The province of BC has certainly spawned an overwhelming amount of great hockey players but there’s one who was born in Richmond just over 17 years ago and his dream is to equal the achievement’s of BC’s past greats.
Anthony Ast, centreman for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL was gracious enough to take some time to sit down with me (at different computers) and chat up a storm about how he got his start in hockey, how he keeps strong during the off-season and what he envisions for the future.
He’s only spent one full season with the Giants and it wasn’t even actually a whole season, cut short by injury of course.
You can catch Anthony in his, technically speaking, 3rd season with the G-men this fall as they make another run for the Memorial Cup from the friendly confines of the Pacific Coliseum.
Enjoy getting to know Anthony Ast, a future NHL’er.
JH: Born in Richmond, where did you play minor hockey and what’s one of your fondest memories from playing hockey as a young child?
AA: I played my minor hockey for the Richmond Minor Hockey Association up until second year bantam where I then went and played for Burnaby Winter club.
My fondest memory of minor hockey when I played for Richmond was going to Provincials in Peewee and Bantam. My fondest memory of hockey when I played for BWC was winning 3 out of the 4 major tournaments we entered that year and finishing 3rd in the Western Canadian Bantam Championships when we were the hosts.
JH:Sounds pretty successful. So at what age or at what moment did you know that you wanted to play hockey professionally?
AA: I’m almost positive it was the moment I first stepped on the ice, picked up a stick and played around with a puck. I’ve had the biggest passion towards the game ever since I started playing. Hockey never leaves my thoughts; everything I do, I try to relate it to hockey or think of new moves or ways to do things, etc.
JH: 16 points in 46 games over your first two WHL seasons; can you say confidently your numbers will increase this coming season and if you could describe yourself as a player or compare yourself to one, who would it be?
AA: I think my numbers don’t particularly show how I played. It was an up and down year with many unlucky injuries. I’d start playing great and would start producing and earning more and more ice time, then I’d be sidelined with another injury. But I think for my first year, it was a very successful one. I learned more in a year of playing under Don Hay and Glen Hanlon than I have in my entire hockey career.
I can honestly say with the training on and off the ice that I am doing this summer, that I will come back this next year a more prominent player, ready to prove myself to everyone and get back to the dynamic scorer I ‘ve always been.
If I had to describe myself as a player, I’d say I’m a two way player, with speed, skill and smarts, who isn’t afraid of anything or anyone. I’d compare myself to Zach Parise, as he is my favourite player and I think I play a lot like him.
JH: Parise eh? I assume you’re cheering for NJ to come back then?
AA: I like both styles of LA and NJ’s games, but I’d like to see NJ come back and take the Cinderella victory being down 3-0.
JH: You suffered a head shot last October in a game against Prince George. What would you say to guys who take those kinds of liberties on the ice?
AA: All I have to say is that, no one is ever out there trying to injure anyone, certain situations represent themselves in games and things happen. It’s unfortunate being on the wrong side of it, but it’s all a part of the game.
Video of headshot and ensuing line brawl:
JH: So what do you think when you see a guy like Matt Cooke in recent years take run after run at players’ heads?
AA: We all know he’s out there to get on guys’nerves. We all know guys who are paid to do that, but there’s a line between playing clean and dirty and you have to find a way to get under other players’ skin by being clean and limit the dirty play. Overall, it’s not good for the game.
JH: Your Team Pacific placed 5th at the most recent World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. What was that experience like as a whole? Did you come away a better player?
AA: As a whole, it was one of the best experiences of my life. You get to play against the best players in the world for your age and it really puts things into perspective about how hard you have to work on and off the ice to become a prominent and highly touted player.
I definitely thought I came back as a better player because I gained a lot of confidence and learned a lot from that week that I could take forth in my hockey career as a player and person.
JH: Such as?
AA: Well the fact that you meet so many great players and you’re considered to be in that group gives you a lot of confidence. Also the fact that the game of hockey is like life and all the guys you are teamed with or up against all want the same thing and are all deserving of achieving that. You realize how hard you have to work, day in and day out to accomplish these goals but you have to stay true to you and those around you supporting you because that’s the extra boost that powers you forward.
Never let anything get to your head; hockey is very physical, but it’s more mental, you have to be mentally strong
JH: You only played 1 playoff game for the Giants this season due to a high ankle sprain suffered in March. With at the very least 1 season of WHL left, how did you use your time off to become better mentally?
AA: To become mentally strong, it isn’t something that happens over-night. It happens over your entire career through ups and downs and experiences. I think that to become mentally strong, you have to listen to criticism and be willing to accept it to become a better Player.
You have to be able to take the negatives and turn them into positives. You can’t get down on yourself, because confidence is the key to excelling in being mentally strong. Once you’re confident, you feel as if you can accomplish anything and that you’ll do whatever it takes. You will sacrifice things and you will take the responsibility in building up from your foundations as a player and person. You just can’t let things bother you. You have to have an accepting attitude to everything your teammates, coaches and managers say to you.
JH: You seem very wise for your age Anthony which leads me to my next question. You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 6 and as a person with a physical illness myself, I can relate, but what kind of things have you had to do to cope with that while at the same time playing hockey?
