9:33 AM Fri, Jun 05, 2009
Su Ring - Hockey Editor King5.com
There's a saying: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
That certainly is true among Seattle Thunderbirds fans about players who have worn the blue and white. We recently caught up with Captain Thomas Hickey, who moved on just after the T-Birds' playoff run ended. But fans really didn't have a chance to "miss" Thomas, since he's only been gone a couple of months.
They do miss this next guy. Like Thomas Hickey, Bud Holloway played his entire WHL career with Seattle and grew into what hockey experts call a terrific power forward. Bud's numbers live up to the hype. In his final season with the T-Birds (2007-2008), he led the team in scoring, with 43 goals and 40 assists for 83 points.
This past season, he split his time between the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings' AHL affiliate, and the Kings' new ECHL team, the Ontario Reign. For Manchester, Bud scored 7 goals and 5 assists for 12 points in 38 games. For Ontario, he racked up 14 goals and 8 assists for 22 points in just 23 games. And that's just the regular season. Ontario made it to the first round of the ECHL playoffs, losing in 7 games to the Stockton Thunder (Edmonton Oilers' affiliate). In those 7 games, Bud scored 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points. (Note: 3 of those goals came in Game 2, where Bud registered the Reign's first ever hat trick at home in a 5-4 losing effort).
I had the opportunity to watch Bud and the Reign in Game 2. (For my write up of the game, click here).
Last week, he took time out of a home improvement project (he's helping build a new kitchen for his mom) to chat about his busy season, his memories of the T-Birds, his hockey hero growing up, and why Wapella, Saskatchewan will always be "home".
KING 5: In the year since you graduated from the T-Birds, you played with the Manchester Monarchs before going to the Ontario Reign. How did that come about?
BH: What happened was, I was playing in Manchester until February, and then we had a couple of guys injured and those guys all came back and then being a first year guy, they sent me to Ontario to play just so I could keep playing, keep developing. I ended up staying there for the rest of the year and had a great experience down there. (NOTE: Bud has been invited to LA Kings' training camp in September, along with a number of other players within the Kings system, including Thomas Hickey. To prepare, he works out at a nearby gym or skates 6 days a week.)
KING 5: Let's talk about your time in Seattle. The T-Birds drafted you in the 2002 WHL Bantam Draft. How was the transition from Wapella to Seattle?
BH: It was kind of eye opening, coming from a town of 350 people to a town of 3 million with the surrounding areas, whatever it is, I know it's something crazy like that. It took me a little while to get used to, but once I got used to it, I was able to settle in and just worry about playing hockey.
KING 5: It was obviously the farthest you'd been away from home.
BH: Yep, definitely.
KING 5: How important is it to have billet families and older teammates to help you feel welcome?
BH: I lived with the same billets all four years and they were unbelievable. They made me feel like a part of their family. They took me right in. We had a great relationship through the four years that I lived there. If things weren't going good on the ice, they'd say "Don't worry about it, things will come." They were always there with advice, even about off-ice issues, like schooling. They were really good.
KING 5: You're living away from home at a really crucial time of your life. You're developing from a kid into an adult.
BH: Yeah, exactly. They were just like my parents. They'd billeted before. They were parents themselves. They made me feel really welcome.
KING 5: How hard did you have to work those four years to develop or is this something that you found that, as you played more, you naturally got better?
BH: Part of it's an experience thing. You get more comfortable whenever you play. You work out in the gym and find yourself getting stronger and more capable. My last year, I was one of the older guys and took a little bit of responsibility to try and lead the team. In offence, me and Greg Scott and Lindsay Nielsen were on a line and we kinda looked at ourselves in that role and we were able to chip in every game or so and give our team that chance.
KING 5: Your last year in Seattle (2007-2008), you scored 43 goals and 40 assists for 83 points in 70 games, greatly raising your stock for the NHL Draft (NOTE: The LA Kings drafted Bud #86 overall) Did the pressure of being rated so highly get to you?
BH: Not really. You just go out there and play and do what you can. I obviously played a lot larger role for the Seattle team than I would on a Manchester team or on a LA Kings team. All I'm trying to do is go out there and play as good as I can. That's the only part I control. The rest is up to them.
KING 5: Did the great year you had your last year here help you make that transition to the AHL a little bit easier?
BH: I think it did. It gave me some confidence going into the season. I thought I played quite well when I was in Manchester. It's just the way it went with numbers and that, and then I went to Ontario and I thought I finished off the year really well.
