In my continuing travails of the hockey world, my 3rd twitterview wound up being with Victoria, BC born Captain of the DEL’s Augsburger Panther Sean O’ Connor.
Here’s a short background on the man you are about to know and love:
Sean was born October 19th, 1981 and played hockey from a young age. As he described below, courage and determination ran in his blood from the first time he laced up a pair of skates.
Through the battles of minor hockey, Sean weaved his way through the BCHL and WHL until he was finally drafted at the age of 18 to the Florida Panthers in the 3rd round, 82nd overall in 2000. Though he never played a single game in the NHL, he has done Victoria and all of BC proud by representing a Canadian style of hockey in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
He currently makes his off-season home in Scottsdale, Arizona with his family.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that I had a fan from Augsburg tweet me Wednesday about my Twitterview with Sean. This fan described Sean as an idol in those parts. That just goes to show the success Sean has had and how he’s connected with the community.
So what are waiting for? Here is my exclusive twitterview with Victoria, BC born and raised Sean O’ Connor.
JH: Sean, tell the readers about your hockey upbringing. When did you first lace ‘em up?
SOC: I started playing hockey at age 4 at The Racquet Club in Victoria. I remember my first time on the ice with our friends the Scubys’ hand me down skates. I think the first lap took me 30 min but I wasn’t gonna quit!
JH: You were born in Victoria, BC and played Junior A for the Victoria Salsa from 1997-1999. How was it honing your craft in front of family and friends?
SOC: It was an amazing experience. It was very important to keep up my education while playing and my parents were able to keep an eye on me off the ice as well as on. I would have friends and family there to show off in front of. I also would give my teachers tix to get out of tests.
JH. Bribery is always good eh. So after that, you spent 3 years with Moose Jaw of the WHL. Was major junior what you expected it to be when you went to Saskatchewan?
SOC: When I got to moose jaw. My dad called my billets and told them I wouldn’t last a week. The Sinclairs and the whole city took all the guys in.
I think the 3 years there took 10 years off my life. The hockey, travel and fun we had will never be forgotten.
JH: So the town was very welcoming?
SOC: Ya. We were just young kids coming half way across the country to a town of 30 000.
JH: At the age of 18 and after your first season in Moose Jaw, the Florida Panthers drafted you 82nd Overall at the NHL Draft. What was the feeling and were you present at the draft?
SOC: I went to the draft in Calgary. I had meetings with about 10 teams. I remember walking out of my meeting with Florida and telling my dad that is one team I will never be going to and how much they ripped me. So in the 3rd round I was in my agent’s box and Florida was up. I went inside and got on the phone and grabbed some chicken wings. I didn’t have any idea they called my name. It was pretty great. I was so shocked.
JH: What do you mean they ripped you?
SOC: Well they would ask me a question. Every answer I would give they would disagree with me; Ha! They would ask if I was a good skater, I would say no, they would say yes. They would always say the opposite of what I answered to see how I would react.
JH: I guess that’s Bryan Murray for ya eh!
After your 3rd year in the WHL, you spent 8 years in the AHL and ECHL. What was the breaking point for you in deciding to sign in the DEL?
SOC: Well in my 8 years playing in the minors, I played as many games as guys do in 4 years. I had so many bad injuries and things just didn’t work out for me. A couple years ago I looked into getting my German passport due to the fact my mother was born and lived in Berlin. They left during the war.
If I was never able to get my German passport, I would never have been able to play in the DEL with my hockey resume; which is pretty ironic considering in my second season there, I was named captain of guys who played in the NHL for years.
JH: So you are the current Captain of the Panther?
JH: Very cool; now let’s backtrack for a minute here; you actually played with the Canucks then ECHL affiliate Victoria Salmon Kings in 2008-09. How did you find your way there?
SOC: I was with Tampa Bay [at camp] at the time, then went to Norfolk [AHL] and things didn’t work out there. I was in a position where I could play anywhere in the ECHL because I was a vet so I wanted to go back home and play there.
JH: So you signed with the Augsburger Panther of the DEL in 2010. Has hockey treated you well in Germany? Are you happy to be there rather than the NHL?
SOC: Yeah hockey has changed for me big time in the last few years. I was playing year to year always thinking that this might be my last; then went to Germany where the lifestyle is amazing.
You make big tax free money; the fans are amazing. Everything you do; I paid for car, apartment ,utilities, health care. Guys make way more than they do in the AHL and play almost half as many games. I love hockey again.
JH: Hockey fans here will be happy to hear one of their own is doing well. So you mentioned the fans are great; any crazy fan stories?
SOC: So many great stories. One game we had a huge fight with a fan in the opposing team’s rink that turned into a little riot. They stopped the game for a bit. The fight lasted the whole first period. They sing and beat a drum the WHOLE game. So passionate.
Video of the Mini-Fan Riot from March 2012
JH: A riot? What is this riot thing you speak of? Hehehehehehe! Could you share any fun team bus stories from your time in Germany?
