Alex Friesen played five seasons for the IceDogs collecting 91 goals and 244 points in 292 games. He has played 308 games of professional hockey spanning the ECHL, AHL and NHL. He is under contract to play the upcoming 2017-2018 season for Leksands IF of the Swedish hockey league Hockeyallsvenskan.
Birthdate: January 30, 1991
Birthplace: St. Catharines, ON
Weight: 186 lbs
Throughout this summer we will be producing a weekly story featuring a former IceDog player and looking at what he has accomplished since graduating from the team.
This week’s story is on former Niagara IceDogs Center Alex Friesen.
Having played in the AHL last season what has been the biggest adjustment playing in the AHL and coming out of junior hockey? Where are you playing next season?
It was a fun year, we ended up losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs to Grand Rapids. They are a good team and we had a good year. It was my 5th season last year and I’m still enjoying it and staying healthy. Those are the 2 things that are key for me. The biggest difference going from the OHL to AHL is making the adjustment from living with your family to being independent and living alone. My family lives in Niagara on the Lake, so when I played for the IceDogs I had the privilege of living at home and not worrying about the struggles that come with living alone. Second, the style of play in the AHL is definitely more physical. The hitting is harder, bigger men, bigger and stronger players to compete against too.
Getting to play in Sweden next year will definitely be an adjustment. I’m looking forward to playing in Leksand next year. The schedule is very different from the AHL. There are no back to back games in our schedule next season in Sweden.
You’ve been to a couple NHL training camps now. What do you think is the biggest challenge personally for you to make it to the next level? What separates the AHL from the NHL?
It’s tough to get out there and just walk on the team, but it definitely helps if you get out there and make an impression. Especially if you get called up down the road, training camp gives your coaches/gms a way to compare you to other players to see how you stack up against them. A few years ago I got to play a game with the Canucks. It was nice to be able to invite my whole family out to watch me. It was a little hectic on such short notice to get the whole family out west, but thankfully it worked out and was a memory I will definitely treasure.
What was your experience like playing for the IceDogs and living in the Niagara region?
It was nice playing in St Catharines, because my family lived so close by, so getting to invite them out to games and have a whole fan base supporting you was very cool. We have a great fan base here in St. Catharines, and seeing them in the stands and experiencing that atmosphere was awesome.
How has being an IceDog influenced your life?
My time with the IceDogs was really positive, and it definitely helped me continue on in hockey and continue playing and enjoy the sport. This year playing in Leksand will be a new experience and a new culture. It’s a condensed season too, playing 56 games or so, compared to the 76 game AHL season which is very grinding at times. Also I think playing with the IceDogs prepared me for the various pro hockey I have played since then. I played a few games in the ECHL during my rookie AHL season with the Chicago Wolves, and you definitely pull on your support network, friends, family and coaches when you get sent down. But at the same time, playing for the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL, it shows you that your coach/gm is invested in you when they want you to get more playing time and experience. The ECHL is a different league, for example, we only had 10 forwards on our team, so it gives you more opportunity and helps you develop for when you do get called back up.
Who is the funniest hockey teammate you have played with and why?
I’ve had a lot of great funny teammates that I’m still friends with. Getting to go to Michael Schwindt’s wedding and Andrew Aggozino’s stag were definite highlights. I had a funny road memory when we’d do ‘shoe checks’ on the road. And every time we’d get Ricky Martin (IceDogs video analyst) shoe checked. Sometimes guys would get called out for having ketchup or something on their shoes. It was all in good fun.
What is your favourite sport outside of hockey and why?
Growing up I played a lot of lacrosse. Now I enjoy playing slow pitch and beach volleyball in the summer. I always enjoyed playing different sports in the summer. As a kid, you don’t want to lose the enjoyment of the game. So it’s important to take a break from hockey in the summer so that you still maintain interest in the sport when you start playing again in the fall.
Over your career how has your playing style changed?
I try to always put my best foot forward, whether that is hockey or anything else. My game is always evolving and I try to be responsible all over the ice. Consistency is a big thing. Especially in the pro-game, you have to stay consistent and be mentally tough and try to not take a step back, because the season is so long.
Are you still in contact with your former IceDog teammates?
Agozzino, and Schwindt for sure. I think in junior when you are around the same age and doing the same things it is definitely easier to develop those bonds. Everyone is doing the same thing and gets along really easy. Those were definitely tight bonds that you remember. In pro-hockey it’s different because every player is in a different stage of life, you get guys who are married and have families. In junior it’s easier to relate to your teammates because everyone is in the same stage of their hockey career and life.
Once a Dog, always a Dog!