Interview with Bobby Goepfert

By Oliver Janz


Robert Goepfert, former junior and future college hockey goalie. He was the sixth pick, #171 overall, of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Entry Draft 2002. That doesn’t sound special.

But, if you take a look on his last two season, there is something special. 2001: USHL All-Rookie Team, Goalie of the Year. 2002: USHL Goalie of the Year, MVP and Team MVP. He also played in the All-Star game and represented the USA Hockey Under-18 Select Team at the Four Nations Tournament in Slovakia. Yes, that sounds really interesting. These are the reasons why Pittsburgh drafted him.

In 2002-2003, he will play for the Providence College Friars, a team which is based in the NCAA conference Hockey East. Hopefully, the crowd of the Providence Civic Center will be a good place for him. But, is he the next Ryan Miller? And what about his fight against Marty Magers? Does he like his new team? And, the most important question, does he prefer Julia Roberts or Dominik Hasek…? Read on, what he said after beeing back from his journey to Mickey Mouse and co.

Hockey’s Future: Hi Bobby, how was it to visit Orlando’s greatest attraction, Disney World?

Bobby Goepfert: It was great. It was the perfect timing for a vacation. I needed to get away from everything, then come back and be rested and prepared to train the rest of the summer.

HF: Did you got an autograph from Daisy Duck, or did you to had to sign one for her?

BG: I didn’t see Daisy Duck, but if I did would have for sure gotten an autograph. I’m a big Daisy fan. Daisy and Donald – I think they are the perfect couple.

HF: You committed to the Providence College. Why did you chose this college and which other colleges were interested in you?

BG: I had talked to a couple schools throughout the year. Boston University, Boston College, Colorado College and Michigan were the other four big ones I was talking to. Providence was the first school that had real interest in me; and they were there for me when I struggled and when I succeeded. They believed in me when other schools looked over me. It was great, having that kind of support, showing that they really wanted me and believed in me. In my home, you always remember the people who are good to you, and Providence was just that. All I want to do now is help them win every chance I get.

HF: Kevin Wey from Hockey’s Future told me that you care about your education. That’s why you are going to study and play hockey. Can you give me some inside about your “performance at school” or your SAT score?

BG: Well, both my parents are teachers in New York City. I was always brought up to value your education and that hockey isn’t everything. You have to have something to fall on. I have always had good marks. Later in High School, when hockey took so much of my time, it was harder to achieve the scores I had in the past. But, my SAT score was 1080.

HF: You are listed with the following comment: “Major: undeclared” – hey, what do you want to study?

BG: I am thinking of either education or business. There is so much going through my mind, I probably might not end up with either but as of right now. I would like to study either of the two.

HF: Providence’s hockey team, the Friars, had a bad last season. What’s your short-term goal with the team, what can you reach?

BG: I am just going to go into Providence and battle for playing time. Whenever I get my shot to play, I am just battle and battle, because that is really my game. I’m not really a technical goalie, I just hate getting scored on and hate losing. Playing goalie for me is real personal, and I am just going to play every game, like a dog fight, leave everything on the ice. Hopefully success comes with that like it has in the past.

HF: The Friars’ goalie situation isn’t bad for you. Nolan Schaefer, a Sharks pick, will most likely be the number one in his last year of study. The other competitor is David Cacciola, last year’s back-up. One year #2 and then garnering the number one spot?

BG: Well I am not going into this year settling for number 2. I want to play, I don’t want to watch. It is great having Nolan, there is so much I can learn from him, but at the same time, I want to be the go-to guy.

HF: Your teammate Nate Meyers is following you to Providence. Former Roughrider David Carpentier is already there. A good situation for the first weeks if you already know some guys there?

BG: Well, another thing about going to Providence was, that the guys there were so friendly and just awesome people. I am good friends with both Nate and Carp, but it isn’t hard making friends there.

