Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni Interview: Brad Thiessen

Can you imagine finishing up your Junior Season in University, signing your first NHL deal and hoisting the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Historic Joe Louis Arena, all in a span of a couple of months?

That was the reality for Hobey Baker Trophy finalist Brad Thiessen in the spring of 2009.

After Stacking up an impressive record for the Northeastern Huskies, earning a record of 25-12-4, posting a goals against average of 2.11 and 3 shutouts, claiming a trove of awards and setting records along the way. Brad opted out of his senior year of University, electing to sign a deal with the Penguins, eventually finding a home on the Penguins ‘09 Black Aces Squad.

This article breaks down Brad’s experience as part of the Black Aces Squad:

After his stint with the Pittsburgh/Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, that lasted 4 Seasons. Brad spent time in Helsinki, Norfolk and Adirondack building on his already impressive resume, eventually settling in with the Cleveland Monsters.

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In May of 2016, Brad inked a new two-year deal with the 2016 AHL Calder Cup Champion – Cleveland Monsters. He had a highly productive 2015-2016 season, posting a record of 12-4-2, with 3 shutouts & 1.95 goals against average. He also spent some time in Cincinnati with the Cyclones where in 2015-2016 he appeared in 19 games going 10-4-2-2, a goals against average of 1.89 and a 934 save percentage.

When you read the list of personal and professional achievements Brad has garnered to date, you may be surprised to learn that he has accomplished them all by the age of 30, which in itself is an impressive feat.

You do not need a crystal ball to see he has several productive years left in the tank and the only uncertainty that exists in his career is just how many more accolades he will earn before he enters retirement.

In 08-09, you appeared in all 41 games, finishing with a record of 25-12-4 and recorded a 2.12 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. What was that experience like for you, in terms of the physical toll it took on your body and also from a psychological standpoint (Staying focused and resetting after a loss)?

The two years prior to my third year really helped me prepare for that season when I played every game. One of the reasons I chose to go to NU was the chance to play a lot and I was given that opportunity right away.  This gave me the chance to work through things like learning how to deal with losses or a stretch of games where I wasn’t at my best by putting it behind me and moving on to the next one. The third year was really a culmination of us as a group coming together and putting everything we had learned to use which made for a lot of winning.

At the conclusion of that season you signed the deal with the Penguins (April 3rd, 2009) and a couple of months later, you were on the ice hoisting the Stanley Cup after game 7 at the Joe Louis Arena, in front of 20,000 people. Can you discuss your experience being a part of the “Black Aces” squad and what some of the largest personal and professional lessons you took away from that experience were?

I was really fortunate to sign with the Penguins following that college season and joining them on their run to the cup. At first I was a bit in awe at being around all the guys that you had previously watched on tv, but it was a huge learning lesson being able to get a first hand look at how to be true pro’s. From seeing how hard a guy like Sidney Crosby worked at his game in practice, to watching how Marc-Andre Fleury would put a bad game like game five in the finals behind him to come back with two big wins or seeing older players like Hal Gill and Bill Guerin who were closer to the end of their careers and how much winning meant to them there were lots of lessons to learn.

Part two of that question: Was it a difficult choice between finishing your fourth year at Northeastern & signing the professional contract, and can you discuss some of the factors you weighed in making the decision?

It was a hard decision to leave Northeastern and give up my fourth year of university in the fact that I loved being a student. Those years are some of the most memorable of my life, but I knew it was time to move on because on the hockey side of things I felt I had done all I needed to and was ready for the next challenge.

Did you know the Penguins were interested in acquiring your services?

As my third year went on I knew that I had some interest from NHL teams but wasn’t really sure from who until after our season was over, which was the way I wanted it to be so it didn’t take away from my focus on the ice. Now NU head coach Jim Madigan was a scout for Pittsburgh at the time and was a big part of me signing with the Penguins.

Last season you spent part of the season in the ECHL after being “Loaned” to the Cincinnati Cyclones, was it a difficult transition for you to make, in terms of the flow of the game and did you have to make many adjustments to your training and preparation?

I knew last season I was going to be spending some time in Cincinnati so I went into it with an open mind. You have to take more ownership of your own game I found playing in the ECHL. There are no goalie coaches or a lot of extra resources at your disposal so you really have to make sure you are on top of things yourself if you want to stay sharp and play your best. I really enjoyed my time in Cincinnati, the coaches and staff were great to work with, good group of teammates and was a nice city to live in.

What are your personal/professional goals for the new season and did you view your contract extension as a vote of confidence?

Heading into the season I don’t like setting numerical goals, I just want to make sure I am doing everything I can to be ready for the opportunities I get and give the team a chance to win, the numbers will take care of themselves. The organization wanting to sign me for two more years to stay in Cleveland was a great vote of confidence, it’s great to be able to have my family here and continue to build on our success from last season.

In 2008, your hometown Aldergrove, BC received an PJHL (Professional Junior Hockey League) Franchise (The Aldergrove Kodiaks), what type of impact do you feel the team would have on the community, and do you feel it will impact young people looking to get into the game?

To be honest I’ve only spent summers at home since 2006 so I’ve never seen a Kodiaks game in Aldergrove but I would assume that for the kids playing hockey in the community it is a team that they can look to and aspire to play for them one day.

Hockey players are noted to have some interesting superstitions, do you have any pre/post-game rituals that you are able to share?

I’m not really a superstitious guy, I don’t like to have certain things I have to do in order to play well in the chance that I don’t do those certain things. Just normal taping of sticks, stretching, maybe playing some soccer or hanging out with teammates in order to stay loose.

When did you decide you wanted to become a Goalie? and who were some of your earliest influences?

I played one year of hockey where I tried all the positions but after that I stuck to being a goalie. I liked having the pressure on me, good and bad which comes from the position. My favorite goalie growing up was Felix Potvin, “the cat”. I always liked his nickname and had cool equipment so I was drawn to him.

What are some of your interests away from the rink?

Away from the rink I enjoy spending time with my wife and two kids, going for walks, playing at the park or trips out for some ice cream. I also enjoy golfing when I get the chance.

Most painful injury?

Most painful injury was probably a torn mcl suffered while I played in Norfolk. The injury itself was painful when it happened but was made worse by the fact our other goalie had already left the game with an injury so I was stuck playing the rest of the game.


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