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Alex Hicks, Penguins Left Winger, 1996-1998

APRIL 1, 2013

Alex Hicks:

First, can you let readers know about your  job at the Desert Youth Hockey Association in Phoenix – how you got started and what you like most as a coach?

I am an assistant hockey director at DYHA.  My responsibility is to communicate with all of the associations coaches and managers about scheduling, tournaments, concussion awareness and testing, hockey operations and strategies.  I began coaching when my three kids took up hockey.  I did not want to at first because I wanted them to learn the game on their own.   I soon found out that I was needed on the ice and I began helping right away.  I have loved every minute of it.
 
How difficult has it been to drum up interest in hockey in the Phoenix area and how have you done so?

Hockey is very popular in Phoenix.  Phoenix has had a professional team in the city at various levels since the early 70′s.  There are countless people who have moved here from hockey hotbed cities like Chicago and Detroit.  It is not difficult to get people involved.
 
As a coach, who are some of the players and coaches that most influenced your coaching style today, and how so?
 
The coach that most influenced me was Kevin Constantine as he was a stickler for details..  He was very demanding to play for but ultimately he was fair.  I find myself molding into a version of him.  I also try to use my success and struggles as a player to teach the players I coach valuable hockey and life lessons..

You were traded to the Penguins from Anaheim in ’96. How difficult was that for you and how did you adjust?
 
It was very difficult at first as I was new to the league and just starting to feel comfortable in Anaheim.  I loved playing for the Ducks and I felt that I was a great fit for them.  That all changed when I got to Pitt and I was welcomed right away by both the team and city. 

I loved Pittsburgh and it was a sad day for me when I left.

How would you describe yourself as a player and how did you mesh with that Penguins roster?

I was a hard working tenacious player.  I played as hard as possible and was always there to help my teammates.  I was a typical blue collar type worker and I really fit in well with the team and city.
 
Who were some of the biggest characters on that Penguins team and what made them so? Any examples of the hijinks/personalities on that team?

I always admired Jaromir Jagr for how good he was.  I don’t think he ever got the credit for how hard he worked off the ice because he lifted weight after every game we played.  He always had a smile on his face and he kept the mood light. 

At the time he was the best player in the league and I thought that was cool.
 
That turned out to be the year of Mario Lemieux’s first retirement. How was that received by the players and staff – what was the effect the announcement and his health had on the team?

Mario was always quiet and reserved.  When he did speak however, we all listened.  His announcement came as a shock to all of us and left a great deal of uncertainty moving forward.  Ultimately Ron Francis took control of the team the next year and did a great job leading us to a successful season.
 
That year, Eddie Johnston was released near the end of the season and General Manager Craig Patrick took over as coach. How did the players react to that move – especially with the GM now being your coach?

It was stressful when all that came down.  Eddie was a players coach and let us figure most things out ourselves. The guys on the team loved him.  When he was fired there was a great deal of remorse on the players part that we let him down. 

Craig was very easy to play for and the transition was fine.  We just ran into a horrible matchup for the playoffs..

There’s a great deal of movement between leagues and cities for hockey players. How does that affect you – both on and off the ice – as a player?

You just get used to it… You learn to never get too comfortable…
 
What is the biggest misperception you think fans have about hockey players and the sport itself?

I don’t think there is too much of a misperception.  We are all just regular guys playing a great sport.  The fans always seemed to relate with us real well.

What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh?

My favorite memory in Pittsburgh was my first game with the team after I was traded.  I played on a line with Mario and Jagr..  Wow…

Chris Dahlquist, Penguins Defenseman, 1985-1988, 1989-1991

APRIL 28, 2013

 

First, can you let readers know about your post-NHL career – how you got started in the financial business and what you enjoy most about it?

My first taste of the financial service industry came in the fall of 1994 while playing for Ottawa Senators. As an NHLPA Player representative during the 94′ Owner Lockout, the deadlocked negotiations with the owners sure seemed like the season might get lost. With that in mind I joined a small investment firm in Minneapolis and got my first taste of the financial service industry.  I continued to spent a portion of my office season gaining additional experience until retirement.

Since Retiring in 1998 I have grown a Financial Service business with Prudential Financial, focusing on Individual Asset management and helping small businesses with their benefits coordination. I really enjoy the diversity of my practice. Whether it is helping individuals work through the challenges they face in growing their assets or working with business owners to help them build sustainable benefit packages in these uncertain times gives me a different challenge daily.