AA: I think diabetes has helped me mature more than others my age. I’ve always had the saying “treat it as a nuisance, not a hindrance.” I believe that it’s helped me along my hockey career. I’ve had it ever since I started playing hockey. I was actually diagnosed in my first year so it’s been something that I’ve grown up with alongside my passion for the game. I think diabetes in a strange way, gives me an edge over some other players my age because I know my body so well.
I know a lot about nutrition, what is good/bad for my body. I know how to take care of myself from a health standpoint and it’s helped me grow as an independent person. Ultimately, it’s helped me in hockey because diabetes was a challenge at first, as it is for everyone, but I overcame it and am living proof that anything is possible even with a condition such as diabetes.
You just have to set your mind to it and do it. It’s helped me become mentally strong and accepting to any challenge laid in front of me. I grin at the sight of an obstacle, because I know it’s only going to make me a better person and player.
JH: Are there any things you have to do during the course of a game to deal with your diabetes?
AA: I do between 5-8 finger pokes to check my blood glucose levels, prior, during and after my games. Sometimes I may have to drink juice and eat something to bring those levels up, or give myself an insulin shot to bring them down to where they should be.
JH: Switching gears now, You’re on twitter @AAST18, do you see it as a tool to connect with fans or is it something you just use occasionally? Do you think athletes on twitter is a good thing?
AA: I see twitter definitely as a tool to connect with fans. They get to see what us athletes do on a day to day basis and can contact us and ask questions. I think athletes on twitter is a good thing for that very reason, but of course, we have to be appropriate with what we say and our views because of the light we are under in the media world.
JH: Do you follow @biznasty2point0?
AA: No I don’t, but that is something I’ve been meaning to do because I always hear about his tweets. I should probably go do that right now. LOL
JH: Have fun with that. How do you juggle your high school studies with hockey?
AA: The Giants really want us to keep up our marks while playing hockey, so we have team study sessions to do homework since we miss a lot of school due to games and road trips.
JH: In the Dub, you travel on the bus a lot. Any hilarious bus stories?
AA: Well, being a rookie, we all have to double up with another rookie, so it made it quite awkward for sleeping arrangements. LOL We also had to occasionally tell jokes, sing songs or do impersonations for the entire bus.
JH: What’s your best joke or impression?
AA: I was horrible at them. I couldn’t tell a joke or do an impression to save my life without laughing or screwing up the joke.
JH: Well I’ve got three questions left for you, but I’m going to put you on the hot seat here: Tell me a joke!
AA: Okay let me think of one here…
I’ll resort to my Ellen Classic Joke Monday’s here…
Scratch that; my 12 year old brother’s joke will do…
What did the grape say when it was squeezed? Nothing. It just gave out a little wine.
JH: *snort* Okay, you were right. Stick to hockey. HAHA! Alright, let’s take this interview to sudden death.
AA: I’d say so! LOL
JH: You will be draft eligible next season. What’s your message to teams that may in the future be considering drafting you?
AA: My message is that…
There is nothing in this world that I’d rather do than play hockey in the NHL. It has been a dream and passion of mine ever since I started playing. I know I may be a smaller player, but I will do anything and everything to become the best player I can be. I will replace my height with speed and skill, two way play, and I will sacrifice my body day in and day out to help the team win. I’m a team player and I want the team to be successful just as much as I want to be successful. I will play any position, but I want the opportunity to live my dream and run with it.
I want this to be my life because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I may be the smaller guy out of the two, but I’ll bring the most heart and work ethic day in and day out. I’m not scared of anything and if you put something in my way, I will find a way to get up, over and around it every time. It’s in my competitive and passionate drive for the love of the game and the dream I never stop thinking about. I want this more than anything and I will do anything for it.
JH: Incredibly well put. Now I’d like you to respond to this statement: Hockey is just a game!
AA: To me, hockey isn’t just a game, it’s my life. It’s my one true love and passion and something I want to do for the rest of my life. I live, breathe, walk and talk hockey; it’s my calling. I believe it’s what I was put on this Earth to do and I’m going to do anything to turn this “game” into my career and lifestyle.
JH: One final question: What’s your background and who are you cheering for at Euro 2012? Ever dabble in soccer?
AA: I have a German background and I’m actually a German citizen. So I will definitely be cheering for Germany. I used to play soccer when I was younger, around the ages of 5-7.
JH: As you can tell from my profile picture, we share a common bond. Thanks a lot man and best of luck in the future. I’m sure you’ll make a great NHL’er in the coming years.
AA: You’re most welcome. Thank you for the kind words and opportunity to do this. I really appreciate it.
Author’s Note: You can follow ME on Twitter as well @Vancan19!
If you missed my twitterview with former Canuck and Maple Leaf Brad Leeb, check it out here:Twitterview with Brad Leeb
If you missed my twitterview with former Captain of the Augsburg Panther and Victoria born Sean O’Connor, check it out here: Twitterview with Sean O’Connor
If you missed my twitterview with Canadian Marathoner and Olympic Hopeful Lanni Marchant, check it out here: Twitterview with Lanni Marchant