Scott Gomez is proud of the talent level on display throughout USA Hockey and he is excited to take a closer look at some of the best prospects when he serves as honorary coach in the BioSteel All-American Game Monday at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Mich.
Gomez, who went from being the 27th pick in the National Hockey League Draft to winning the league’s Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1999-2000, had 181 goals and 575 assists in 1,079 career NHL games.
Mike Knuble and Gomez have been selected as the honorary coaches for the BioSteel All-American Game, which features the top American-born prospects eligible for the upcoming National Hockey League Draft.
Formerly known as the All-American Prospects Game, it has a new format this year with the U.S. National Under-18 Team from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program playing against an all-star team made up of draft-eligible players from other teams in the United States Hockey League.
The first Alaskan-born NHL player, Gomez takes pride in how the game has spread throughout the entire country. With his coaching assignment less than a week away, Gomez discussed his views on the game with USA Hockey.
Q: What does being selected as a guest coach mean to you?
A: I was kind of shocked. To see the other guys who have done it and to be a part of USA Hockey brings back a lot of memories of when I was going through the select camps and all that. It was neat to be asked. Especially having played against Knuble and having been on the same teams as him and not having seen him in a long time, it will be fun seeing him and a lot of others.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you are most looking forward to about the experience?
A: Just realizing how far our U.S. players have come, seeing the skill and how far the game has come with these kids and how good they are. I’m not taking anything away from our generation, but it’s pretty fun to watch these kids.
It’s an exciting time for a lot of these guys. They’re so close to reaching their dreams, playing college hockey and whatever other routes they’re going to take. I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Q: You mentioned Knuble and having been teammates in the past, including the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Will there be any bragging rights at stake here?
A: There will definitely be something on the line. We have a mutual friend from Alaska who is already putting gas on the fire, so we’ll make it fun. We won’t take anything away from the kids who are playing, but if they need a little extra motivation, then so be it.
Q: Is there certain advice you’ll be sharing with the players participating?
A: We’ll be there for them, if they have questions. But, I’m sure once I see them on the ice, I won’t be able to help myself if I see something. Maybe, ‘Try this or this is how I was taught.’ That was always neat for me, getting advice from NHL players when I was that age. Tricks of the trade, what to expect.
I’ve played in a couple of these games. You have to realize you’re here for a reason. It’s not one game or break. Obviously, everyone knows who you guys are and what stage you’re at, so just play your game and don’t be trying to do something special. The scouts already know your ability.
Q: You have a little familiarity with some of these players. What else have you done to make yourself ready for this experience?
A: Once my name got called, I reached out to a couple people. You want to be aware of who they are. It’s basically word of mouth, going over the list.
It’s crazy. My old agent was Pat Brisson and I’ll be coaching his kid (Brendan). It shows how old I’m getting.
I’m there for them. I want to help these guys as much as possible, but it’s not like I’m putting together scouting reports or watching videotape of them.
Q: What does the talent level on display in this game say about the growth of American Hockey? You mentioned it some already, but what’s your overall feeling on where hockey in the United States and its development on the grassroots level stands at this point?
A: We all go through different stages. The Doug Weights, Brian Leetches, (Keith) Tkachuks and Billy Guerins, for them, 1980 was their remembrance of USA Hockey.
For my generation, it was 1996, the World Cup. When they won that, it was for all of us. It took a 16-year-old kid to a different level where we’re the best in the world and it’s just grown from there.
You see it all around USA Hockey. You’re proud of everyone. You’re proud of it when you’re in the league and you see every year, we have a shot at the World Juniors.
It has come so far and these kids are unreal. And, the best part is where these kids come from. It’s not the same as it was. They’re coming from Arizona and California and Florida. When we were kids, it was Boston, Michigan, Minnesota and Chicago. It wasn’t that widespread.
Now, when you look at where these kids are from, it’s amazing. Being a USA Hockey guy, you’re proud of that.
It’s still bragging rights in the locker room on the NHL level and even when you’re done playing or you’re coaching. Seeing Americans doing great … I still think Patrick Kane is the best player in the world and he’s a U.S. guy, so I’m definitely proud of that.
USA Hockey is something to be reckoned with and it’s getting even better. These kids are taking the torch.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.