Friday, January 31, 2014

Keeping Up With Kerbashian - A Player Profile

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. This player profile with Kale Kerbashian was posted January 26, 2013. He has also experienced a championship since that time and is the team's second leading scorer this year.

Kale Kerbashian photo by

Kale Kerbashian #18
Birthdate: April 7, 1990
Birthplace: Thunder Bay, ONT
Hometown: Thunder Bay, ONT
5' 11" 200 lbs
Shoots: Left

One of the things I have learned this year as I started this blog and conducted player interviews is how similar the players are in some ways and how totally different they are in other ways. I spent over an hour talking to Kale Kerbashian and came away very impressed with his approach to hockey and how that carries over to his approach to life. I would describe Kale as a quiet, easy going, nose to the grindstone, keep to himself type of guy who practices Tai Chi & Yoga which combines movement with meditation. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

The Kerbashian's
Kale was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the middle of three children of Tim and Janne Kerbashian. Tim was the Director, International Education at Confederation College for many years and is currently the Director, Planning and Development for the college. Kale's mom is a social worker at a local hospital. He has a younger brother Jayce and an older sister, Kendall. Unlike many young Canadians who start hockey because someone in their family was a hockey player Kale's family was not big into organized sports. His earliest hockey memory is his first year of organized hockey as a five year old. Kale's recollection is his parents were advised to put him in hockey because he was a high energy kid and his cousins played. He remembers his dad coming to many of his games waiting for him to score and he didn't score until the last game of the season. His dad started putting a rink in the back yard each winter and hockey became Kale's passion. Keep in mind Thunder Bay has the most professional hockey players per capita in all of Canada. Kale remembers breaking neighbors windows a few times when he would glance a puck off the crossbar of the goal in his back yard rink. He also remembers the many hours he and his dad put in shoveling the snow off the rink. He gets his "laid back" style from his dad who his friends call "laid back Jack." His dad would get up in the middle of the night to put water on the rink or to shovel snow.

Kale also did some speed skating as a youngster which he credits for helping him in hockey with his speed. After that first year where he scored only one goal in the last game, Kale kind of took off and started scoring more goals. He had a six goal game and still has the puck. What really comes across when talking to him about those early years is hockey was fun. He had a natural feel for the game. His dad said he played well whether he did or not.  He played because he wanted to play and it was just plain enjoyment.

 For the 2006-2007 season at the age 16 Kale played for a local Junior A team, Fort William North Stars, who play in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL). His team was 41-6 and won the regular season but lost in the finals of the league playoff. Kale had a great year with 27 goals, 46 assists for a total of 73 points in 53 games. At the end of the SIJHL season, Kale played a few games including three playoff games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) who had drafted him in the 4th round (77th overall) in the 2006 OHL draft. He had the opportunity to play with future NHL players Patrick Kane, Sergei Kostitsyn, Sam Gagner and goalie Steve Mason. The coach who was also the owner of team was former NHL great Dale Hunter.

Kale played the entire 2007-2008 and part of the 2008-2009 season with the London Knights scoring 47 point in 97 games. It was a great environment for honing his skills and playing hockey. The team averaged over 9000 fans for each game. In January of 2009 Kale was traded to the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors where he played for the rest of the year. 

During the off season Kale was traded to the Sarnia Sting and got a great opportunity to play there for two years (2009-2011). It was in Sarnia where Kale really started putting up big numbers. His first year he had 26 goals and 30 assists  in 58 games. He was named Sting player of the year, was the team's top scorer  and also won the Ranson Industrial three-star award. He was also rated the second best skater in the league in a poll of coaches. At the end of the first year in Sarnia he got his first taste of pro hockey signing and amateur try out contract with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) where he scored two goals in four games.

He returned to Sarnia for his second year (2010-2011) and  had 37 goals and 51 assists in 68 games. He played much of the time on a line with 2012 overall #1 draft choice Nail Yakupov who is now playing for the Edmonton Oilers. Kale became good friends with Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk who both had former NHL great Igor Larionov as their agent. Kale was talking to Larionov about going to Russia to play hockey and came close before signing an American Hockey League (AHL) deal with the Connecticut Whale.

I found the following article by Bruce Berlet talking about Kale's AHL deal. This happened in March of  2011:
Kale Kerbashian joined the New York Rangers organization literally over a cup of coffee and a vanilla milkshake. The quick forward was interviewing with Rangers scout Rich Brown at a Starbucks in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, when he got an offer to play for one of the NHL’s Original Six teams.
“He had watched me all season, and I guess he liked what he saw so they gave me a chance,” Kerbashian recalled. “I loved going down (to Hartford) and staying in the Homewood Suites. It was great.”
Kerbashian got a three-week taste of pro hockey in April after he signed AHL and amateur tryout contracts after completing his junior career with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League.
Kerbashian celebrated his 21st birthday in Connecticut but was scoreless in four regular-season games and then watched as the Whale were eliminated by the Portland Pirates in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
“It would have been nice to step right in and help the team, but the experience helped me a lot as far as understanding the dedication it takes toward the game,” Kerbashian said. “On the ice, not that much stuff is different (from juniors), but off the ice, there’s the preparation before the game. It’s paying attention to detail. It’s your job, not something you do for fun or for something to do. You’re signing up for it, so it’s your job, and we’re pretty lucky it’s something we love.”