SOC: Yeah we had a great group of guys who loved to prank each other. We would hide in guys’ bags to scare them. Or everyone had the same car so you go and move everyone cars and take everyone’s keys and mix them up.
We had one guy even have a 2 month relationship with a girl that never existed. I had to change this girl’s name in one of the guy’s phone to my # and he would text me. He would get so mad because the fake girl would always text him or want to hang out when he was always out of town with the guys. All the guys knew except him. He never figured it out.
JH: That is epic man; truly epic.
Can you explain this video? How the heck did you end up on the opposing team’s bench?
Skip to the 0:50 Mark – Sean is #73 in red on the bench – Wait for it…
SOC: Ha I was changing and a guy from their team stuck me in the face. I was like f*** it. Hopped over the boards. Parents just flew 20 hours to see me get kicked out. Mom was not happy.
JH: How long do you see yourself playing hockey? Do you think catching the attention of an NHL team would ever be possible?
SOC: I don’t think playing the NHL is a possibility. To be honest, I never thought I was good enough. Even being drafted high and playing in the AHL; I never thought I was good enough. I look back and honestly think to myself: What the $@%# was I thinking?
I never even gave myself a chance. I had a ton of injuries as well. I have had 7 surgeries and I missed a whole season when I got hurt in training camp. I blame myself for not believing in me more than anything.
JH: What kind of injuries have you had to deal with more recently? Can you elaborate on what happened and how you feel about concussions in today’s game; NHL and abroad?
SOC: Over the last year I have had 2 grand mal seizures as well. I am trying to find out what has caused them. I have had maybe 10+ concussions. But doctors don’t know for sure what has caused them. I have had MRI and EEG tests so I hope to get some results from that.
I separated and dislocated my shoulder with 2 months left in the season but was having too much fun so I would just freeze it every day. I am paying the price for that now though!
JH: Definitely best of luck with that going forward. What are your thoughts on concussions and headshots in today’s game? Is it as prevalent in the DEL?
SOC: This is such a tough subject now. I think players are bigger, stronger and faster and that is a reason for some of the concussions you see. I also think though that some players know that it’s a way to protect the puck by turning your back to guys and by playing by IIHF rules. You see a lot of clean hits being called penalties. All I know is that it’s so tight; I would hate to be a ref.
JH: What do you do in the off-season? Do you come back home to Victoria or spend most of your time in your off-season Arizona home?
SOC: Most of the time, I am in Arizona; which is crazy considering how hot it is here. But my wife is from here and she has a company which does promotional products for other companies. So we have made this our home base.
I get to come up 3 or 4 times a summer which is always nice. I could care less when we come up in June and it’s raining, because at the point it’s 100 degrees and always sunny here, I really miss the rain.
JH: More golfing down in AZ or lounging?
SOC: Honestly if you ask any of my friends, I am so bad at golf, so I really don’t like it. There aren’t too many hockey players who say that. I can say it proudly; haha! I seem to usually be recovering in the offseason so I never got into golf. I am a beer by the pool kinda guy. I like the odd golf tourney where it’s best ball and you use 3 of my shots and we get to drink 30 beers. That fun to me.
JH: Very nice; now having grown up in Victoria, are you a Vancouver Canucks fan at heart? Do you follow the NHL a lot?
SOC: I cried in 94 in my parents’ back yard when the Canucks lost. Yeah all my friends and I loved the Canucks. I was very lucky as a kid and got to go to games. I had tickets from Dennis Seidenberg to go to game 7 last year and I asked him if I really had to because guys like Mark Recchi had family and they didn’t have tickets and I wanted to be with my dad and friends again watching it in my parents back yard.
I didn’t cry this time, but I was in Florida with Luongo and I like him and Mike Gillis was my agent. So I was hoping for a big night for Vancouver.
JH: What do you think of their chances this year?
SOC: It’s hard for me to say. I have not seen much of them this year. I get updates from my dad and a few guys back home. Ha, my dad always says they are too soft. We know they can score, it’s just going to be interesting to see what happens if a soft goal is let in. The finger is getting pointed pretty quick right now and that could not be a good thing for them in net.
JH: You’re pretty much dead on, although I disagree with the soft part…kinda. But finally, one last question for you. Name one player in the NHL you may model your game after or play similar to.
SOC: I agree too. My dad is a 6 foot 6 rugby guy, so everyone is soft if they don’t win! Ha!
I don’t know who it would be. Teams would ask me that 12 years ago at the draft and I would say like a Keith Tkachuk or maybe a Bill Gudrun.
Bill Guerin. Auto Correct keeps changing words on me.
JH: Haha I was wondering who the hell Bill Gudrun was.
Thanks a lot Sean. All the best.
SOC: Same to you Josh. Have a good one.
If you missed my twitterview with Canucks/Wolves Goalie Eddie Lack, check it out here: Twitterview with Eddie Lack
If you missed my twitterview with former Canuck and Maple Leaf Brad Leeb, check it out here: Twitterview with Brad Leeb