Geoffrey Kinrade joined team Medvescak Zagreb last fall from Swiss HC Ambri-Piotta where he was on loan and by the end of the season he filled a spot in the Bears’ D 39 times. With bigger tasks, responsibilities and time spent on ice (25:24 min), mostly paired-up with Shaone Morrisonn, he filled the books with his first goals in the KHL and Bears’ jersey, which together with four assists put him in a firm lead among defensemen pointwise.
A little bit about everything, from his first hockey memories to today’s atmosphere in the team, we talked after yet another team lunch, a tradition created and held up spontaneously after every morning skate.
You’ve been in Zagreb almost a full year now, what are your impressions now that the novelty of it subsided?
I like the city and the atmosphere. The fans are great, one can tell people here love hockey. The weather is maybe a bit too warm when the season starts, but once it cools down everything’s just as it should be.
You’ve lived and played in a couple of cities since coming over to Europe and traveled to even more. What did you like the best?
I loved Prague. I was there in my first season in Europe and I really liked the life there. I’m always trying to travel as much as my schedule allows and usually I concentrate on one part of Europe at a time, so I’ve seen a lot of places. Hockey-wise, the KHL is in a league of its own and it can’t be compared to other European leagues.
What’s you first, your earliest hockey memory?
When I was little my father asked the local fire department to water one area where he would set up ice for the whole community, all the kids in the area. We had an outdoor rink where we could skate and play hockey throughout winter. Over the years I took over the responsibility to build it, but in time it became impossible to do it. The temperatures went up thanks to global warming and today we can’t even get water to freeze let alone build a rink.
What are your favorite postseason activities when you can finally have the time to do something outside of hockey?
I love windsurfing. I’m very passionate about it and might have a slight addiction, but I know my limits. Likewise, free ride mountain biking. It’s the most popular sport in my home town and while I was growing up, I used to do biking parallel to hockey, but at some point the two just couldn’t match anymore and I chose hockey.
So bike is your favorite mean of transportation alongside skates?
Yes, definitely. I feel better, more secure and comfortable on a bike than on my two feet. I don’t really like walking, especially longer distances. Since I was very little I used to bike everywhere.
I don’t have a favorite, winning is always nice
During your career you’ve won a couple of trophies. Do you have a favorite?
No, I don’t have a favorite, but winning’s always a good feeling. When you’re part of Team Canada for the Spengler Cup, it’s just for a few weeks, so you don’t really have the time to develop the bonds you do in a regular season. After the Calder Cup what I remember the most is a sense of relief.
Was it a big season?
The whole competition is very demanding and lasts long. It’s not an easy one to win. By the end of the season, which started with training camp in September and ended in June, I had played around 106 games and in the playoffs I played through a torn shoulder for some 20 of them. I was very happy when it was all over. I remember everyone being very tired and relieved that we were done.
But the title in Switzerland had to have some weight after a repeated appearance in the Final?
I really enjoyed winning that title. A year before we lost in Game 7 of the Final, by one goal, two seconds before the end of regulation. Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe how we felt then. So, being back in the Final and winning it all felt amazing. I still think we deserved the title a year before and I know how badly we wanted it.
Forwards know how much we mean
How do you see your role on the ice?
Defense is always in the middle, we have to bring security to both the goalie and the offense - everything goes through us. The offense has it the hardest. If we don’t do our job, if we don’t create enough space or they don’t have the support they need behind their backs, it makes it very difficult them to create and execute opportunities to score. Defense is very important for creating and maintaining pressure in the offensive zone, but we get overlooked quite a lot. On the other hand, the players upfront know how much we mean.
Our lines keep shifting and changing. Who of all the forwards are you most comfortable with on ice? Who do you know what to expect of?
Mertl’s a huge worker and when he’s out there you know that all the little things will be done the right way. Genoway is a smart player, I like how he sees the game and the decisions he makes. Kvapil is very talented. We have a good group of guys, a lot of players who can make a big impact on the game with just a few moves. I know what to expect when I’m on ice and I know when everyone plays to their level we elevate he quality of the game.
Confidence is the best way
Speaking of our team, we have had a few pointless games in a row. It’s still early in the season, but do you think there is something that needs to change or something you need to do in order to turn it around?
Look I think that we have a really good team. We have a good group of guys. It's really early in the season and I think to over-analyze; to try to crack some code for winning, is wrong. My personal experience where I've been on a couple of championship winning teams is that you can have ups and downs in the season. What's important is to have the same mindset no matter what is happening. If you start overthinking things, you’re just making it worse. Sure, you have to adjust as you go along but confidence is the most important. Teams that remain confident can do well. Teams that are doing well are always confident. They stick to the game plan and do what they do best.
So confidence and sticking to the game plan is the key?
The best way to get the most out of every player and the team is to have and maintain confidence. To overthink something as simple as hockey would be a mistake. I know it’s easier said than done, but it really is all in the head. There is no need to invent something new. Some days you will have the best plan for a game; you will do everything right; and you can still lose because someone better was on the other side. Or something unexpected happened during the game. That's hockey.
Do fans help build confidence?
As a professional athlete you always try to block out all the surrounding factors. If there is a good, positive energy out there and you need it, then you take it and use it on the ice. Personally, I love it when it’s loud out there, but also when I’m able to communicate with my teammates.
Losing hurts this team very much
How does the locker room react to losing?
When we lose you can feel it in and around the locker room. We’re all frustrated and there is a lot of negative energy. I was part of teams that didn’t take losses too hard. This is not one of them. Losing hurts us very very very much. And that’s a good sign. It means we care.
A lot of new players joined the team this year. You’ve been together for a mere six weeks now, have you managed to create a bond?
We have a lot of jokes going around the locker room, already probably enough to last us a couple of months. We all stick together, we’re a team in the fullness of the word, there are no separate little groups. The loudest one is definitely Katic, he always has an opinion.
Do you have any special team-bonding activities?
We’re together all the time and have very little free time, so there’s no need for additional team-bonding activities to make us a tighter group.
You just came back from your first road trip and you had couple during training camp. Do you guys have assigned roommates or do you switch regularly?
We’re paired up, but injuries change all that. For example, during training camp I roomed with Parlett and now I share a room with Larkin.