Evan Bloodoff is one of the Gwinnett Gladiators most dynamic offensive weapons and chose to sign with the team as a free agent this offseason. (Photo: Amanda Hertel)
Evan Bloodoff signed as a free agent with the Gwinnett Gladiators after three seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes organization. Bloodoff was assigned to the Gladiators by Phoenix last season and was among the team’s most prolific point-getters. The 22-year-old Canadian also led the team in playoff goals and was second in points.
Bloodoff began his pro career in 2011-12, playing 48 games for Portland in the AHL. He was picked by the Coyotes in the sixth round of the 2009 draft in the midst of a successful major junior career in Kelowna.
In this installment of “Getting to Know …,” Bloodoff talks to staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including Movember, being on the same junior team with his older brother and loving living in Georgia.
CT: What is your hometown like?
EB: I was born in Nelson, B.C., but I grew up in Castlegar about half an hour away. It’s a small town, about 10,000 people, a nice community. Hockey is pretty popular.
CT: Skiing at all? There’s a bunch of resorts not far away.
EB: I used to ski and snowboard at Red Mountain. They’ve got a nice hill there. I kind of stopped once I got into hockey. But I’ve always liked it. I’d like to do it again some time.
CT: At some point, you have to pick, right? Because you don’t want to be the player who breaks his leg on the hill.
EB: Exactly. In junior in Kelowna, we weren’t allowed to go skiing or snowboarding because of injuries.
CT: You played your entire junior career in Kelowna.
EB: Yeah, five years.
CT: Which is not the norm.
EB: It was awesome. It was a couple of hours from home so my parents got to come down and watch a lot. I actually got to play with my brother for four years. He went there the same year. I was 16, he was 17. We played four years together there. Then he took off to Halifax to go to school and I finished out my last year there.
CT: Is he still finishing college?
EB: Yeah, he’s in his last year.
CT: That’s always the decision, isn’t it — do you stick with junior or go to college?
EB: Absolutely. I got into the Phoenix organization so I stayed (with junior).
CT: Not going to throw that contract away?
EB: No (laughing).
CT: Kelowna won the WHL championship your third season?
EB: Yeah, and went to the Memorial Cup in Rimouski. We lost in the finals. That was the first (of two) years Windsor won it.
CT: How good were they?
EB: They were good. I thought we were better though. We were undefeated until we played them in the round robin and they hadn’t won a game yet. So we had a chance to actually knock them out in the round robin. They ended up winning three or four games in a row to play us in the finals. We were sitting around for almost a week not playing. I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but …
CT: It’s certainly a factor.
EB: But it was a good experience.
CT: Right after that you were drafted by Phoenix. Did you just get a phone call?
EB: My agent called and told me.
CT: Were you surprised? Were you just hanging out that day?
EB: I was just getting up (laughing). I think there was a time change. I think the draft was out east.
CT: The season after that, it only showed you played nine games?
EB: That year I tore my ACL. It was partially torn during the season before. Then during my workouts in the summer, it gave out on me. So I had surgery in September and I missed six months. So I just came back for the last nine games of the season and then playoffs.
CT: Was that the first time you’d been seriously injured?
EB: That’s the only time I’ve ever been injured. It was a battle.
CT: What was your first pro game like?
EB: It was with Portland (in the AHL). Against Bridgeport I think. I was pretty nervous. But it’s just hockey, right?
CT: (laughing) How long before you got your first goal?
EB: I can’t even remember. I think it might have been a couple of months into the season. I think I only had four my first season.
CT: You were playing more of a fourth-line role?
EB: Yeah and I was in and out of the lineup a lot. So it was kind of difficult to get on the scoreboard.
CT: That’s not what they were looking for from you?
EB: That’s always been the role I’ve kind of accepted. I’ve been told if I was to play in the NHL one day, it’d be as a fourth-line kind of guy. So I really try to accept that role and work at it. Even though I’m in a little bit different situation here.
