel that way. Right off the bat from the very first workout I was introduced to a bunch of these guys and felt like one of the boys right away.
MG: It sounds like it has been a bit of a seamless transition so far, do you feel like social media helped that?
BM: Yes, definitely. When the announcement came out I got a bunch of follows from the guys and they sent me messages and we talked a bit. I know this summer me and Joe Messina, who is also a rookie from Toronto, skated together all summer and I also met up with Matthew Hubbarde, who is from Pickering, Ontario, which isn’t too far from me so we skated once as well and met each for the first time other there. I was pretty familiar with about four or five guys before I came to Langley, which was unreal and it obviously helped a ton.
MG: Is there anyone that is sticking out right now as the team clown? Any pranks being pulled?
BM: There are definitely a couple of guys that stick out, Chase Sandhu is one of them, he’s a young guy that likes to crack jokes. There are a bunch of funny guys, Stephen Sielsky is hilarious, with his missing tooth and right now he has a curly mullet and a mustache, he just looks hilarious. He is one of the guys that I became close with really quickly.
Sielsky and Sandhu are hilarious but in my opinion, the funniest guy on the team is Matteo Pecchia, he’s a great guy but he is also a clown, some of the things he says makes everyone laugh.
MG: So in today’s sports world, fashion is talked about a lot, and now that you have been around the team for a bit, in your opinion who is the best-dressed guy and who needs help in that category?
BM: I think maybe the worst dresser on the team would be Colten Kovich, he wears shorts that basically go down to his ankles every day, during workouts and stuff he has the baggiest shorts on, definitely isn’t wearing the five-inch inseam. The best dressed on the team I think I would give that to Messina, every time I go shopping with him he is dropping money on something like Lululemon or some type of hoodie.
MG: Obviously, the season feels a little weird with COVID-19, but how do you think you match up against other teams?
BM: It definitely feels a little weird with a long exhibition schedule, but so far we look good in practice, the boys are buzzing, and the returning players are helping a ton. We have a lot of rookies in the room and so far I really like the way we look. Our D-core is super deep and our forwards should have no problem putting pucks in the net.
Obviously, I need to do my role and stop the pucks so I think we should be pretty good. I am super excited to get going on Friday night. I haven’t played a game since January so I am eager to get going and win some games.
MG: What are your thoughts on the coaching staff so far?
BM: The coaching staff has been unbelievable from top to bottom. Before I even got here, ever since I signed Bobby Henderson has been unreal to me, super kind and he was always texting me and checking in to make sure everything was going good. He is super easy to talk to and if I have a problem I don’t have to worry, I can always talk to him.
Brad Bakken is hilarious, he is a good resource to talk to, and Mike Thompson is an absolute comedian and he is from Ontario as well, so we relate about that. Joey Ali, our goalie coach, has been on the ice with us a lot and he is another unbelievable guy, from hockey to anything outside of hockey I know he has my back. Not to mention, our trainer Brayden Tonogai is another unreal guy, the best trainer I’ve had, this guy can fix anything in a matter of a couple of seconds.
MG: Your pads this season look pretty nice, are you happy with how they turned out?
BM: Oh definitely! I am lucky enough to have been close to one of the Vaughn reps in Ontario so I have been able to customize things through him. Usually, my dad and I will sit down and put a few templates together and decide from there. Once we do the pads we will sit down and figure out an idea for the mask with the logos and some landmarks from home. This season’s mask has the CN Tower with the Toronto skyline on the back mixed in with the Rivermen logo. Like I said, look good, feel good, play good.
MG: Do you have any superstitions when you play?
BM: Not really, I try to kind of stay away from that stuff. If I did, I feel like if I was to mess it up I would get down on myself and lose focus. In the past, I’ve had certain handshakes with guys but that’s pretty much it. I don’t tie my skates any certain way or get dressed in a certain way, I just try to keep it cool before a game.
MG: Do you have a pregame music playlist to get you going before games?
BM: Yeah I have pretty much had the same pregame playlist for about five years now. Obviously, I have some Drake in there to represent the home town, but it is mostly a mix of rock and rap music. Some AC/DC and Guns n’ Roses to get you going and I mix that with some Travis Scott, J. Cole, and Meek Mill. One thing I do before a game, right before going out, I love to play “Outro” and “Dreams and Nightmares” by Meek Mill. Those are two songs that make me want to run through a brick wall.
MG: So when you go home at night to relax, are you a movie guy or a TV series guy?
BM: I’d probably say I am more of a movie guy or a stand-up comedy guy. I love watching guys like Bert Kreischer and Tom Segura. I saw Russell Peters live with my dad when I was 14 and it was hilarious. I usually watch comedy specials, Bert is hilarious and probably the funniest guy out there right now.
If I am going to watch a show I will probably just put Family Guy on just in the background if I am doing something else, to keep the laughs going. I also watched the Last Dance when it came out and I thought it was unbelievable, I am a huge Michael Jordan fan so seeing all of that stuff and his mentality was awesome.
MG: With you being from Ontario, does that make you a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan?
BM: Huge Leafs fan! It was pretty brutal this year, it’s just the same thing every year pretty much, it’s disappointing. They usually have a good regular season and you get excited about the playoffs but it’s frustrating when they constantly lose in the first round.
MG: I’m looking way ahead here, but are you excited to start your NCAA career and head off and play for Sacred Heart after this season?
BM: Yeah, obviously I am excited but I am just taking it one day at a time right now. My main focus is getting better in practices and helping my team win this year. I know I need to work on things this year to get better. It’s definitely in the back of my head but my main goal is to help the team win this year and try to get better every day.