This will be the premier season in EBEL for the Zagreb Bears' forward Brandon Buck, but the young Canadian is well introduced to this prestigious regional league. In his junior days, playing for Guelph Storm, he had heard a lot about Europe and EBEL. Every day he listened to interesting stories by his best friend from Austria Rafael Rotter who has been playing for Vienna Capitals for the last five seasons and who's very well introduced to EBEL and its quality.
- It's hard when you're not drafted and you don't have an NHL contract signed which would give you a chance to play in the strongest hockey league in the world. Rotter told me nothing but good stuff about EBEL, how it's a quality league. Later I heard the same from other friends who are playing here. Therefore already as a junior, 19 or 20 years old I started thinking about leaving to Europe and EBEL. I had the feeling I won't get the chance I would like to in North America. It turned out that even though I'm a forward, I was mostly getting defensive tasks. That changed last year when I was playing in Norway and it was my biggest goal coming to Europe.
What do you learn for this season in Medveščak's jersey?
- I play hockey professionally for four years, but I'm still a young player, I'm 24. There are a lot of players in Medveščak against whom I played in North America, who played in good leagues and have experience. I came here to learn from them. I want to progress the most I can, to grow into a quality player, and then perhaps one day return to North America which is my great wish.
Medveščak number Nine says for himself "I'm not the type of a player who will win fans over with some extra attractive moves, but I'll leave my heart on the ice in every game". However, we believe he'll win fans over with some more qualities.
- My biggest advantage is skating. I was always an excellent and very confident skater. That's just the reason why I like playing in Europe, because ice dimensions are bigger and you have more room to skate. When I was playing for the juniors, we had one rink of large dimensions. I enjoyed it. My other strength is that I'm a player that can play all positions.
Season hasn't started yet. But you played some preseason games during August against two EBEL teams, Villach and Innsbruck, and you await the game against Olimpija on Wednesday at 6:15 pm game in the Ice hall of Dom sportova. Surely by now you got the picture what will EBEL look like and what awaits.
- According to what I've seen this will be a good league. Both Villach and Innsbruck are good teams. Those were some good tests for us. I believe the league will be competitive during the whole season and that there are a lot of teams that wish to finish on the top. Our goal is no different than the other teams' goal, we want to keep winning and take the championship. If I was to say we will try to take third position, I would be lying because every team wants to win the first place. That's always the plan when you enter a season. I believe we have a winners' character, we'll also have depth and four good lines.
What is the recipe to get to the top?
- It's most important to play our game and do on the ice what coach tells us to. We play with North American style, more of a physical hockey and that's why we will always give our maximum on ice to win and have a good result. That's the reason this team was successful last year, and I hope it will be this year as well. We have a team that can score goals, but also one that can create chances from our defensive zone. If we do our tasks well and manage to be fast in the D-zone, I think we'll create a lot of chances in offense because we have a very fast team. We're not a team that comes to the neutral zone, makes five or six passes and scores a nice goal.
That the Bears have winner's mentality and that they crave for victories was shown on Bled where they won the Summer league Rudi Hiti. Nice overture for 2012/2013.
- Excellent tournament. It was really good, and how couldn't it be when we won it. It's always great when you win, even though it's preseason. I enjoyed the most playing against Stavanger because last year in Norway my team lost every game against them, and in the end we won.
Coach Marty Raymond is a former police officer. Does it show on ice?
- Raymond is a person you can easily talk to and we all respect him as a coach. Every good coach can tell when the time for a joke is, and when the time for work is - the time when he needs to be serious and strict.
Is he too strict?
- He can be strict, definitely, but for now he hasn't been too strict because there was no need. But I believe that there will be time during season when he will have to be sterner towards us, but that kind of a player-coach relationship is usual; only total focus and mutual respect can bring a good result.
First thought coming to our mind when somebody mentions Canada is ice hockey. Most probably every kid in Canada gets a hockey stick for his first birthday. And if both parents played hockey, like Brandon's.
- Not just mom and dad, but also my uncle, Bill Armstrong, who played professionally for 14 years. I used to love going to his games. I've always considered him my idol and I was proud on what he did in his professional career.
Who was better in hockey, mom or dad?
- Mom was better. Dad stopped playing in his junior days. Mom even had a chance to play for Canadian national team when I was little, but she had to decline because of her pregnancy. All I've learnt about hockey came from her. Father is always the one most competitive during someone's growth; the one who pushes you forward. But not in my family. My dad isn't like that. His advice always was to have fun on the ice. On the other hand mom gave me opposite advices. She always encouraged me to try out different things on ice, to score goals.
Besides ice hockey, you played inline hockey and you played for the national team when you were 15; you also trained football, you like golf but you're not that good at it. What else hides within Medveščak's number 9 jersey?
- I love water sports.
- Not really. I'm not a patient person. If I would catch a fish every time I threw bait, I would love it. But not like this. (laughing) I don't find it fun to sit on a boat for six hours and catch one fish, or none.
Since last year, during summer break, you work at a hockey camp as a coach to future hockey players.
- Uh, it isn't easy being a coach at all. You have to prepare for every practice because you have to present everything and explain in a way they understand you. It easy for me because I already know these things, but when you have to put it on paper and teach kids, it's a lot harder.
You've been here for a month, how do you like Zagreb, Croatia.?
- I enjoy this city. We were on that main square for a couple of times now.
Ban Jelačić Square.
- It's a cool place. I lived in a small Norwegian town last year as opposed to Zagreb which is really big and there are so many things to see here. I heard you have a magnificent coast as well. I didn't get the chance to visit it yet, but I will definitely.
If not before, then certainly in September from 14th to 16th when the Bears await a historic spectacle in Pula Arena where they'll play two EBEL games, against Olimpija and Vienna.
- That will be some experience. I have never played a professional game outdoors. Especially not in summer. I doubt any of the players can boast with that. It will definitely be fun, more so when we play in such a historic monument like the amphitheater. It will be a cool weekend not just for us, the players, but for everyone else as well. I told everything about those games to all my friends and family. I hope the weather will serve us and that we'll enjoy that unique experience.
Medveščak is a sports partner to UNICEF and it often takes part in humanitarian actions during season. Are you prepared for some off-the-ice "work"?
- That's excellent. We used to collect money for UNICEF on Halloween in Canada. The clubs should take part in humanitarian actions as much as they can and help others because that's good for both the club and the charity organization.