With the new season upon us, and the Snakes embarking on a few weeks of road trips, I was able to sit down with a few of the Snakes on a quiet Wednesday evening prior to the first of two weekends away. The ‘Road Warriors’ (thank you, Campos) are currently 3-3-0 for the season, with all three victories occurring on the road.
Feeding off of Head Coach Jerome Bechard’s ‘New Season, New Snakes’ I sat down with goaltender Brandon Jaeger and defenseman Cody Castro to go through gameplay, game day, and a few fun facts. Taking a few minutes to get acquainted, the three of us chit chatted, having a few laughs before getting started. I reflected briefly last year when the players, although part of a team, didn’t seem to connect. However, sitting with Brandon and Cody I could easily see the friendship between them.
The Sin Bin: So, why play goalie? Why not forward or defense? Goalie is a unique position to play.
Brandon Jaeger: So, as a kid, I got all excited about the equipment I guess. Seeing it on TV. When I tried it out in youth hockey, actually, it went all right. My parents had never played hockey before so, all the other parents there that knew about hockey convinced my parents to let me be the goalie because they didn’t want their kids being the goalie.
TSB: So that was the pivotal point to playing you would say? Nobody in your family has ever played before?
BJ: Yeah, no. My parents can barely even skate so, my dad just loved watching hockey on TV and some of my neighbors played. So that’s how we got into it.
TSB: Do your parents come to watch you play games throughout the year?
BJ: My parents came down once or twice last year. I’m from Minnesota, so they don’t make it down very often.
TSB: What is a game day ritual for you? Is there anything that you do all the time before a game?
BJ: Oh yeah, I have a routine that i developed in Juniors. Nothing too crazy, but I always eat the same breakfast sandwich in the morning. I eat the same lunch. Take a nap at the same time. So it’s nothing super weird, but it’s a strict routine that I have.
TSB: Some other players will put their equipment on the right side first after a win, and after a loss they start with their left. Yours never changes?
BJ: No, I’ve had some success with it and I just pretty much kept it the same. I don’t tweak with it.
TSB: What is your game day prep like?
BJ: I go through my game day ritual, and that helps me get into the mindset. I’m always doing something as part of my routine so it allows my mind to not really think too much about the game. Relax. Once five o’clock rolls around, I really start to focus in and get excited for the game and mentally focus for playing sixty minutes.
TSB: Any pre-game nerves at all?
BJ: Depending on the games. I get pretty excited at the beginning of the games, but I wouldn’t say that I get too nervous. I just love playing, it’s just on of those things as a goalie that can hinder your play so you have to be out there and be confident in your game. But, definitely some butterflies I guess before some big games.
TSB: What goes through your head, or what’s on your mind watching the game on the ice in front of you?
BJ: Just trying to stay in the moment. I have a mental routine that I use to stay focused. Like certain phrases in my head, as the puck is coming back down the ice. Be ready for this save, little mantra that help me stay mentally focused. Because, if you let your mind wander, that’s when your game goes to shit.
TSB: When you are on the bench watching the game, what goes through your mind? It’s still pretty early in the season, do you and Lukas give each other advice during the timeouts and such?
BJ: Yeah, when I’m not playing and I’m on the bench, I’m trying to be a coach/cheerleader. I’m always watching the game to see if there is anything that I can point out to whether it be my forwards, my defensemen, or Lukas as well. If I see anything, just to keep the guys motivated and pumped up. Also, I have a pretty big responsibility of opening up the door for the players. I have to be on top of that, make sure we have clean line changes. (He says with a smile and laugh).
TSB: What do you think makes you a great goalie?
BJ: I would say, my quickness and hockey sense. I’m a smaller goalie, so I have to rely on my reflexes and movement to get in the way of pucks. My hockey sense…reading certain plays, handling the puck, helping communicate with my defensemen so they know where I want them to be. If there is a guy open, at this size, there are things that bigger goalies don’t do. So, I would say quickness, hockey sense/communication with my teammates.
TSB: If you could pick any NHL goalie, who do you think your style of play emulates?
BJ: I would say maybe, Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) and Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings). I’m not quite as flexible as those guys. But they definitely play aggressive like I do. They also rely on their reflexes and their movements, which I have to do as well.
TSB: Are you a big presence in the locker room? Let’s take the Pensacola game on the road. You’re down by two goals, what is your presence, what do you do?
BJ: I’m definitely a positive guy. I’ll say like one or two things during the period that I see. Just to maybe help get the guys all get on the same page. Keep it positive. If we are down, let guys know we have a lot of time, not to hit the panic button right now. I don’t have a big rah-rah speech, but I definitely have a voice in the locker room. I think that the guys listen to me and respect my opinion.
TSB: There are certain things that you see, and can tell them. Usually, goalies are pretty quiet and doing their own thing.
