The feature series Fifteen has leaned on fan suggestions as to who should be heard from next. For a good while Kevin Fiala‘s name was on top of my check list but I couldn’t get to him due to (1) he was with the Nashville Predators right around the time he was next to be interviewed and (2) the Milwaukee Admirals were on the AHL All-Star break and then in California last week.
With that all done and dusted the 19-year old from Switzerland was free to chat after practice yesterday and we were able to kind of sort of pull the interview off. I say, “kind of sort of,” because there were some blank spots to questions and some freedom on my part to Fiala to not get a migraine thinking up certain stories if they aren’t right off the top of his head. Not to mention, this is another one of those casual language barrier interviews where – yes he speaks English – but it’s not his language of choice. His English is still rough. Certainly better than my second language at his age… much less his fifth language that he can speak.
That all said, I’m hoping Fiala’s personality comes through here because I’ve noticed him looking far and away more relaxed than he was even at the start of this season. It’s as if someone reminded him that he is a teenage kid and he’s playing a game that he should try to take less seriously and just enjoy it. He seems loose around the rink and in-game action. I think a year into Fiala’s North American journey has seen an amazing maturation process in that respect. Enough of me saying as much, though. Let’s let him have his own say so.
Admirals Roundtable: What I’ve been doing is basically asking every player like fifteen questions and the day that I was going to do that with you – you got called up. WHich is a perfect segue into: how was that time in Nashville? You ended up getting a goal in your first shift.
Kevin Fiala: Yeah, it was a great time there. Obviously I could score. That was really nice to make my first one. Hope so. I hope it’s not the last one. Yeah, it was just a great feeling. (AR: It’s a shame that you scored in-and-out so fast that you didn’t get a time to celebrate it. They didn’t even know it went in.) No. I mean it went so fast. I looked back and I was like, “It didn’t? No, it went in.” I just played again.
AR: What were your inspirations to play hockey?
Fiala: My father plays hockey – or, played hockey. He first, so he took me on the ice and he.. I never wanted to go off the ice, he say. And that’s why. I like it. I love it. (AR: Did he play professionally?) Yeah, in Switzerland. [Editor’s Note: Meet Jan Hans Fiala.]
AR: When did you realize you were going to be playing hockey for a career?
Fiala: All the time. Every time when we were in school and the teachers asked us what did we want to do. Everybody was talking about like a job but I was always like, “I want to be a hockey player.” [laughs] Always, like every time. I don’t know what I would do if I don’t play hockey. (AR: I was about to ask. Did you even have a Plan B or was it just hockey?) No. No Plan B. I hope it will be good career so I can have some fun and make some money.
AR: Who was the first famous player that you met?
Fiala: I don’t know. My first? I played against [Alexander Ovechkin]. I never went to an NHL game or anything like that. So I never saw in [real] life. Like, the best players on the ice I just play against them. I mean, Ovechkin was actually the first one – I think. I’m not sure about that. (AR: When did you guys play or was that like a practice thing?) No, in World Championships two years ago. So, I think he was the first one but I’m not sure.
AR: What is your greatest hockey moment so far? Would it be that first NHL goal?
Fiala: Yeah, probably. [laughs] Yeah. (AR: Even though it was a blur?) Yeah, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. (AR: Even for [Viktor Arvidsson‘s] when he scored his first NHL goal.. it’s not the style of goal that he scores.. but it counts.) Yeah. It counts.
AR: What’s the strangest game that you’ve played in?
Fiala: Straightest? (AR: Strangest.) Strangest game? What do you mean? Like, I’m never going to forget or what? (AR: Like, just odd. Even playing the AM games here this season were–) Weird? Probably the first game here. The most weird was probably here. The first game – my first AHL career game because it was so different. (AR: And that’s actually a fun point to bring up because it’s basically been now a year since you arrived here in this country. How has that been and how difficult was that first taste of the North American game?) Actually, if I’m honest with you, when I came here it was so different – the hockey. So much more North-and-South. You don’t drop here. You just play North all the time. It doesn’t matter if somebody is open or not you chip it out or something. You don’t do that at home. You always want to make a play if it’s North-or-South or East-or-West like it doesn’t matter. I think I did a pretty good job to take to it. I really like the game much more here than at home because you have a lot of more opportunities to score, too. Because everything is faster. (AR: The pace is overhwhelming. Even when you compare it to the Olympic style of the game it’s incredible.) Yeah, I mean also you have to have heads-up because everybody is coming. In Europe we don’t because it’s so big. You have a lot of time there.
AR: What is your most embarrassing hockey memory?
Fiala: [Editor’s Note: Kevin made an initially funny face because he was surprised by the question – so I laughed.] I don’t know, actually. [pause] Embarrassing.. [pause] Ask me something else. I can think about it and tell after.
AR: What is your most painful moment?
