Garret, you were born in Massachusetts. Is it a “hockey” state?
Yes! The great hockey city of Boston is there, where legendary Bruins play, college hockey is really big there, so I could say Massachusetts is a huge hockey state, and Boston a real hockey town, and everything in the winter there is mostly about hockey.
Are you a Bruins fan?
I am still a Bruins fan, but not as die-hard as I used to be when I was younger. As I grew older, I started to like to watch every NHL team.
Is your birthplace near Boston?
Yes, about 20 minutes drive outside Boston, so basically in summer I'm in Boston, I work out and train.
You are coming from a hockey family. Your two older brothers also played hockey.
Both of my older brothers played pro hockey, they both played college hockey before. They had really good careers.
You became a hockey player because of them?
Yes, I became a hockey player because of my dad and my two brothers. I always got to watch them when I was a kid, and later I played with them. I got into it and loved it, so that's the main reason I play hockey today.
You also graduated at a university. What's your degree?
My degree is in history. I was lucky enough to go to Boston University, and it's a great school. It's really something, it's a big honor for me, and I know my parents were happy that I graduated more than me.
In 2011 you were drafted by Nashville Predators, but you didn't go to draft?
I wasn't technically at the draft, I stayed back home, I didn't know if I was going to get drafted or not. My two roommates in college were both there, and they texted me, they said "You just got drafted!", and got called by Nashville. It was a big honor for me that such a great club is interested in me.
You wanted to finish your college?
Yes, I chose not to sign with them until I finish my college. I think I wasn't ready yet to play pro hockey. The staff at Boston University was really good about developing me and getting me better and more ready to become a pro. I was talking with my family and I decided it's probably smarter to go and get my degree, and they said: "The Predators would still be there after you graduate the college"…
It was more important to you to get the degree in history?
I would say it was a big honor, the big reason why I chose to stay, and also I was playing at home in front of my family and friends. We had a great team at the university. It made a lot of sense to me to stay. They were really loyal to me at Boston University, so I thought I should be loyal to them and stay.
And after the university, what can you tell us about your professional career?
I signed a two year contract with Nashville after I graduated from BU, and I played for their AHL and ECHL team. I think I learned a lot in these two years up and down, I think I became a better player. I wanted to play for Predators, but things didn't work out like that. Obviously, they are great organization who has developed a lot of good players, and they fought for Stanley Cup last year. Those were tough two years for me, like I said, I wanted to be in Nashville, but I wasn't.
When you were growing up, who was your role model, your hockey idol?
I think my dad and my two brothers. I loved watching them and I learned from them.
And in NHL?
My favorite player always was Patrice Bergeron, Bruins' forward, just because of how professional he is, it seems like he's always been doing things the right way, and he's a good leader. For defensemen, I like to watch P. K. Suban.
Medveščak is your first team outside of North America. Before coming here, what did you know about the club, about the league, about the town?
I didn't really know much, to be honest. I had talked to some players who played here. They told me amazing things about the city and the team. Hugh Jessiman, he played here in the first Medveščak's KHL season, he told me all the great things about the fans, the organization, so when Medveščak did send me an offer, I accepted it and arrived here.
Before you came here, did you know any of your current teammates?
It's funny, because the player who left and I took his place, Alex Privitera, is one of my good friends. We played at the college together. I didn't know anybody else, but I knew about them. They were great to me from right when I got here.
What do you think about the EBEL league?
I had no idea what to expect when I was coming over here. I have some friends who play for Bolzano and Innsbruck, so they prepared me for the EBEL challenges. It's a really good league, I think the crowds are amazing. You have to be ready to play every night because all the points are so important.
What do you think about Medveščak?
I think we can be a really good team, we could make a long run in the playoffs, and even win the championship, because we have everything you need, we have good forwards, we have good defense, and we have great goaltending. We have to put it all together every night, like we have been lately.
So, the first goal for the team is the playoffs?
Absolutely, that's a no brainer, we should have made the playoffs. It would be a great disappointment if we didn't make it. At least for me, I always want to win a championship, but you have to get into playoffs to win the championship. But once we get there, I don't think we should just be happy to be in the playoffs, we should want to win and bring a championship here.
After you changed the coach, things started getting better?
I didn't know the old coach a lot, I was only here for maybe four or five games with him. He was good to me, but obviously with Doug Bradley coming in, he's been awesome for us. We started to play much better. He really got us in motion. All the practices are really on point. You can tell that he really knows what he is talking about, he holds everybody accountable. He's been amazing for us. The opponents are carefully analyzed, there is always video, he's showing you if you were doing things right or wrong. And that's exactly what we need here.
He also changed the lines. Now you are playing with Michael Boivin in pair. You look very good in defense, and especially very dangerous in offense.
Michael is really offensive minded. We know where each other is going, if one of us is going in the offence, the other stays back defensively. He is really skilled player with a great shot.
How do you like it here in Zagreb?
The city is amazing. My sister has traveled to Dubrovnik and Zagreb, she was here last summer, and she was telling me after she got home how beautiful it was, she had the best trip ever. When the team called me, she said I'm going to love it. Zagreb is an awesome city, Christmas market and everything. The girls here are really beautiful! Hahahahaha…
A few personal questions for the end.
Your favorite food?
Pizza. It's good here.
Favorite movie, actor?
Ben Afleck or Leonardo di Caprio, and “Catch me if You can”.
Did you learn any of Croatian words?
Yes, “hvala” and “bok”. But they are still teaching me every day.
Garrett, thank you very much and good luck with the rest of the season. We wish your dream comes true and Medveščak wins the championship.
Photo: MDVPRess/G.Stanzl, Pixsell; I.Soban/Pixsell