Gwinnett Gladiators forward Joey Haddad is in his third professional season, having spent the last two seasons with Wheeling and its AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 23-year-old leads Gwinnett in points, including racking up 13 in the first 10 games this month.
In this installment of "Getting to Know ...", Haddad talked to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including playing major junior hockey at home and away, passing the time on long bus rides and coming to play for Gwinnett.
CT: What is Sydney, Nova Scotia, your hometown like?
JH: The big thing is Cape Breton Island. It's a beautiful place. It's great in the summer time. Obviously the winters are just pure hockey. It was definitely a nice place to grow up. It's a small-knit community, but then again, it's not too small. Great golfing and a really enjoyable atmosphere. I'm really happy I get to go back every summer.
CT: So that's where you spend your offseasons and you played for Cape Breton in juniors?
JH: Yep, my 19- and 20-year-old years I got to play there. That was huge. My career was kind of, my first two years of junior didn't go the way I wanted them to. But I got the trade back home and it was kind of a boost to my confidence and just my overall morale. The next two years I got it going.
CT: They let you live with your parents?
JH: Yeah, I live just a couple blocks from the rink. So yeah, it was awesome to be there, playing in front of my friends and family every game. It was great. I got to sleep in my own bed, eat my mom's food every night.
CT: Not very many people get that. Were you 16 when you left home (to play for Prince Edward Island, also in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)?
JH: I was 16. I turned 17 in October so it was my 17-year-old year.
CT: Was it tough to leave?
JH: You know, some people have it rough and some people have it good. Myself, I was one of the good ones just because the billet company I got hooked up with in Prince Edward Island, I'm still really close with them today. They were my second family for sure. It wasn't even like I was away from home at all. I was really lucky.
CT: How was playing in the "Q"? How's your French?
JH: My French is nonexistent. Playing in the "Q" was good. Every league has travel. PEI wasn't too bad, but Cape Breton had some rough games. The closest game was four hours away and the longest was 28 hours I think. But when you have a good team and good teammates, it makes it a lot easier.
CT: So through junior and the ECHL isn't too much different in terms of the road trips you have to take, what's your method for passing the time?
JH: It's different every trip. Obviously if you're tired, then you're happy to get some sleep. If not, maybe a movie or cards with the guys. Everybody's got an iPad now, so there's tons of games and stuff on that. A little bit of reading here and there. But basically it's just how I feel.
CT: How would you describe your style of play?
JH: I've always described it as a power forward. I've got a big body, I can skate and I've got some offensive ability. A durable, all-around player. Reliable defensively and offensively. For the most part of my career, I've been labeled that.
CT: So your game has been consistent throughout your career?
JH: Well, a big thing in my early days was my consistency. I'd show flashes here and there, but everybody looks for game-in and game-out. These are long, grueling seasons and it's a lot of hockey from the end of August to the end of April -- and that's without playoffs. Sometimes it's a battle to be mentally ready every night. But the end of last year, into this year, I feel like I'm kind of conquering that. Definitely feeling more consistency.
CT: In seven games in October, you had just three assists. But you've got 13 points in 10 games this month. Is that just finding some chemistry with your teammates?JH: Definitely. I feel like our team as a whole is getting better every game when it comes to playing within the systems and playing with each other. Even just personally, individual players, the longer you go in the season, the more comfortable you get. You get into a rhythm. And it definitely helps when the puck starts going in the net.
CT: Was there a team you followed growing up?
JH: My dad was a Detroit fan. My brother liked Pittsburgh. I liked Detroit. I cheered for them in the late '90s when I was young. But I was always a fan of just a wide-range of players from a bunch of different teams. I was more just a fan of hockey in general.
CT: Growing up, did you play any other sports?
JH: When I was very young I had a season or two of baseball and indoor soccer. But for the most part, it was hockey in the winter and then in the summer, I was out in the country, on the water, boating and water skiing. I was a little bit of a country boy in the summers when the weather was nice. I kind of got away from hockey, which was nice. A little breather.
CT: Who is your roommate this season?
JH: Shane Sims. He was actually my first roommate in (AHL) Portland. That was Sept. 20, so ever since then we've been roommates. We got sent down at the same time so it worked out.
CT: Was it primarily (head coach John) Wroblewski getting hired in Gwinnett (after being an assistant in Wheeling) that had you signing with the team?
JH: I finished my stint with Pittsburgh. My first decision was that I wasn't going to go back to Wheeling. I'd been there the last couple years with the same organization and obviously it didn't work out. So I was planning on getting out of there. Wrobo was in contact with me during the summer when he was getting the new job. I looked at a few different places, but ultimately made my decision to come here. It's got decent road trips, a nice climate and atmosphere. I've heard a lot of good things about the organization. And especially knowing Wrobo, he reassured me about the staff and stuff. So it was a pretty easy decision.
CT: Major differences between Wheeling and Gwinnett?
JH: Climate-wise, yes. And just the overall geographical layout. We're in suburbia here, which is nice and convenient. Wheeling was a good time for me as far as building teammates and working on my game. I made a lot of friends there. But it's definitely nice here in Gwinnett. I'm enjoying it so far.
CT: It's Movember and obviously it's a good cause (growing mustaches to support research for men's cancers). Who on the team has the best 'stache so far?
JH: It's tough. There's a lot of guys that can really grow it and wear it and look good. (Andy Brandt), or captain has a really good one. Marc Cheverie had an awesome one. He's called up right now, but I'm sure he's still got it. There's a couple guys that aren't the best at growing it, like myself. I wore it for the road trip there when we went away for about 10 days. But definitely Brando and Marc Cheverie stand out in my mind. And Will Colbert, too.
CT: What kind of music do you listen to most often?
JH: The majority of times, I listen to country. A little bit of oldies and '70s rock. Cooking, I like maybe some classical music going. I like to mix it up, but for the most part, it's country.
CT: Do you have an idea what you'd be doing if you weren't playing hockey professionally?
JH: I'd probably have to say I'd be back home, working with my father. He's a business owner, a sports bar and grill and some apartment buildings. I grew up around it and I have a lot of interest in that stuff.