Welcome back to a new season of the Sound Tigers Meet and Greet series! Boy, do we have a good interview to start the year off! Top Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows and defenseman Yanick Rathgeb sat down with members of the Sound Tigers Booster Club in a Q+A Style chat about hockey, life, and things they do off the ice!
Kieffer Bellows: I’m from Edina, MN. That’s where I grew up. I’ve been around hockey my entire life. My dad Brian played many seasons in the NHL. I’ve lived in South Dakota, Michigan, Portland, OR, Boston, MA, and now Bridgeport, CT. I started playing hockey when I was young. My dad taught me everything I know. I give a lot of credit to my mom as well. She was the one waking up early, bringing me to practices and games. It’s fun being here, I appreciate all of the support you guys give us, night in and night out.
Yanick Rathgeb: I’m 22 years old, I’m from Switzerland. I played two years of juniors in Plymouth for the Whalers. Then went back to Switzerland and played two years of pro. Now I’m back here, even though I haven’t played that much yet, but hopefully get some more time. Apparently, we’re supposed to have a pretty good team this year, but we’re looking for some chemistry. But as we get going, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Q: Yanick, talk us through that first goal, you definitely took advantage of playing on Friday.
YR: Yeah, got some space and put it in. Felt great to finally play, since my injury, I haven’t played since January. Happy to be back on the ice, and play again. I was pretty nervous at the start but by the third period, I had no nerves, especially when I made that move. First couple shifts I was pretty nervous, but once I settled down I felt better, and Helgy [Seth Helgeson] helped me a lot.
Q: Kieffer, obviously most of us know that you grew up with a father who played in the NHL. What was it like growing up with him, and watching if you had the chance?
KB: I actually never got to watch him play, his last game was the year that I was born when he was playing for Washington at the time. Yeah, my dad was my coach back in Squirts, Peewees and Bantams. He obviously taught me everything I knew and taught me how to be a pro on and off the ice. He still helps me out now, he was here last weekend. Now he’s more of a supporting dad, rather than a coach. If I have any questions for him, I know he’s going to be there for me.
Q: Favorite NHL team growing up?
KB: Montreal Canadians.
YR: I didn’t watch a lot of NHL growing up. We didn’t have a lot of Swiss players. Once I got to 13, or 14 years old, I loved watching Ovechkin, so Washington was my team more recently. I actually was a soccer player at first, then when I was 6, or 7 years old and started playing hockey here.
Q: What is it like to have the veterans like, the Bourques, who’s like you, Kieffer? They had a father playing in the NHL, just like yours. What is it like to have that leadership on the team?
KB: Yeah, it’s awesome. There’s a lot of young talent here. It’s always great to have leadership. It will help you through the daily life, of being a professional hockey player, and take you through the grind of a long season. You know, these guys have been in the NHL. To listen to these guys with their advice, it helps.
Q: Kieffer, you played both the Collegiate and the junior game. What would you say would be the positives of both or the negatives of either?
KB: Yeah, that’s a great question. The positives for collegiate are obviously getting your education, and the workout times, which are 4-5 times a week. The negatives are in my year we only played 33 games that year, we made it pretty far. We were one game away from the Frozen Four. On the counter, the positives of the CHL are the games. Obviously, it is very similar to the schedule here. The Negatives are that you are not getting in the weight room enough. They help us get our education as well in the WHL.
Q: Now Yanick, you mentioned the Swiss Program. Why do you think they are beginning to become a big factor in hockey?
YR: Well, it’s been more up-and-down the last few years. We won the silver in 2013. And we won it again this year. You see a lot of players making it now. When I was young, the NHL was unreachable for most Swiss players. There was one or two players. Now there’s 3 goalies and 25 players I think. It gives the kids back home, the feeling that you can make it. You just have to work hard. It’s possible.
Q: Is the European structure of training, the same as it is in North America from youth and up?
YR: It’s hard to tell because I’m not sure what’s the system here. Some guys do it like how young players are grown in soccer. Like with Barcelona or Munich. They train in the same places as the pro teams. There are guys who won’t play every night in europe in youth due to the big numbers on teams. I feel like we train much as hard as everyone else.
Q: If you weren’t playing hockey, what would you be doing?
KB: I wanted to be in finance when I went to school. But I would be a lacrosse player. That’s my second favorite sport growing up. I played a lot of sports, but that’s the one I held onto the longest besides hockey.
YR: I don’t know what it would be, but I like to lead people, and help people. A managing job or something.
Q: Hamburgers or Hotdogs?
YR: Hot Dog
Q: Fortnite or PUBG?
YR: PUBG. I don’t play either of them, but I play it on my phone.
Q: Favorite Color? [Note: Trick Question, the players have to answer either Blue or Orange.]
YR: I don’t really have a favorite but I think it’s blue because of who I play for.
Who do you guys room with?
KB: Chris Casto and Ryan Hitchcock, we all cook. But I think I’m the best chef.
YR: My Girlfriend.
Q: What kind of foods do you prefer?
YR: I cook my own food. My girlfriend is half Italian, so she cooks pretty well. But we like sushi as well.
Q: Favorite Genre of music?
KB: Before the game, I like to listen to some rock and some EDM. In the locker room, it’s an eclectic mix set up by Jonesy [Connor Jones]. When I’m driving, I’m a big country fan.
Q: Who is the biggest jokester in the room? Last season we had a consensus.
YR: There was one, but he left. Helgy [Seth Helgeson] is really funny.
KB: I’ll say DC [Michael Dal Colle] throws the occasional joke around.
Q: Now Kieffer, did you ever consider Minnesota, as far as college? We had a former player here, who was our captain, Aaron Ness, who you may know from Da Beauty League, and he played with Helgy.
KB: Yeah, it was between Minnesota and BU. I kinda wanted to get out of Minnesota.
Q: What was it like playing for David Quinn, now that he’s the Head Coach with the Rangers?
KB: He’s done a great job. He helped all of those guys. We had a great team with McAvoy, Keller and other. I’m not surprised to see where he is. I think there will be a lot of success there.
Q: Lastly, Yanick, you played for the Plymouth Whalers during their final season in Plymouth. How emotional was that last game?
YR: Yeah, it was really sad. There was a mix of emotions. Happy and sad. Happy that there was a new future in Flint. Sad that after 30 years that the franchise ended. I actually scored the last goal in the history of that team. So it was very emotional.
That will do it for this edition of the Meet and Greet series. Thanks to the Booster Club for allowing us to get these interviews, as well as the players! Next episode we will speak to Chris Casto and Otto Koivula.