Interview with Samuel Solensky

Uverejnil: cjhl
Prečítané: 902x

We have interviewed Samuel Solenský during the Christmas holiday. A 20-year NAHL /North American Hockey League/ hockey player, native of Michalovce (Slovakia), is at this time the leader of top scorers of the whole currently running competition. We believe, that Sam could be good example and inspiration for all young players of CJHL...

You started playing hockey in Michalovce. What are your memories of these early years?

I do not remember much of my early years. As my parents told me, I had not been very excited at the beginning. They had to motivate me and so I was rewarded for every well-performed training session.

You spent one season in Jindřichov Hradec (Czech republic) as a youth. What did make you to go there? How was it for an 11-year old boy to be so far away from the family?

It was a great experience. In my opinion, I gained a lot in both terms – the human values and hockey. I got many chances to fine-tune my playing style in Jindřichov Hradec and I played against top teams such as Sparta, Slavia and Plzeň. My host, or “surrogate”, family treated me as their own son and we are still in contact. Hence, I have only nice memories.

Later on, after a season spent in your native town Michalovce, an engagement in Liberec followed. Your family joined you and moved to Liberec.

That's right. There was no further space which would drive me to a higher level in Michalovce. At that time, the junior team had been playing only in the first league and when a chance to leave had arisen, I did not hesitate. We all had moved there mainly because we knew that it would be for longer period than one year. On the other hand, leaving the family in such an early age would not probably have had a positive impact.

Five seasons in the north part of Czechia, how do you recall that period?

It was wonderful period, which I love to call to my mind. The start had not been easy; neither was the engagement a bed of roses. All in all, I won twice the national title “Champion of the Czech Republic” and one bronze medal in 5 years. I played side by side with players who are in NHL now. It definitely pushed me a step ahead.

You left Liberec for the USA. Firstly, you attended tryouts there. Describe to us how such a tryout looks like...

I had not a faintest idea what should I expect, neither were there many people to tell me something about it. There had been 120 boys trying to join a team when I arrived. However, in reality, composition of a team at that time is nearly complete and there are only 3-5 places left on the team roster. Since the average participation fee at a tryout is USD 400, it is a big business for the Organization. In addition, personal costs such as air tickets, boarding and accommodation shall be added to that sum...

Eventually, you have been tied up with the Johnstown Tomahawks team in NAHL. How did that happen?

I had started the season in USHL, but they did not put me on the final roster. As a result, the officers thanked me for attendance and advised that a team from NAHL would pass through the town in 30 minutes. Supposedly, they said that if I wanted to play for that team, they would stop by. I rushed to pack up my stuff, sat at the parking place on my hockey bag and waited for the bus.

Could you brief us about the operation mode of a junior team in the US? What are the conditions that have been created for the players like?

The conditions in our team are comparable to those of the senior hockey in Europe. We have got all we need. 3,000 spectators on average come to watch the games and the people in Johnstown are very keen on ice hockey.

You are playing in the NAHL, which the Slovak media also call the “lower level overseas junior competition”. How do you view its standard?

Since the USHL, which is deemed the highest level, involves as few as 15 teams from all over the USA, it is extremely difficult to get there. Just to compare: as far as I know, a small country such as Slovakia counts 16 teams in the junior extra league... However, I can serenely state that the top teams from NAHL would definitely go far in the USHL.

You had a chance to try the above mentioned USHL during your first overseas season. Is there a big difference between the two competitions?

The major difference rests in the fact that the USHL players are younger than those in the NAHL. These are usually 17-year old boys, who play in USHL only for one year. After this period they are drafted and they immediately play hockey for a university team. We have got more “senior” players in the NAHL, e.g. 10 members of our team are 20 years old already.

You have been playing in Johnstown for the third season. Your team failed to make it to play-off last season; nevertheless, this very team is the best one in the whole NAHL today. What has changed that you are doing so well now?

The portfolio of players went through profound recast in summer. New players have instantly fitted themselves into the team and they play on key positions. Last season was a disaster and that was the reason why we wished very much to change the situation this year.

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Your team has booked 17 wins in a row. Has this fact drawn people's attention to your team in Johnstown?

We had had a perfect start in this season and that helped a lot. Nothing has changed in terms of people's attention. It is not the same as in Slovakia. The fans come at all times! Despite that we had not won many games last year, people supported us! You would rarely see such a support back in Slovakia.

You are also well performing in individual ranking. You are currently listed as the most productive player of the competition. Satisfied?

Well, whole team is on the roll at the moment and we are successful. Score-wise, a contributor is the whole team; it is not just about me. I have perfect team mates, we make up a great bunch of buddies in a dressing room and this is also reflected on ice.

Host families is quite usual mode of living for young players in America. Is it your case too? How does such coexistence look like? What are your duties in the household?

I am on homestay too. I have to say that my host family takes perfect care of me, I do not miss anything. Being a hockey player, you have to adhere to your schedule and I usually do not see the family members earlier than in the evening. The operation mode is fairly similar to that of a regular household, we help each other.

Next season, you are going to play for the Bemidji State University in NCAA. Based on what we know, this has always been the university league which you were focused on during your stay in the USA. Why?

I have decided to go for the Bemidji State because, in my opinion, I can make progress there both in terms of hockey and human values. It took me time and much effort, but I am glad to have made it there.

For the time being, your career development seems to meet your visions. It was not easy, that's for sure. What would be your recommendation to young hockey players? What should they do or possibly even sacrifice to make their hockey dreams come true?

First of all, they must love hockey, because it will not be always as easy as they wish and it is exactly in the hard times that you have to put more effort in it. Furthermore, having right people around is also an important element.

What is your most beautiful memory or major success in your career history?

There are many experiences and memories. I love recalling the title wins in Liberec. Each game I had played for the national team was a great success. And I was probably the most proud when I had been appointed a captain of the national team at the U18 World Championship in America. Then, of course, I should mention my enrolment to the Bemidji State. These are the greatest moments for me.

You represented the SR in the U17 category; acted as the captain in the U18 category in the World Championship, which you also attended with U20. Do you intend to wear the most valuable jersey, i.e. that of the senior national team?

It would be great to play for a senior team someday, but I am realistic. With hard work put in and steady progress, I believe to achieve my goal one day.

Your little brother is also a hockey player. Do you give him some advice from the position of a big brother? Being a shooter, you may advise him, a goal-keeper, as to what is the best trick to use on forwards.

We do not talk about hockey very much. We support each other, but we discuss other topics back home.

It has been quite a long time since you could spend Christmas with your family at home. What does it mean to you?

It really means a lot to me. I travelled a lot in recent years and haven’t had a chance to spend much time with my family. It is primarily my parents to whom I want to tell “thank you” for all I have achieved so far. If it weren’t for their help and dedication, I definitely wouldn’t able to make it. So, I enjoyed the time at home very much.

Did you bring the presents with or did you do “last minute” Christmas shopping?

I brought the presents from America, so I enjoyed the quiet atmosphere at home.

What would you wish to the CJHL players and to other players for the year 2019?

I wish them health, happiness and that they have fun with hockey and enjoy it. Above all, ice hockey is “just” a game.

After his short stay in Michalovce, Samuel returned to the USA, where he was expected to play a game scheduled for 30 December after a short break. Having followed his excellent performance in 2018, Sam booked 4 points for 2 goals and 2 assistances on his account. The very next day, he had shot a winning goal in the overtime and his team won 3:2. He had shot his 20th goal in the current season as early as in the 14th second of the overtime. To this effect, Sam became the best shooter in club's history (46 goals). He enjoyed this historical moment in front of 3,256 fans!


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