As the Minnesota Golden Gophers battle it out in the 13th Annual College Hockey Showcase this weekend, it will be the last time team captain Gino Guyer will suit up for the tournament.
This will be one of many ‘lasts’ for the senior, a Dallas Stars draft pick, but he says the experience playing for the storied Gophers is one he’ll cherish for quite some time. During his stay, Guyer has played with some greats, won two WHCA league crowns, and a national championship his freshman year.
While the Gophers, with many new additions, are trying to grow and bond as a unit, Guyer hopes he can help guide his teammates and his school to soaring heights on his final tour. Production-wise, he has seven points in 12 games with the Gophers, a pace down some from last season.
Hockey’s Future chatted with the 5’11 183-pound center last weekend. Guyer talked about his development, his experience with the Gophers, wearing the C on the famed maroon and gold sweater, as well as what the future could possibly have in store.
HF: Looking back over your younger years, you’ve always been the athlete. Was it always hockey first for you?
GG: Definitely, but I always enjoyed the other sports I played. I played football and baseball and I really enjoyed doing that in high school. It was a great overall experience.
HF: If it weren’t hockey, what would be the best second choice?
GG: Oh, it would have to be football. We had a great team growing up. We made it to the state tournament and took third one year. It is just a great sport because it draws a lot of similarities to hockey.
HF: You had a lot of personal achievement and racked up a lot of accolades. However, being named Minnesota’s ‘Mr. Hockey’ had to be a big one. How was that?
GG: It was a real neat experience. When you’re growing up in Minnesota, you want to be a Gopher and you want to be Mr. Hockey. To win that was very special. It was a huge honor when you consider who has won it in the past. It’s a great honor and quite the accomplishment.
HF: What was your initial reaction when you knew you were going to be able to suit up for the Gophers?
GG: It was great. I committed early in September of my senior year. It was really a dream come true to be a Gopher. It’s awesome because you get to come down and play at a university like Minnesota with all the history and tradition.
HF: You had a very productive four years. Are there any particular moments that you distinctly remember?
GG: There are so many things. Overall, I have been fortunate to play on so many special teams. We have won two WCHA Championships; we won the national championship my freshman year and then our run last year. I think last year was one of the most rewarding of years because we were picked to finish sixth in the league and we end up making it to the Frozen Four and left as one of the last two teams standing. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.
HF: Talk about your experience getting drafted by the Dallas Stars back in 2003.
GG: I was really excited. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. Again, when you live and play hockey in Minnesota, you’re always dreaming of paying Gopher hockey and making it to the NHL. Now it’s my senior year, so I hope we can go out on top.
HF: How has Dallas been during the process?
GG: They have been in great contact with me. I went down to the their prospect camp this summer. I gained a lot of confidence from it and I thought I did rather well. I was able to see that I can play at the next level and with guys that have already been drafted.
HF: Can you talk about the importance of wearing the C?
GG: It’s really an honor for me. Each year I felt a little more comfortable as a vocal leader and by examples, it expanded. We all did a vote early on this year and when I found out I was listed as the captain, I was happy. I also understand that as a captain, I have to put my team first and not worry about myself as much. You have to make sure everyone is ready to go all the time and then you. It’s definitely a job I enjoy doing.
HF: How is it to be one of the guys Coach Lucia turns to, to lead the guys?
GG: I always look forward to the responsibility every night. I come out and give it my all and I think coach sees that. He knows that in order for me to be an effective leader, I have to lead by example. I try to do all that I can and I feel that he has a lot of trust in me.
HF: How important is it to be a leader on and off the ice 24/7?
GG: It’s a real serious responsibility. I take it serious. They say in all sports that the player who wears the ‘C’ in hockey is the most important captain in any sport. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with it. You have to deal with a lot of things like patting guys on the back when they’re feeling down. You have to help guys refocus and help them get going night in and night out.
HF: Over the course of your career here with the Gophers, your production has been extremely consistent. Is there any secret to your approach?
GG: I try to go out play a great all-around game. I try to put the points up there when the chances are open. This year has been different because the line I’m on is going up against the opposition’s top line. We’ve been playing the role of the stopper line and we have been trying to be consistent with that. It’s challenging because we have the offensive capability and defensive prowess to be equally effective at both ends. I for one enjoy playing the stopper role. It gives me a great feeling when we’re keeping the top line off the scorer’s sheet.
HF: With the new NHL rule changes in mind, where would you see yourself fitting in at the next lever?
GG: I hope coming from college and playing a similar style, I can get in there and be effective. I believe I’m very versatile and I play in any situation you would possibly need. I’ve been an offensive player growing up.
HF: As far as the rest of the season goes for the Gophers, what will be the keys to the future success for you and for the team?
GG: As a team, and like tonight, we got off to a slow start. It is consistency; we have to have a team that brings it every night. We have to have the guys coming together and giving the same high level and buying into our systems. We have to work hard every night and that has been the case so far. We just have to get the consistency under control to become a great team.
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