CT: Certainly you’re one of the skill guys here and produce quite a few points.
EB: I know if I get called up to the American League, I’d be a third- or fourth-line guy. But I like to contribute offensively here and do what I can. Emmer has been really good with me, really fair, giving me lots of opportunity.
CT: You have the talent to take advantage when the opportunity is presented. (Last week) against Greenville was a pretty good example with two goals, one off a stolen puck.
EB: I love those. I look for them all the time, to catch the other team sleeping. It was just a weird bounce, I saw a loose puck and I went for it. I shot through the d-man’s legs.
CT: You’re used to long bus rides from playing in the WHL. What do you like to do to pass the time?
EB: In junior I used to read a lot. But I’ve kind of gotten away from that right now. I just sleep usually or listen to music. We have a sleeper bus so all the beds are bunks so there’s no where to really sit. Maybe some cards.
CT: Are you any good at them?
EB: No (laughing).
CT: Who do you room with?
EB: My roommate is Joe Haddad.
CT: Do you guys share cooking and cleaning duties?
EB: You know what, Joe is actually a really good cook. So he’s been doing a lot of that. I kind of help with the cleanup.
CT: What’s his best meal?
EB: He cooked some pretty mean steaks the other day.
CT: What players were you a fan of growing up?
EB: I really liked Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman.
CT: Did you follow the Canucks?
EB: I did. Being from Castlegar, it’s pretty popular there. But I never really got too much into them. Everyone wanted them to win so I was kind of the opposite. I got on the Vancouver train a couple of times when they were making playoff runs — like when they were playing Boston in the finals. I kind of wanted them to win just because it would be cool to have the Cup back in B.C.
CT: How old were you when you left home?
EB: I actually played a year of Junior B in the BCHL when I was 14. But that was at home. I moved away to Kelowna the next year when I was 15 with my brother. I guess we were kind of a package deal.
CT: What kind of player is your brother (Lucas)?
EB: He’s a big power forward. He’s a lot bigger than me. He’s 6-foot-2, 240. He actually won player of the year last year in the CIS. He had a really good season. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to play pro somewhere.
CT: You didn’t go far away from home to play. You traveled a lot during that time, but what was it like moving to Portland (Maine)?
EB: It was really difficult for me when I first moved there. Especially because it was a different country. I didn’t have a social security number. I couldn’t get to my bank accounts. All that stuff. But being on a hockey team, we had a lot of young guys there that were going through the same things. You all stick together and get things done as a team.
The hardest part I think was finding an apartment.
CT: They don’t set you up in one like they do in the ECHL.
EB: No, you’ve got to pay for your own place.
CT: Well, you are making the big bucks.
EB: (smiling) Hmmm. Yeah.
CT: Coming down to the South, that is a big difference as well, isn’t it?
EB: I love it here. I love the weather. I love everything about this place. I was really excited to come back this year.
CT: Was there anything for you to get used to down here?
EB: I don’t think so. They say “y’all” down here a lot. I think I even caught myself saying it a couple of times.
It is easier. But I get busted a lot for saying “eh.” People can tell my Canadian accent a lot. I get called out quite a lot.
CT: What music do you listen to most often?
EB: I listen to everything basically. We have a pretty wide variety in the room. I probably listen to hip-hop more often.
CT: Are you a go to a concert if you can kind of guy?
EB: I love to. I went to see Jay Z and Justin Timberlake this summer in Vancouver. That was a blast.
CT: Any TV shows you try not to miss?
EB: I like my TV shows. I like “Sons of Anarchy,” “Dexter,” “The Mentalist.”
CT: Best and worst ’staches for Movember on the team?
EB: Best would go to probably Dirk (Southern) or Brando (assistant coach Andy Brandt). Worst? That might go to maybe Curry. (laughing) Maybe mine, I don’t know. Mine’s pretty weak and wispy.