HF: Two time USHL’s Goalie of the Year + USHL Player of the Year: Will you be the next Ryan Miller?

BG: I don’t know about that, but it sure is inspiration. It was disappointing going as late as I did, you always feel like you are a top player, and being passed over so many times, it was a knock to my confidence. But instead of dwelling on it, I am using it as motivation. And I am going to make everyone regret passing over me like Ryan Miller did. But, three years from now, I hope for sure I am as good and highly touted as Ryan Miller is.

HF: In your first USHL season, you fought Lancers’ goalie Marty Magers. What happened – and who won?

BG: Well, there was some issues from the game before, where one of his players ended one of our top players season, so the next night, they came to our rink. It didn’t take long for something to start and the player that injured our guy was getting beat pretty bad, so Marty jumped in, so I skated down and defended my guy and took Marty out. It is part of the game and that kind of stuff happens. I am not going to shy away from it. I have to stick up for my players. But it was real fun I had a good time. I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did, other than losing the game.

HF: Is he now your best friend or enemy #1?

BG: It is strange. Him and I have a weird relationship. He is a very good goalie and it was fun playing against him this year. But at first both him and I had some grudges about that fight, but we ended up rooming together up at the Viking Cup and now we are pretty close. Or, I think as close as rival goalies can get. But I wish him the best.

HF: Magers will play for Owen Sound in the OHL, a major junior league. You prefer the – four year – college way. In your opinion and without the study thing: which way is the better one for developing in hockey, the major junior level or college hockey?

BG: I am not sure. I have heard so many different things. But one thing that I have been told for a long time is that if you are good enough, they will find you. But one thing about college that I don’t like is the number of games you play. I like to play a lot and it would be great to play as many games as the major junior leagues do, but I guess it makes each game that much important. So, I think each leagues have pros and cons.

HF: Regarding the NHL Entry Draft, you told me that it was a strange feeling waiting for your draft. How was your private draft day and how was it to see finally your name on position 171, drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins?

BG: It was real nerve wrecking. I had really no idea where I was going to go, I had talked to a couple teams and I got real excited every time I saw that they were picking soon, but that never came. But it was great to see my name and being drafted by Pittsburgh. It has always been a childhood dream of mine to get drafted. I didn’t take off my jersey or hat for a couple days …, it was real awesome.

HF: How does it feel to be owned by Mario Lemieux?

BG: I am just glad I don’t have to play against him! He has always killed me in the video games my teammates and I played.

HF: Caron, Crawford-West, Duba, Labrosse, Laing and Lehto. Six goalies from the Pen’s system – and no one is a sure future NHL goalie. So, a good situation for you to be a Penguin?

BG: I am very excited to be drafted by Pittsburgh. It is really wide open. I just am going to work my butt off and hopefully that day will come when I can wear a Penguin sweater. That would be a dream come true.

HF: You had been picked after Marty Magers (Buffalo, #121) and just one pick after your teammate PJ Atherton (Tampa Bay, #170). So, … how did PJ celebrate this win?

BG: PJ and me are really good friends. He and I became really close over the year because we were going through the same situation with everything. He is a great player and he didn’t rub it in at all that he was picked ahead of me. Both him and I are really happy for each other.

HF: According to HF’s USHL writer Jason Shaner, your profile: “Bobby Bobby Bobby!!!! That’s what you hear when you enter “The Stable” in Cedar Rapids … Good things come in small packages, that is a perfect description of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders superstar goaltender. Bobby is small if you look at his size but if you watch him play, he is as big as any netminder in the league. Glove saves are Bobby’s specialty and his glove is as quick as lightning and he doesn’t mind telling you about it as he drops the puck into the referee’s hand when play stops. Goepfert has a glove hand that can catch a bullet shot out of a gun. Reacts quickly to the puck and never gets caught cheating to one side. Strong puck handler and clears the puck in front of the net well. One of the most fearless in front of the pipes in the league.” We have to stop the praising here. Or anything to be added, Bobby?