KING 5: How old were you when you started playing hockey?
BH: I started playing hockey when I was 3, I believe and I played just around here in Wapella and then I played probably 2 or 3 seasons in towns in surrounding areas because Wapella didn't have enough kids and whatnot and then when I was Pee Wee, I went to Carlisle and played Double A Pee Wee there. As a Bantam, I went to Yorkton and played my Bantam and Midget years in Yorkton, then off to Seattle. (NOTE: Former Everett Silvertip/current Worcester Shark Riley Armstrong also played Bantam hockey in Yorkton, but Bud did not cross paths with him then.)
KING 5: What did you like about playing hockey as a kid that made you want to continue playing and pursue this as a career?
BH: I just love the game. It's always fun to go out with your buddies. You can play in a pickup game. The sport itself and the way the game is played. Canadians love their hockey, you hear that all the time and it is true. All my friends enjoy playing it. In the summertime, someone will say, "Hey, wanna come play a game of road hockey?" and we'll go outside and play. We'll play "best of 7" or say we're playing game 7 for the Cup or whatever and just kinda fooling around but it's just a fun thing that you can do with your friends. It is a team sport and it's fun when you get out with those guys.
KING 5: Some players and parents get too serious about hockey at such a young age, when it seems the focus should be more on fun. How was it for you?
BH: When I started playing higher level hockey, I think it was my mom who said, "If hockey is ever not fun for you anymore, you don't have to play it." There wasn't a lot of pressure, no saying, "if you quit, we're gonna disown you as a son," or something like that. They always wanted me to just be happy and have fun and I was having fun playing hockey. They gave me every chance to better myself as a player and play at the highest level I could. Everyone thanks their Mom and Dad and it's so true because if they weren't there putting in the same hours you were, you wouldn't be anywhere.
KING 5: Hockey parents are a different breed. They're like road warriors, forming their own families with other hockey parents.
BH: Yeah, that's very true. You meet so many friends along the way. My parents are friends with parents of kids that I played with. They do a pile of driving for you. You always have to make sure you thank them.
KING 5: You played all four years of your WHL career in Seattle. How did staying with one team help you develop as a player?
BH: I got a chance to work with the same guys and they knew where I was at. Coach Rob (Sumner) always gave me a chance to play and he knew what I needed to do. He knew me as a player and as a person. The same with Russ Farwell, the GM. They knew when I needed to step it up and they'd tell me and they knew when I was playing good. It helps because they know you. They've known me since I was 16, right up until I was 20, so I think that's a big part. Another big part is you're playing with basically the same guys. Some guys interchange throughout the years but you build a friendship, you build a team. I think that's a big part too.
KING 5: A lot of players do stay for the full four years, don't they, with a few exceptions?
BH: Yes. It's a development league and that's what they're trying to do. They're trying to make young kids into gentlemen and make them hockey players at the same time. It's not always just about the hockey.
KING 5: That's my next question. How did your four years here help you develop as a person?
BH: I think I owe what I am right now to living in Seattle and being far from home and coming into a completely new environment and having to hold your own. I've always been told that kids who come out of the Western (Hockey) League are fairly good kids, good head on their shoulders so I don't know if it's the way the league is run and even in different areas, different teams have pretty much the same values. I had older guys who taught me the way and I tried to teach the younger guys the way too, when they got there. It just changes every year. One day, you're the kid and the next year, you're the oldest on the team, trying to help young guys on your team.
KING 5: What advice would you have for bantams coming in to the league now?
BH: Work hard and listen to the older guys on the team. They're gonna help you out and steer you in the right direction. Also, listen to Coach. Don't try and do too much, just do what you're asked of, and you'll be fine.
KING 5: What do you remember about T-Birds fans?
BH: They were always great. We'd always talk to them after games, at different events around the city. They were always great people and they always made me feel welcome when I was there.
KING 5: What about playing at Key Arena? It is so big that even with a good turnout it seemed to suck some of the life out of the games.
BH: It was such a big building. I guess the new Kent arena is supposed to be really nice for hockey and that's good for the team. That's what they needed, something that's a little bit more set up for hockey. It's great for the team to have that new rink.
KING 5: Do you have any favorite memories of your time with the T-Birds?