Fiala: Painful? (AR: I don’t know if it was necessarily painful but there was a perfect image last year of when you took a skate to the face. That’d be up there as far as scary but that’s not so painful.) Oh, no. That was not painful. Because I was in a game I didn’t feel it. The most painful maybe I think when we went out of the playoffs last year… or to block a shot probably, too! Painful. But, yeah, I don’t know. (AR: You’ve never had a significant injury?) No, actually not. Thank God. [laughs] Knock on wood, but I was never injured before. (AR: Because asking a question like that to Dean and Stan they both give me horror stories. The amount of times they’ve had their noses broken.) Oh yeah? No.. no. I didn’t have anything broken yet just my elbow once when I was young. Maybe that? I don’t know. (AR: Let’s keep it that way?) [laughs]
AR: What are your favorite uniforms in hockey?
Fiala: Uniforms? Now Admirals and Preds. (AR: Just those two?) I mean, no. Also at home-Sweden – HV71. And my first team at home, Uzwil, you don’t know – my first team. (AR: I was going to say today you looked like you were adopted by the Swedes. Is that a thing? Are you becoming more Swedish?) We don’t have a Swiss guy here but I can speak Swedish, too. So, it helps me a lot. I like everybody. I mean, I’m with everybody but right now on the ice I was with the Swedes. (AR: How many languages do you speak?) About five. [pause] (AR: I can barely speak one!) [laughs] You can. (AR: How do you find the time to do that?!) No, I mean I had in school like three languages. I had one language because of my parents and the one language in Sweden because I was in Sweden.
AR: Who are the funniest players that you’ve met in the game?
Fiala: Met in the game.. funniest.. (AR: There’s a lot in that locker room.) Oh, in our team too? (AR: Yeah, anyone you’ve played with.) [Trevor Murphy] is pretty funny. I mean, Murph probably. I’m always laughing when I see him skate or stuff. [pause] But in a positive way! Not in a negative. (AR: It’s important that you brought that up.) Yeah, not in a negative way. Like I laugh with him because he like smiles at me and stuff you know? (AR: Last weekend there was a moment where I was expecting – we’re going to be laughing at Trevor Murphy playing as a forward not on defense… he scored a hat trick and three assists in his first game!) Yeah, I mean in a positive way. He’s a great player. Like you said, six points in one game. He’s a great player but he’s the way he is. He laughs a lot and it gives me a smile back. He’s not the funniest like I don’t [expletive-ing] make fun of him. You know? No, I just laugh with him. Most funniest guy? I don’t know. I’m 19-years old I don’t know. I never had a funny guy yet. But, he’s probably the most guy I laugh with in the team because he’s fun – or Pontus Åberg too but it’s in a positive way.
AR: So, you’ve been here basically a year. What has been your favorite part of Milwaukee?
Fiala: I like the beach, actually. Very much. When we came here it was pretty warm actually in October. So, I just like to be there to throw the ball to my dog and be with my girlfriend there. Or here in the arena. I like the malls, too. Yeah, it’s pretty cold here but the city is good. (AR: How does it feel to go from San Diego to this?) Yeah.. [laughs] It’s bad! (AR: It’s got to feel like a slap in the face.) Yeah it was cold. When we came from the airport outside it was like, “oh my god.”
AR: What is your favorite food?
Fiala: Fondue. Do you know that? Cheese fondue. Yeah, from Swiss. [Editor’s Note: Fondue video because of reasons.]
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey hobby?
Fiala: Soccer, tennis, golf. Those three. (AR: Do you have a favorite soccer team like in Europe or anything?) Yeah, maybe Barcelona or Bayern München. Those two. (AR: As long as it’s not Chelsea…) No! No, no no no. [laughs] (AR: We’re good then.)
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey memory?
Fiala: Non-hockey memory. [long pause – followed by a cameo from TREVOR MURPHY as he went to go play basketball on the Milwaukee Bucks setup inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center] (AR: He just picked you as the funniest person he’s ever played with.) (Murphy: [laughs] Yeah! I’m going to play ball, bro!) …the best memories non-hockey. I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t. No idea. I have a lot of good memories so I don’t know the best one.
AR: What are your plans after hockey?
Fiala: After hockey? [laughs] I hope.. (AR: This is why I ask it last.) No job. I hope. I hope I don’t have to work, of course. I don’t know yet where I’m going to live. I don’t know yet. I haven’t been in Uzwil in so long – far away. But, I hope to have a house in Switzerland. House in Sweden, maybe.
AR: Back to the embarrassing question.
Fiala: [laughs] Embarrassing. I don’t know. I don’t know. (AR: You had a near embarrassing moment today in practice but I think you can blame that on your skate more than anything. You went flying into the boards.) Yeah, but that wasn’t embarrassing. (AR: The pass was brilliant. [pause] But your skate gave up on you.) Yeah, skate was bad. Sharp today. Bad. But, it was not embarrassing. (AR: We’ll have to come up with another question on the spot then to fill that.)
AR: What’s your favorite thing about Nashville?
Fiala: I was there the whole summer. In the summer it was very warm. It was hot. That was the best thing I think. I’m not old enough to go out so I don’t know how the bars are but the weather was awesome. Every day was hot. And the people are nice. That’s what I remember in the summer. The people were awesome and the summer was great because the weather was nice.
Massive thanks to Kevin Fiala for taking the time for this interview. Reminder, my check list of players you’ve suggested is pretty much at an end so please comment down below with more suggestions!