This is the second interview that was taken when the Medicine Hat Tigers were in town to play the Edmonton Oil Kings on January 22nd. Teammates Tyler Pitlick and Tyler Bunz (fondly called the Tylers by Bruce McCurdy and myself) hope to be teammates on the Edmonton Oilers and are able to turn to each other for support and in some ways maybe even competition.
Bruce wrote his interview in the Cult of Hockey, and again my interview can be seen as a continuation. When planning for our interviews Bruce and I decided not to influence each other, inadvertently or not, by discussing our questions before hand. What that did for me, was make me try to come up with questions I just couldn't see Bruce asking, but questions that people might be curious about. Life in the WHL is different from the lives of most teenagers, and even the life of most NHLers. At this point, the players are usually billetted. The younger men, 16 and up are trying to complete a high school degree while playing hockey at this competitive level.
Tyler Bunz was one of those players who struggled to complete his schooling while playing in the WHL. Not only did Bunz succeed however, but he excelled at his educational pursuits. Apparently there are some things that Bunz will remain modest about, but in this case I don't think he should be. The St. Albert son won the 2009-10 Tigers' Scholastic Player of the year award, and not for the first time either. Bunz was a two time winner of this award and at the same time won the CO-MVP award of the 2010 WHL Playoffs.
Tyler Bunz was a wonderful interview, especially since he is a man after my own heart. Given a lead into a question, Bunz can talk to great lengths. Not only that, but Bunz has opinions on everything, again, just like me. Bunz exudes confidence and a natural charisma that will aid him in his future as a hockey player. Given his competitive nature, one can only hope to see him in the NHL in the years to come.
Copper & Blue: You mentioned that you had a bad game last night, what do you do to make sure that you can refocus your mind and get the win tonight? (Bunz had allowed 5 goals against the Red Deer Rebels in a 5-3 loss for the Tigers)
Tyler Bunz: I think you just have to forget about it. I'm going to prepare the same way that I did last night and hopefully come out with a better game. I think today I'm feeling better than I did yesterday . Yesterday I was feeling a bit sluggish and I think that's probably one of the first times all year that I felt a little bit tired during the game. We were playing Red Deer, they're a pretty good team. I'm not sure if it was just nerves or what. That could have been the reason but I'm feeling a lot more confident today and as I've said before it's a new day and hopefully we can get a win tonight.
Copper & Blue: The Oilers have suggest that you work on your skating. Other than that, do you personally feel that you have any weaknesses in your game, maybe your athleticism, style or focus?
Tyler Bunz: I think my athleticism is how I got myself to where I am today. It's kind of what people see in me, my raw athleticism. I think that rebound control and consistency are things that I need to work on for myself. That's what I try to do during games is make sure the rebounds are in a good place for our players to pick up and they're not creating another scoring chance for the other team. With consistency I think I've worked on that a lot this year and it's come a long way. I've had a pretty good season up until last night and I'm looking forward to tonight and getting back on a roll. Every goalie's going to have a bad game on the season and NHL goalies, it happens to them more than once. You've just got to forget about it, it's a new day and there is no better time than now to try to give your team a win.
Copper & Blue: Is there anything besides practicing with the team that you feel you can do to work on your goals and your focus and any aspects of your game that you're hoping to work on?
Tyler Bunz: Mental preparation definitely helps a lot. A lot of this game is more than just the physical part, it's the mental part and I think there is more percentage, I would say, 70-30, 60-40 physical aspect on being ready for the game. I just try to think of things that I have done well before games that I've played well, and then bring that into tonight's game. Definitely I find that the warm-up before the game helps out a lot. You can gauge the game, you feel comfortable or you don't. Based on that you gauge yourself on preparation in the dressing room right after that and if you don't have a good warm-up you have to be able to go in 20 minutes and you have to be able to make sure that you can get the team a win.
Copper & Blue: A lot of NHL players, to work on that mental aspect, are turning to things like yoga and non-traditional workouts. Are you doing anything like that?
Tyler Bunz: Ya, I do hot yoga in the summers here in Edmonton. I think a lot more hockey players are starting to do that, like you said. I've come in contact with a few that I train with that do do that. To be honest I haven't been in the most flexible shape until I started doing that and my flexibility has come a long way. That goes hand in hand with my athleticism. The more flexible you are, the more athletic you are.
Copper & Blue: And that should help with the butterfly.
Tyler Bunz: It does and if you have to make an uncoordinated save you're able to do that, you're not pulling your groin, you're not injuring yourself. That's why I do that as well, to stay injury free during the year. This year I haven't had an injury and I did hot yoga this summer so it's thanks to that. Last year I did get into injury problems at the beginning of the year. That's one of the reasons I got into doing hot yoga.
Copper & Blue: I recently wrote about how NHLers are turning to hot yoga. Sam Gagner of the Oilers has said that he is turning to hot yoga, Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins is doing hot yoga. Thomas doesn't have a style that this might help with, but I'm wondering if younger players are as concerned about their flexibility and are turning to yoga.