One of the benefits of signing his AHL contract was an invitation to the Prospect Camp to play with other Ranger prospects. Kale played well enough at the prospect camp that he got invited to the Rangers main camp in New York.

“I didn’t have a very good camp in New York,” Kerbashian said. “I was very uptight, thinking way too much, and they told me that in my exit meetings.”

A meeting with Whale assistant coach Pat Boller, who works with the forwards, immediately helped Kerbashian, though he said it wasn’t anything resembling Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“I just basically told him to just play his game,” Boller said Tuesday. “He was trying to overdo things a little bit, trying to worry about putting the numbers up, and I just told him to do the little things like stopping and starting, going to the net, shoot the puck. I just told him to relax, play hockey and do the little things.”

It might have been simple advice, but Kerbashian knew exactly what Boller was talking about.
“I’m better off when I relax and keep it simple,” Kerbashian said. “And they want me to shoot it more. I know I’ve got a good shot but I wasn’t much of a shooter, and they brought it to my attention. It can be one of my assets if I use it, so I took that as a confidence builder. You don’t have as much time and space as you do in juniors, so if you’ve got a shot, you’ve got to take it.”

Kale started the 2011-2012 season in the AHL but it didn't go well. Kale calls it a huge learning experience. He got sent to the ECHL (Greenville) and that helped him find his game again. The key to his game is not over thinking, relaxing and let his instinct take over. The experience  was tough but it has made him a stronger person today so he wouldn't change anything.

This year (2012-2013) he started in Gwinnet (ECHL) but with the NHL lockout AHL players were being assigned to Gwinnet so Kale wasn't a good fit and was released in October.  Kale went home and skated with a college team and was thinking of enrolling in school. however, he still had something to prove and he didn't want to give up on playing hockey.

Kale and his agent were talking to several CHL teams about a contract but didn't want to pull the trigger on anything as they were waiting for the NHL lockout to end to open up more spots. As it turned out the lock out ended the day after he signed with Allen. He has no regrets and loves the organization and community. It is all about opportunity and he feels he has a great opportunity here in Allen.

I asked Kale about coming to a new team in the middle of the season and the difficulties that presents. His response started to give me some real insight into his approach to hockey and to life. "I'm a pretty quiet guy, I have never struggled to get along with people, I keep to myself and work hard. If you are a good person it goes a long way. Keep an open mind as everyone is different. Take them for what they are. For the most part everyone means well. It is a lot older team and I still feel like a rookie (Kale is the second youngest on the team)."

Kale feels good about his play thus far as he has gotten a point in every game but he feels he still needs to be in better shape.  The toughest thing thus far has been losing games after having the long winning streak. He says he can't help but feel it is partially his fault. 

Kale is devoted to his family. As he has gotten older he realizes how important family is to him. Since he has traveled so much at a young age he really enjoys spending time with family. His family will be visiting soon. His girlfriend, Amanda, will also be visiting. When I say family that also includes his chocolate lab named Calli. Kale calls Calli his best friend and he does indeed Skype with Calli.

I was struck throughout  the interview with Kale's approach to hockey and life. I went back through my notes and wanted to share some of the thoughts, ideas, and statements he made to me during his interview that says a lot about himself. He is a smart young man who is wise beyond his years. I admire him in his belief in himself, his dedication to his craft and his willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. I look forward to watching the journey. Here is just a sample of what he said:

- The harder something is the more satisfying the results
- I try to do all of the little things right and hope they all add up
- I sometimes get in my own way
- The biggest thing for me was to realize hockey is not life
- Tai Chi has helped me get in touch with my senses and live in the moment
- I need to control my emotions
- You work hard in gym today or you have to do it tomorrow. You are going to have to do it anyway
- Everything in life evens out so if you do a good deed for someone it comes back to you so you are really helping your self

In order to get to know Kale better I asked him the following questions:

What is Your Nickname: Kerby

Who Is Your Roomate: I share an apartment with Lukin and roomed with Montgomery on the last road trip.

Hockey Hero: Mike Modano

Favorite Actor: Will Smith

Favorite Actress: Blake Lively

Favorite Type of Music: I listen to everything

Current Favorite Group: Dropkick Murphys

If You Could Have Lunch With Anyone Who Would You Choose: My parents

One Thing People Would Be Surprised to Learn About You: I'm really into Yoga & Tai Chi

Who Do You Admire As A Leader: My grandfather

Most Interesting Place Your Have Visited: Dominican Republic

If You Could Live In Another Country For Two Years Where Would You Live: Sweden

Any Pregame Ritual: After I loosen up I try to relax using some Tai Chi techniques.

What Do You Like To Do To Pass Time On The Bus: I just got an iPhone so I spend time on that, I have a kindle and I play Sudoku.

Favorite Childhood Toy: Hockey Stick

Favorite Motto or Saying: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.

Who Is The Funniest Guy On The Team: Kip Brennan

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