BH: My whole experience there. There are about a thousand different stories... and all the guys. I just remember all the guys throughout the years and all the great people that I played with, all the great people who were on the staff throughout the years. My time there was just awesome.
KING 5: Now let's get a little personal. What's your favorite movie?
BH: I really don't have a favorite movie because I love every movie I ever watch. I'm a big movie guy. I guess maybe "Stepbrothers" or "I Love You, Man". I love comedies.
KING 5: Who was your favorite player growing up?
BH: My favorite player when I was a kid, and probably still, is my dad. I love that my dad still plays hockey. He's a very, very good hockey player and he had some chances to go places but he chose to stay around here in Wapella. He's an unbelievable hockey player. When I was about 12 or 13, I went and watched him play a Senior game. He had stopped playing competitively for a couple of years and he was going to come back and maybe play a season for a team that wanted him to play, and in the game he had 2 goals and one was the overtime winner. The score was 2-1. Just the way he plays - he's a great player.
KING 5: What player do you admire who's out there now?
BH: I'd have to say probably Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames) to be one of the biggest players I admire. He's a complete hockey player. I think he's the leading scorer for over the last 10 year for goals or something like that and he's captain of Calgary and he fights and hits and that, so he's the all around player.
KING 5: When you played for Seattle, what was your favorite away arena?
BH: I liked going into Everett because it was always going to be loud and we were always going to be getting yelled at or something. It was a crazy environment to go into and fun to play in.
KING 5: What would you be doing if you weren't playing hockey?
BH: I'd probably be helping my dad farm, I would imagine. We live in town but Dad farms some land in the country. He's been doing it for about three years but he's always helped out on farms of people around town. (His farm) is a grain farm. Last year he sowed wheat, canola and flax.
KING 5: Doesn't your family also own a restaurant? ("Wendy's Place"- named after his mother)
BH: Yes, a restaurant/lounge. My parents actually would play all our games up at the bar, up at the lounge, on the big screen there so everyone would come in and watch. They hooked up the computer to the big screen instead of having the monitor. I guess it worked out pretty good.
KING 5: You said there were 351 people in Wapella. How close is the next town?
BH: The next town is 15 minutes. That would be Moosomin, where I work out. I guess it's about 1500 (population). The biggest city is two hours away, that would be Regina.
KING 5: As an Army brat, I moved every few years. I've always wondered what it was like to grow up in the same place.
BH: I had a blast growing up here. Friends stay the same through all the years. Most of my friends still come back here for the summer because they're all going to University and whatnot. It's good to see them all and they haven't changed a bit.
KING 5: What music gets you pumped up for a game?
BH: I listen to a bit of country when I'm getting ready for a game. A little rock. Bands: George Strait, Dierks Bentley. For rock it's either AC/DC or Def Leppard, old school rock.
KING 5: Who could you count on when you were here, to keep things loose or play a practical joke?
BH: I would have to say Greg Scott on that one. He was always good at getting the boys to laugh. He's just a funny kid.
KING 5: I just interviewed your former linemate, Greg Scott and he said you're actually quite a funny guy. He also said you're quite the dancer.BH: (laughs) I started doing these dances in the locker room. Nothing specific, just dancing with the music, you know. Just give the boys a laugh.
KING 5: Seriously, Greg says he really enjoyed playing on a line with you and really misses that.
BH: Yeah, Greg's a beauty. Him and his entire family. It was great playing with him. I miss having him on a line, too.
KING 5: Finally, how did you get the name "Bud"?
BH: I'm George Holloway the third. My babysitter actually started calling me "Bud" and it stuck. Now, everyone refers to me as "Bud". Whenever I write my name, unless it's for legal stuff, I always just put "Bud," so that's how I became known.
So there you have it. His name sounds pretty fancy: George Holloway III. But he'd rather you call him "Bud". He has big NHL dreams and has a good chance of seeing those dreams come true. I know the Kings organization is pretty high on him. But come summer, he'd rather be home in the small town where he grew up, helping build a new kitchen for his mom and hanging out and playing road hockey with his friends. But when you think about it, that's what the NHL is really: a bunch of friends playing hockey. Only they make a bit more money. But somehow, I have a feeling that even when Bud makes it to the big league, come summer, you'll find him back home in Wapella, Saskatchewan, population 351 (give or take a few), helping his dad farm, hanging out at his parents restaurant/lounge, or maybe, helping add another room to his family home. One thing's for sure: a game of road hockey will always be on tap