Tyler Bunz: There are a couple of players, Kent Simpson of the Everett Silvertips, he's from Edmonton as well and he and I train together during the summer and we do [hot yoga]. The trainer I work with, Blaine Russel, he used to be the goalie coach for the Oil Kings. He got us all into it and he's got goalies ranging from 10-18 doing hot yoga all of the time. It's becoming more popular and if I was asked to recommend it I would. It's brought me a long way, it's not only flexibility I mean any time you're in a 120 degree room you're going to work on your cardio because you're going to sweat a lot. There's more than just flexibility aspects going on and I use that to my advantage.
Copper & Blue: Have you seen or heard of the Oil Change series?
Tyler Bunz: Actually, I watched it earlier in the year, just the one for just I think 5 minutes and then I was on the Oilers web page and saw that it was coming out again pretty soon, in February I think. So, I watched all of the episodes a couple of nights ago. Pretty interesting stuff, stuff you don't necessarily think about as a fan per se, they're probably pretty interested in that. You grow a lot of respect for the older guys, guys like Shawn Horcoff and all of the older guys that were miked up during games and that talked to guys like Hall and Eberle, telling them what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong. It was something that I took note of; the leadership skills the stuff they say in the dressing room and the positivity and not getting down on young guys like those guys. It's definitely going to take your team a long way. They knew that they weren't going to be the best team in the league this year and they're still working on it, they're always in games and they're never getting blown out anymore which is good to see just being a fan for the Oilers.
Copper & Blue: I don't know if they're not getting blown out anymore; I cover a lot of games.
Tyler Bunz: Ya I guess, but watching Oil Change definitely was pretty cool to see, to go behind the scenes and see things that you don't normally get to see.
Copper & Blue: Oilers' fans noted from the last episode of Oil Change that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle kind of have some issues at home. They eat Kraft Dinner, they don't really know what dirty laundry is or what to do with it. Do you feel the same way sometimes? Do you feel that you have some cooking skills?
Tyler Bunz: I wouldn't say that I have good cooking skills. I think that I could make Kraft Dinner, that's one of the things I can make. I would think that I would be in the same position as them without my mom or the billets I think that I would be pretty lost for a couple of years before I started to get on my feet. My agent told me this summer that taking a cooking course wouldn't be a bad idea. It's kind of a feminine thing to do, but I think that any time you can get an advantage like that and be able to cook for yourself as a single person living on your own, or even if you are living with a roommate per se, it's a good advantage and you don't have to go out and eat all of the time or eat stuff that maybe you shouldn't eat.
Copper & Blue: A woman does love a man who can cook.
Tyler Bunz: Oh exactly, that's another reason I thought about it.
Copper & Blue: Do you find it a struggle to balance that personal life, professional life and education balance going?
Tyler Bunz: I'm not in school this year, but last year definitely was a challenge, especially my first year as well when I was 16. You're used to going to school every day, and then you're getting into an environment when you're not in school. You're missing maybe weeks at a time on road trips and you've got to catch up. It was definitely a learning experience for myself and a learning curve as well. Last year focusing on graduating so that I didn't have to go to school again this year was something that I really needed to bear down on and I did graduate with pretty good marks so I'm pretty excited about that and it definitely was a challenge for myself to be doing school and missing it and to have to catch up, make up exams, things like that. The younger guys this year are going through it as well and I'm nothing but supportive of that. They have to come to the rink every day after school . They're tired and they have to focus for every practice or game. It's tough, people don't really think a lot about that, but to be able to do that is really something amazing.
Copper & Blue: Could you imagine doing this, playing in the WHL without the advent of text messaging, Facebook, or blackberry messenger?
Tyler Bunz: Probably not. You're away from home so it's good to stay in touch with everyone and those sorts of things do sometimes get you into trouble, being on the internet where everyone can see it. As long as you start smart with it and use it for what it's for, to keep in touch with people you might not normally see. Skype is good as well. I use it sometimes to talk to my parents and my brother that works up north in a diamond mine. I don't get to see him all that often. Even during the summer if I am home, he's gone all of the time. So, it's good to use skype to talk to him and see how he's doing. Technologies these days are pretty crazy and it's pretty amazing how far its come. To be able to use it to our advantage is pretty cool.
Copper & Blue: Alright thanks, if there is any advice I can give you, don't try to be @biznasty3point0, that's my only advice.
Tyler Bunz: [Laughs], alright will do.
Photograph Courtesy Bruce McCurdy all rights reserved
Tyler Bunz did have another "bad game" allowing 5 goals for the Edmonton Oil Kings, but as this game went to a shootout and a Medicine Hat Tigers 6-5 win I don't think Bunz was as upset as his team's 5-3 loss to the Red Deer Rebels.
A player being billeted is nothing new, but there are new technologies that might make things easier on both the player and the families. The hockey season is long, and to move away from your family at 16 is a sacrifice that many players must make. Not every family is in the position to move their lives to wherever their child is signed and that must have consequences on both professional and personal development.
Things have changed since the days of Bobby Orr and I would venture to guess that new technologies for communication have only made lives better for young professional athletes. Being able to communicate with loved ones back home would be a boost to not only the feelings of well being growing up, but would be a source of positive affirmation from a trusted and loved source. It's positive to see players like Bunz who have spent a few years of adolescence more or less separated from their family excelling not only as a professional athlete but as an individual as well.