BG: I dont know. I think, he said too much. I am really honored by all those remarks, especially since I believe he is a Waterloo Blackhawks writer. We are extreme rivals and when your rival says stuff like that, it really means something to me and I thank him for his kind words.

HF: Maybe your size, 5-10 and 170, could be a weakness; on which things you have to work on in the future?

BG: I think I have to work on my puckhandling. In this day and age, if you can handle the puck well, you are going to help your team tremendously, so I really want to work on my puckhandling in college.

HF: Take a look back: Team MVP, USHL MVP, two time Goalie of the year … as you moved from PAL Suffolk to the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, did you ever thought that this could happen?

BG: I would have never thought that would happen. It was a big gamble leaving home and playing there at 17. It is a great league and I had a lot of doubters back here, saying that I couldn’t do it. It has been that way my whole life. But I like proving people wrong, so I just went out and worked real hard and Coach Carlson gave me a chance to play and be the regular starter. Things really worked out for me. I am very fortunate.

HF: You also dressed the jersey of the US junior national teams – there should be several rememberable moments, but what was your favourite hockey moment ever?

BG: Every time I put on the USA jersey, it is real special. I cherish all my experiences overseas, representing my country. But I think my most memorable hockey experience would be this past year with Cedar Rapids. Our team was so close, we were almost like brothers. There was something special we had, it was a shame we lost in the second round. But the highlight of that season would be for sure our 4 OT victory against the Lincoln Stars who were a great hockey team. I’ll always remember that game and that season playing behind such great group of guys.

HF: Which non-hockey related goals do you have for the future?

BG: I would like to get my education taken care of and I’d like to start a family. All the pieces are in place for both of them, just a matter of time I guess.

HF: Your nicknames could be Rob, Robbie or maybe RJ. But, why does nearly everyone call you Bobby?

BG: I am not sure. My uncle and grandfather were both Robert’s and everybody called them Bobby, I guess it is just inherited.

HF: Your full name is Robert J. Goepfert, for what does the J. stays?

BG: Joseph, named after my grandfather on my mothers side.

HF: As your name sounds more German than my name, what do you know about your heritage?

BG: I know I came from Germany. I have all of the popular nationalities of people who migrated to the US in the early 1900’s. I am German, Irish and Italian. All of my ancestors came to Ellis Island. But my German ancestory is kind of interesting. I am not sure, but I think it used to be von Goepfert* before they came over here. The workers at Ellis Island dropped the ”von”, I believe. And another story says that my great grandfather was a clock maker back in Germany. And he came over with his family, then went back to Germany during world war one and nobody had ever heard from him since. But that is all I really know about my German heritage. I am proud of where I came from and my ancestors’ hard work is motivation, in whatever I do.

HF: Is it to hard or are you happy to leave the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa? I mean, if you remember how Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank tried it in the movie “The Truman Show”…

BG: … it is real hard. There are so many great people that I am leaving. The fans were unbelievable, and the people that I became friends with both on and off the ice, I will miss very much. I didn’t realize how great I had it there. It was like a dream. Now, that it is gone. I realize how awesome it was and I wish I could go back and do it again. But I will always remember Cedar Rapids and I plan on visiting any chance I get.

HF: Finally, what would you prefer: Meeting Dominik Hasek in the Sauna or facing a slapshot by Julia Roberts?

BG: … well I heard Julia Roberts has a wicked slapshot. And I know I am going to be in deep trouble with someone if I say Julia Roberts, although she does have the best smile in Hollywood. So I would have to say Dominik Hasek in the Sauna.

HF: I guess, your girlfriend is happy that you did not prefer Julia in the Sauna… So, thanks for your time and I wish you all the best.

*the “von” in front of the name stands for aristocracy in Germany. If his family did not went to the USA, his name will most likely be Robert Joseph von Göpfert (oe = ö).