From a family standpoint, I’m very fortunate to have my own business and the flexibility of schedule to help coach both my son Chad and daughter Charly during their youth hockey years.

What lessons from your playing career and coaches have helped you most to prepare for this line of work, and how so?

As a professional athlete, you have pressure to perform on a daily basis. There is an instant response to good or bad performance. As a player, you need the ability to rebound from a bad shift and not get too excited after a good one. Consistency and persistency is an invaluable trait when dealing with the volatility of the financial markets and the growing of a business.

And obviously it never hurts clients relationships in Minnesota if you can give a good hockey story or two about Badger Bob Johnson or Mario Lemieux.

How difficult has it for you to transition from the NHL to a second career – and how were you able to do so?

The transition to a more rigid work schedule was not as big a hurdle as I thought it would be. Pro athletes reach that level through sacrifice and regimented work. The greatest challenge when transitioning out of the game for me was the drop in income. A major decision I made when playing was to defer some of my earnings till after retirement. This allowed my family to maintain our current lifestyle (with a few downward adjustments) while I grew my practice to a level we needed. There have been and continue to be hurdles with the balancing of life but last year I reach a milestone. After thirteen years as a financial advisor, this is now my longest career.

You read today about the struggles many NFL players face in transitioning from football to a post-sports career. How does the NHL help players do so – if at all, and is the issue as big with former NHL players as it is with NFL ones?

The NHL didn’t offer much support when leaving the league. In their defense, I don’t think it is owner’s responsibility to prepare or protect their players when its time to leave their employment. The responsibility lies with the players and the NHLPA. The PA is better equipt to oversee this and have done a better job of late. They sponsor “After Hockey”

You first made it to the NHL in ’85 with the Penguins. Who helped you adjust to the NHL – both on and off the ice -and how did they do so? Any examples?

Tough guy Steve Martinson of the Flyers organization gave me fighting lesson the summer before my 1st year. I figured since he set the AHL penalty minute record that he had some experience. He obviously wasn’t that impressed with me since he was my opponent in my first fight as a pro. In an exhibition game he came out and lined-up across from me at the face-off and said, “Coach told me to “Go-you” since you’re running around”. I was taught right then that there are no friends when you have a job to do and never let up on anyone…friend or foe.

You were known to be a tough defenseman not afraid to fight. But were there aspects of your game you felt were under-rated because of your “tough-guy” role?

That reputation of me being a tough-guy fighter is probably a little over-rated. Out of necessity I was a big body checker and that just resulted in some scuffles.

Who were some of the toughest players you went up against during your NHL career, and what made them so?

Cam Neely, Gary Roberts, Keith Tkachuk…stats say it all  50 goals- 200 PIMS

After over five years in the Pittsburgh organization, you found yourself in Minnesota. What prompted the move and how difficult was that transition for you?

I was actually only in Pittsburgh for five years before the trade to Minnesota. The first move is always the hardest for an athlete but I think Bob Johnson said it best when he called the house to tell me about the trade. Badger said, “I have some good news and some bad news. Bad news is we traded you today…but the good news is you’re going home.” Going back to Minnesota made that first trade transition a lot easier for us.

How has the game changed, from your perspective, since you played, especially as it relates to the role of the enforcer/tough guy?

The game has gotten much more defensive than the 90′s. There were typically five to six defensive specialist on each team. I can’t think of more than a dozen players in the league that would block shots. It is expected today that your 50 goal scorer dives in front of shots. Paul Cofee would always say after blocking a shot that he just lifted the wrong leg.

What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh?

Day one of my first training camp when I was training on the bike next to Giles Meloche (39 yrs old) and I told him that my squirt team used to hand out Oakland Golden Seals Stickers back when he was playing for them.

Getting engaged to my wife of 25 years Jeanie while going down the Mt Washington Incline on Christmas Eve 1986.

Sweeping NYR in 1988-89 playoffs and the fans throwing bottles at our bus as we drove out from under Madison Square Gardens.

The Penguin Christmas Dinner at the Igloo with my wife at a table with 19-year-old Rob Brown and his 16-year-old date…Alyssa Milano and her nanny.

Watching Zarley Zalapski’s dad save EJ Johnson with the Hiemlich maneuver when he was choking on a piece of steak.

Assisting on Mario Lemieux’s 4th goal of the night during my first NHL Game in St. Louis. Little did I know his seven-point night would be more points than I would get in my next three years.

Scoring a goal in my third NHL game and then going 70 games before my next.