Q&A with the Erie Otters’ Rob Hisey
By Ken McKenna
Following a season that featured an appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament, the Erie Otters found themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory to start the 2003-03 campaign. Otters’ coach Dave MacQueen and his charges were staring at a sub-.500 record in early November, with the team unable to rekindle the fire that took them to the top of the OHL the previous season.
As teams tend to do in these situations, the Otters pulled the trigger on a six-player deal that brought in some new blood from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. For Erie, the centerpiece of that trade was Rob Hisey, a playmaking center from the Toronto area. Hisey was coming off of a strong rookie season in the ‘Soo’, and was off to a productive start in 02-03 before being traded.
Not long after Hisey arrived in Erie, the Central Scouting Service announced their preliminary rankings for the 2003 prospects, with Rob sitting at #21 amongst the North American skaters. That honor was an affirmation of the center’s considerable skill, and was proof that a player of his smaller stature (5’9″, 175 lbs.) could still grab the attention of the scouts in an era where larger players tend to get most of the press.
Hisey has been Erie’s best offensive player since coming to the team, leading the Otters in points while also sitting at 20th in scoring in the OHL. His draft ranking dropped at bit in the CSS’s Mid-Term Rankings, with Rob now rated the 81st skater in North America. In spite of this drop, Hisey certainly has enough offensive creativity and natural ability to get some attention in the upper portion of the 2003 NHL Draft.
This writer had the opportunity to interview Rob, with the transcript of that chat being presented below.
HF: How has the experience been so far of coming over from Sault Ste. Marie to Erie?
RH: It’s been great. All the guys have been real nice to me. The fans have been great, and it’s a great city to play hockey in.
HF: How would you compare your current coach, Dave MacQueen, to your former coach with the Greyhounds, John Vanbiesbrouck?
RH: I think they’re kind of similar in the kind of game they want played. They’re both smart hockey men, so I guess I’ve been fortunate to be taught by smart hockey people.
HF: Isn’t Vanbiesbrouck kind of a fiery guy? That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.
RH: No, he was a good coach, and a good motivator. I have nothing but good things to say about him.
HF: You’re ranked in the CSS’s top 100 North American skaters. How do you feel about that ranking?
RH: I think it’s pretty nice that people are noticing my talent by ranking me that high. But I try not to concentrate on that stuff. I try to concentrate on helping the team win, and doing the right things on the ice. At the end of the season, if I were fortunate to get drafted, that would be great.
HF: I guess you’re more of an offensive player, but what types of things do you do well that have gotten you noticed by the scouts?
RH: I think I can see the ice pretty well. I can read the play, and I have a little bit of speed, which helps my game. Creativeness offensively is my game, pretty much.
HF: I noticed that your favorite players are Steve Sullivan and Martin St. Louis. So you prefer the smaller, aggressive and offensively gifted players more?
RH: Yeah, I kind of like to model my game after the guys in the NHL, because they are there for a reason. They’re kind of my stature, and kind of the way I play. I love watching them play, they’re really exciting players.
HF: You’ve come over to a team that made it to the Memorial Cup finals last year. There are still players here from that team- did you sense that there was some lingering disappointment when you first came to the team, which may have contributed to a slow start?
RH: Well, from Day 1 here it has been a winning mentality; everyone wants to win. But I think, with the new faces coming in, and Carlo coming back, maybe it took a little while to get used to the new faces. That’s no excuse, we should still be winning games
HF: You also play some soccer. Is that a sport that you are equally good at?
RH: Yeah, I used to play at the highest level of soccer that you can play, until about Bantam or AAA hockey. Then I had to choose between either one of the sports, so I chose hockey because it has been my love forever. I still play soccer, like when I go back to high school, I play on the high school team. I really enjoy it; it’s a lot of fun.
HF: Do you use some of those soccer skills in your game on the ice?
RH: For sure. It helps me with some of my footwork on the ice. In any sport, you can transfer over skills from other sports.
HF: Are there any other sports that you play besides hockey and soccer?
RH: I play baseball. That’s another high school sport that I used to play.
HF: You’re originally from Oakville, which is the Toronto area. And yet, you were an Edmonton Oilers fan- you heretic, you! What is it about the Oilers that make them your favorite team?
RH: No, actually, when I was growing up, until I was about 13 or 14, I was a Leafs fan because that is the only thing I knew, really. But, since I’ve been more aware of the game, I started liking the style of play that Edmonton has. They have a lot of smaller guys, a lot of speed, they’re just exciting to watch.
HF: Looking ahead, what sorts of things do you think you need to improve on a bit to maybe move up in the ratings?
RH: I think my defensive game has to get better, and the coaches here are trying to help me out with that. It really hasn’t been harped on that much up to this point in my career. The other thing is shooting the puck a lot more. I like to give the nice little pass, but sometimes it’s better to fire the puck.
HF: Would you say that you are kind of a similar player to Brad Boyes?
RH: Well, he’s a pretty good player to be compared to. I don’t know if I’m that level of player. I think we do some things similar, but he’s been a great player. I can’t compare myself to him.
HF: I’ll let you go. Thanks, Rob, I appreciate your time.
RH: Thanks, I appreciate it.