One on One with Belfast Giant, Kevin Saurette

(Photo: Micheal Cooper)
(Photo: Micheal Cooper)

Kevin Saurette has a been a huge part of the Belfast Giants line up since joining the squad in the 2012-2013 season. The 34 year old from Winnipeg, Manitoba has experienced almost every kind of league there is in the hockey world. From lacing them up with the Regina Pats in the WHL, to grinding it out at the University of Manitoba, then making a name for himself in the AHL, ECHL before jumping across the pond. Before landing in Ireland, Saurette spent 5 years in Germany between three different teams. It was quite an honour and pleasure to ask some questions about his lengthy career. He gives a great explanation of the EIHL.

March Hockey: You’ve played in North America, Europe and now the past three seasons in the UK, what if any, is the biggest difference of the game between these three places?

Kevin Saurette: In North America the ice surface is smaller so the game is very quick and you have very little time to make decisions on the ice.  It is also a younger league than overseas as most of the players are fresh out of junior or college and are trying to make the N.H.L

 
In Europe, the game is more about skating and creating plays with skilled passing and puck movement.  With the bigger ice you have more time to get your head up and make a play.  It is also less physical as you cannot afford to go for the big hit and risk taking yourself out of the play.
In the U.K., the style of game is a mixture between Europe and North America.  Most of the arenas have olympic ice so there is room to make plays and skate but with many of the imports coming from North America, there is also a rugged and tough aspect to the game.  In my opinion, the EIHL is an underrated league when compared to other European leagues but it does seem that the secret is out.  More and more high quality players are signing here every season and hopefully this will continue.
Saurette in Germany.(Photo: Kevin Niedereder)
Saurette in Germany.(Photo: Kevin Niedereder)

MH: Spending five years in Germany, was the language barrier ever an issue on the ice? Or is the “language” of hockey fairly universal?

KS: I think the language of hockey is universal but you do definitely run into some language barriers your first few years in Europe.  My first year in Germany the coach never spoke one word of English so that was something to get used to.  I was also captain for a few years in Germany when my German speaking was not that great.  There was many times where the ref was explaining a penalty or play and I had no idea what he was telling me.  I then had to go back to the bench and basically lie to the coach about what the ref had told me.  It was pretty ridiculous at times ha.

MH: Belfast has kept pretty much the same squad as last year. With a couple games already been played, is the same togetherness that captured the league still there?

KS: For sure, we have a great group in Belfast.  We all get a long and have a lot of laughs together.  We also all want to win and there is no selfishness on the team.  That was one of the biggest reasons why we were so successful last season.  We all wanted to win for each other.  The new guys we have signed have fit in well and look great on the ice so hopefully we can duplicate the same success we had last year.

MH: You’re a veteran and a natural leader with the Giants. What do you use as a motivation factor to get not only yourself but some of the other lads going, especially ones that are new to the team AND country?

KS: On this team, there is not much need to try and motivate others.  We have a very experienced group that all know how to play the game and how to get themselves ready for games.  For myself, I just try to work hard every shift and try to have fun while doing it.  We are lucky to be able to play hockey as a profession and I think sometimes we as players forget that.

MH: What’s your pre-game routine look like?

(Photo: Micheal Cooper)
(Photo: Micheal Cooper)

KS: My pre-game routine is pretty simple:

Spaghetti for lunch, grab a nap, Get to the rink 2 1/2 hours before the game, have a coffee, tape my sticks, play two touch, bike and stretch and then go out for warm up.  It has changed through the years but now it is more about staying loose and having some fun.

MH:  If you could watch any two teams, from anywhere and any era, who would it be and why?

KS: It would be great to see the 1987 Team Canada team who beat the soviets in the Canada Cup finals play the 2014 Team Canada, who just won Olympic Gold in Sochi.  It would be very interesting to see how much the game has changed in twenty years.  The players today are machines and that Sochi team, in my opinion, is the best team the hockey world has ever seen.  However, in 1987, the two best players in the history of the game,Gretzky and Lemieux, were in their primes and played on a line together.  They couldn’t be stopped then but I wonder how they would do against today’s  best defenceman.

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