BJ: A lot of goalies stick to their own job, but I try to help everybody out because I think if the goalie is on the same page as everybody. You just don’t want to be the lone wolf on the island over there. You want to be connected with the team. You need to find a balance – like you are doing your own job and making sure that you co-exist with your teammates.
TSB: Is there a time in the last four games, and I know it’s really early in the season, where you have absolutely robbed a player of his shot. What is your mindset? Do you celebrate internally, what is your reaction?
BJ: As far as the mindset, after I make a big save, you’re only as good as your next save in the game. It’s the same thing when I let in a goal. My first thought, or something I say, is ‘make the next save’. You can only think about a big save or a goal for maybe a second, then you have to throw it away, and focus on the next one. I can’t really think of anything saves that I’ve robbed yet this year.
TSB: You have time, the season is early still.
TSB: What is a typical day off for you? What do you like to do?
BJ: Our days off, usually we have Sundays off. Heal the body, sometimes I’ll go and do yoga at the gym and make sure my mind is clear and my body is healthy, doing stretches, keeping flexible. Watch a lot of Netflix and maybe indulge in something unhealthy like pizza.
TSB: How do you stay in shape in the off-season? Do you have a routine that you follow?
BJ: Yeah, I work out at a gym near my house in Minnesota. The program was through the college I went to in Stevens Point. The strength coach there sent me their program. So, like three days a week may be four times week. A lot of lifting at the beginning of the summer, off-season. As it closer to the season, skating and a little less off-the-ice stuff. I do a ton of legs and hip stuff just to stay healthy and make sure that I’m strong for the upcoming year.
TSB: Do you have any hobbies?
BJ: I like to golf.
I can’t help but laugh here, and Brandon and Cody do as well. It honestly seems like every hockey player plays golf. “Now, I’m a killer at some mini-golf, but I just can’t seem to make the step up to regular golf on the links.”
BJ: I think because hockey is such an intense sport, that it’s nice to have a sport that you can relax. Well, okay, maybe not relax because you can get frustrated with it too. But, it’s a sport that isn’t physically draining on your body. We are always in the rink or in the weight room, so we are always inside. It gets you outside in the fresh air. I like to cook.
TSB: What’s your favorite thing to cook?
BJ: I like to cook breakfast. It’s really easy, and you can make a bunch of things with the same exact ingredients I think.
When I asked Brandon if he wasn’t playing hockey, what would he be doing? What is his dream job? His answer was classic.
“Job and dream job are two different things.” He broke out into a huge smile and you could see the elation on his face. “My dream job is this. Playing hockey. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I went to school for accounting and I just completed all of my CPA exams this past Summer, so, I would be working for an accounting firm.” That’s quite 180 out from where he is now! With a quick smile, he continues. “I’d be working in a cubicle doing some auditing for eight hours.”
We continue with a few of his personal favorites at a rapid-fire pace.
Candy – Kit Kat
Vehicle- Toyota Camry
Restaurant – Cannon Brew Pub (a local favorite in Columbus)
Drink if you and the boys go out – water
Sport – hockey (naturally)
Music – Rap/techno
Meal – My breakfast sandwich
Xbox or Playstation – XBox
Snapchat or Instagram – Snapchat
TSB: If there was something/anything you’d want people to know about Brandon Jaeger, what would it be?
BJ: Just love playing hockey, I’m a very positive guy. I love having a good laugh, have a good time. That’s a tough one. No one likes to talk about themselves. I love to laugh and have a good time.
From behind Brandon, Cody pipes up, “Who’s your favorite defenseman?”
“I was going to say like an NHL defenseman,” Brandon jokes, making me laugh.
“I meant Cottonmouths,” Cody hints, with a chuckle.
“I know what you meant,” Brandon admits, sheepishly. “It’s Cody,” He says to me.
So, I had to ask, “Are you guys roomies?”
Cody says, “No, we’re neighbors.”
“Yeah, I just didn’t want him to beat me up,” Brandon laughs.
“I might take a few shots at practice,” Cody jokes.
The camaraderie between these two is amazing.
During training camp, I gave Coach Bechard and his players ten questions to fill out on paper and I’m going to use them with the interviews. But one question that I was curious about was, ‘Using one word, how would your teammates describe you?’ His answer, ‘Gamer.’ “I show up in game time. I give it my all in games. I hone in, I’m in my full personality. Gamer. Not video-gamer.”
The rest of Jaeger’s questionnaire, with his answers.
If you were an MMA fighter, what would your walkout song be? – Forget About Dre Dr. Dre & Eminem
Name one thing on your bucket list. -Traveling to Europe
If you could have one super power, what would it be? Why? – Transport, so I could travel any place in the world in one second.
What is your go-to pizza topping? – Pepperoni
What would your spirit animal be? – Jaguar
What is your nickname? – Jags
If your teammate lost a bet and had to sing karaoke, what song would you make him sing? – Big Girls Don’t Cry by Fergie
What is your favorite hockey team? – Minnesota Wild
If you could meet anyone famous, who would it be? – Wayne Gretzky