After four years playing for the Yale Bulldogs, defenseman Jeff Dwyer joined the Chicago Wolves for 11 games at the end of the 2003-04 season. The 2000 Atlanta Thrashers draftee signed a rookie contract with the club and was assigned to the Wolves this fall. He played only seven games, however, hampered by a groin injury.
Deemed healthy, he was sent to the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators this week to ramp back up to game shape. He was playing in his second game on Saturday when he left the game in the third period, having re-injured his groin.
Hockey’s Future spoke to an emotional Dwyer following the Gladiators’ 4-3 loss to the Lynx in Augusta.
HF: Can you talk about your injury and your rehab up to this point?
JD: I pulled my groin November 5th. And then rehabbed it for about two weeks. And then I tried to come back because it was feeling OK, and then my first drill in practice I re-injured it. So then they told me just to take a month off, as much time as I needed, and I did that. Icing it every day, going to rehab. And then in practice the last two weeks I felt pretty good. I came down here for a few games just to get my wind back and stuff, and then I think I might have just repulled it out there.
HF: What kind of play was it when it happened?
JD: I tried to turn around and take a slapshot and I kind of missed it, and I tried to take one quick stride and I felt it go. And then a few shifts later, I took a slapshot and it was hurting more.
HF: You played in seven games with Chicago this year, how do you think you were doing?
JD: I thought I was doing really well. I had improved a lot in seven games, and the game I got injured I actually had my first two points. And then unfortunately I got injured so that kind of halted all the progression. But I came back to practice and I felt good, picked up right where I left off. And now we’ll see where this takes me.
HF: You seem pretty upset about it.
JD: It’s taken two months, you know? When they said I was coming down here to play, I was excited to come play hockey for a while. And then this happens and who knows how long I’ll be out…
HF: I’m sorry for you.
HF: How did you think the adjustment was from college to the pros?
JD: Well I was lucky, I played 11 games last year which helped me a lot because it’s a big adjustment. In those 11 games I learned quite a bit. Just being around the organization and everyone involved helped me a ton. When I came back this year I felt more comfortable. It’s a lot faster, guys are better along the boards, guys are a lot stronger, smarter. You make one mistake and the puck’s in the net. It’s a pretty big adjustment, but I think the 11 games last year helped me immensely.
HF: Who were you playing with as a partner in Chicago?
JD: It rotated every game pretty much. I started off with Travis Roche and then when I got hurt I was playing with Greg Hawgood.
HF: When your signing was announced, Don Waddell said you had some of the best skill for a defenseman in your league [ECAC]. How do you respond to that?
JD: That’s always nice when someone says you have skill. Obviously as you saw tonight, I’m not much of a fighter (laughs). That’s always been my game, more of a skill game, not so much a bruiser, but in order to make it to the next level I think I have to incorporate that into my game as well. That’s a good starting point, to have a lot of skill, but I think I have to get a little tougher too.
HF: What do you think is your best skill then?
JD: My skating. But that doesn’t get me far now because of my groin. It makes it tough to play my game which is skating the puck and being able to react quick. Other than that, I think everything else is up to par.
HF: You seem to want to make the perfect pass and sometimes people aren’t ready for that.
JD: Right, well that’s another thing you learn when I came from college. If I didn’t make a tape to tape pass, I’d be a little upset. And here you learn that hard around the boards, the wingers are so skilled that they’re going to get it out or they’re going to control it in their feet. So the guys are just so much more skilled. It makes it easier for a defenseman if you know that if you get in trouble you can just ring it around the boards and it’s going to be a good play.
HF: What did the Thrashers tell you to work on when you left camp?
JD: Just everything, anticipating the play more, being more physical on the boards. When you go and hit somebody, hit them with a purpose, let them know you’re there. Stuff like that. They didn’t say much about my vision or my skating or passing and all that, because I think that’s OK. I think they just want me to get tougher in general, which is understandable.
HF: Your fight tonight, how exactly did it start?
JD: I was driving the net and their guy pushed me into their goalie. Their goalie went down. One of their guys grabbed me from behind, so I got up, and then another guy grabbed me from behind, so I turned around and just pushed the first guy I could find. Then before I knew it he dropped his gloves and hammered me in the chin and then that was it, ready to go. I’m not much of a fighter, but I couldn’t back down.
HF: Yeah, I was going to say, it’s not something you really have on your resume. How many fights have you ever been in?
JD: That was my first. (smiles)
HF: Well you didn’t do too bad if it was your first!
JD: I did alright, you have to start somewhere, right? (laughs) Can only go up.
HF: How many stitches did it get you?
JD: Eight. That was the first punch though, he sucker-punched me. For the record. (laughs)
HF: I was walking around Yale and saw your arena up there. It’s one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen. Would you care to try to defend it?
JD: It’s an architectural masterpiece! (laughs) You know what, it’s awkward looking now, but we sold out every game there for like the last six years. When you get a good crowd in there it’s great. It’s a great atmosphere, a great place to play. Maybe it’s not the most eye-pleasing, but I enjoyed it. I take offense to that comment. (laughs)
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