Former Lake Superior star shines as sturdy two-way player

By Derek Berry
Before he got into the National Hockey League he was told that he
should not worry about becoming a goal-scorer. “That was a real
eye-opener,” says Detroit native Rob Valicevic, of the talk given to him
early on by his Houston Aeros coach. “I’ll never forget that talk.”

It wasn’t too tough of an adjustment for this fine two-way hockey
player from Clinton Township. He really learned how to play two ways
back in the glory days of Lake Superior State University, playing under
head coach Jeff Jackson.

“Coach Jackson used a very pro-style system,” says Valicevic. “We were
stingy and strong at lake Superior, especially on defense and we didn’t
give up a lot of shots.”

Jackson himself is pleased that his former star, a key contributor to
those LSSU national championship teams in 1992 and 1994, has found
success at the next level.

“I’m very impressed that he’s made it to the NHL,” says Jackson, very
proudly. “He has consistently improved each year and I think he’s
emerged as an excellent, consistent two-way player with the Nashville

When asked if his coaching style and system attributed to Valicevic’s
success up to this point, Jackson humbly dismissed those notions, saying
Valicevic has basically made himself the player that he is.

“Rob has really made himself into his own player,” says Jackson. “He’s
built his body up well and he’s always had the work ethic and

It’s no secret that Valicevic has worked hard for what he has earned.

Predators assistant coach Brent Peterson agrees with that notion and
wouldn’t argue about Valicevic’s work ethic.

“He’s an older player who has worked his way up,” says Peterson. “He’s
a solid two-way player, who can play both wings and does a good overall
job for us.”

Peterson knows Valicevic is certainly not a goal-scoring machine, but
he chips in on offense where he has to.

“He’s a very defensive-minded player on offense,” says Peterson. “We
like to utilize him in many ways and we can because of the type of
player that he is.”

When you watch Valicevic play, you can’t help but notice how he covers
his territory on the ice. And it isn’t often where you’ll find a goal
scored when he’s out on a shift.

Valicevic has learned what many other players who have come to gain
success in the NHL, guys that he played against in college like Mike
Knuble of Boston (U-M) and Rem Murray and Anson Carter of Edmonton (both
from MSU) have said-you must be responsible for your position on the ice
at all times.

“Yeah, you really have to cover your territory or your going to get
burned,” says the former New York Islanders draft pick. “You have to be
responsible for your position and not make mistakes because it’ll show.”

Valicevic, like so many other players, noticed the big difference in
speed and size at each level he played at.

“I really noticed the size and speed differences right away,” says
Valicevic. “It especially hit me when I played with the Orlando Polar
Bears (of the IHL). You could see the difference clearly.”

He also noticed it too playing for Louisiana in the East Coast Hockey
League, where he won a title with the team.

Big surprise?

Not really. The former LSSU star is a champion and expects nothing
less. He was part of those two national title teams at Lake Superior
and helped his team win three CCHA titles. He was named Rookie of the
year in the ECHL. He carries that attitude over now as he helps his
Nashville Predators team make a push for a playoff spot in the NHL’s
Western Conference.

“I think I like being in the underdog role, which is where we are now
and which is where we were all the time at Lake Superior,” he says. “No
one ever expected us to win.”

But, still, to Rob Valicevic’s way of thinking, you can’t go out and give a half-hearted effort.

“There’s days you’ll play better and there’s days you’ll play with a
higher level of talent in some respects,” he says.

That’s the toughness, the work ethic, the bettering of one’s self, like
Jeff Jackson said, that Rob Valicevic is all about.