You can never get into the game too early and pond hockey often ices the way for many player beginnings. For Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman Zach Redmond, the cold Michigan winter sparked a love early on and he never looked back.
“I got into hockey when I was three or four, one of my dad’s friends have given him a few pairs of skates for my brother and I. We have a lake behind our house that used to freeze over, and I just started messing around on there. Eventually, my Dad signed us up, we didn’t know any better and we just kept going from there.”
Youth hockey is often all consuming and having just one sibling play is usually never an option. Redmond’s parents proved to be a key success in getting their sons into the game and while Redmond has made a career on the ice, the sport isn’t all consuming nowadays for his family.
“Not so much anymore, everyone has done other things. My brother was always a big part of hockey with me, but he’s working now. For awhile there it was consuming a lot of time with our parents.”
Similar to his NHL peers, admiring a professional player growing up is part of the game. For Redmond, it was a Red Wings superstar that caught his attention.
“I guess Steve Izerman was huge, we lived around Detroit and he was great to watch.”
Finding the ability to be an offensive force comes easier to some. Taking a slot behind the blue-line is far less natural, but for those with the defensive talent, when you know, you know.
“I think I was about 8 or 9 and the team I was on was short a defenseman, I kind of went back, started playing there and it stuck with me.”
It takes a strong support system to surpass expectations and find success on the NHL ice. For Redmond, the support came from and still radiates from everyone around him.
“I don’t know if I can single anyone out, but my family in general has always been supportive.”
While the support of those around you is a necessity, it’s the mindset of hard work that pushes you to further yourself both on the ice and off of it. Often the hard work doesn’t pay off, but for those who have the gift and the means to push themselves, the opportunities are endless.
“My guess is that it’s pretty cliche, but I guess I always heard, if you work hard enough and you really want it bad enough, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t have it. That seems to be what’s gotten me here.”
Two seasons within the United States Hockey League spent with the Sioux Falls Stampede, followed by a full four years at Ferris State University is perhaps not the typical route. More often than not, players forgo the final years of college eligibility for a shot at the pros, Redmond chose the lengthier route. The route proved beneficial, drafted in 2008 by the Atlanta Thrashers, his rights were transferred to the Winnipeg Jets during the teams relocation. Redmond has found the opportunity to develop within the American Hockey League and spent time with both the St. Johns Icecaps and the Jets last season.
“The way I developed, I didn’t go the quick route by any means, four years of college and two years of Junior. I learned a lot of important lessons in Juniors and then going into college, I felt ready and wanted to step-in right away. Everything seemed to work out perfectly for me and I finished all four years. Then playing in St. Johns, you go through your rookie slumps, but you take and learn from those. Every little part of your career sticks with you and by the time you get your chance in the NHL you hope to be pretty well rounded.”
Memories of the greatest moment can vary from player to player. Redmond summed up his greatest memory and accomplishment in four little words with a much larger meaning.
“Making it the NHL”
This past February proved an exciting and scary month for the 25-year-old. After scoring his first NHL goal on the 7th against James Reimer of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Redmond found himself making headlines for a much scarier aspect of the game. On February 20th, Redmond was rushed to a Raleigh, North Carolina area hospital after suffering a laceration to his right femoral artery and vein in his mid-thigh region. The accident occurred after being cut by a teammate’s skate. Happy to put it in the past, Redmond has made strides, finding himself back into an off-season routine.
“Good, it’s all behind me now, I stopped physical therapy about two months ago now and just been doing regular old everyday workouts. It’s going really well.”
With the season fast approaching and camps opening on September 11th, preparations for the new season are underway, that means pushing yourself to be a better player than the season before.
“You can always improve on your strength and conditioning and preparing yourself mentally for training camp and giving it your best shot.”
Playing for any team is a blessing, but skating in front of a Canadian audience game in and out is a different experience entirely. After missing the Jets for so long, fans have welcomed their team back to Winnipeg with open hearts.
“It kind of rings true with all Canadian markets, they really know their hockey, love their hockey and they’re really tied into the players, it’s pretty easy to play for fans that care so much and support you so well even through the tough times. They couldn’t support us any more than they already do, it’s always loud and it’s special to show up to the rink every game.”
A team player on the ice, like many players in the game, it’s the same mindset off of it.
“I don’t think it changes much to be honest, I guess I’d like to think I’m the same off the ice as I am on it. Just try to be a good person and there for whoever needs me.”
Both the team and fans in Winnipeg will be needing the American defenseman to protect their blue-line this season, and with any luck, that’s exactly what they’ll be getting with Redmond on the roster.