Rob McVicar was a fifth round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He played four years with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings, signing a contract with the Canucks in 2003. Last season, the 6’4 rookie goaltender played 19 games for ECHL affiliate Columbia Inferno, and 10 with AHL affiliate Manitoba Moose. Back with the Inferno this season, McVicar has a 2.51 GAA, a .914 save percentage and a 7-9-1 record. Columbia currently sits in what would be the last playoff berth in the East Division.
Hockey’s Future spoke with the 23-year-old after his 4-3 shootout win over the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday.
HF: How do you feel like your season has gone so far overall personally?
RM: It’s been weird. We’ve got two great goalies, me and the other guy (Mike Minard), we both battle pretty hard and I think the team really appreciates knowing that whoever is in, they’re going to get a good effort and always have a chance to win. For me personally, it’s getting busy because our schedule is getting really tough here and I think it will only benefit our team having two goalies that can go on any night.
HF: Do you feel like you’re playing better than last year?
RM: Yeah, I do feel like I’m playing better than last year. I’m a year older and I’m a little more mature. I’ve worked on things that have definitely made me a lot better, little things that you have to tweak in the summers. Yeah, I feel like it’s a learning process and if you want to make it to the next level, you need to get better. Hopefully people are noticing that.
HF: What are those little things that you’re working on?
RM: It’s what every goalie has to work on, technique and a lot of conditioning, stuff like that. Put in reps, the same movements, so that it comes natural in games.
HF: What kind of training did you do over the summer and where?
RM: I was back home, I was in Brandon, Manitoba. Some cardio, some swimming, stuff like that. A little bit of weights here and there. You definitely have to keep the quick feet, that’s important as a goalie, you’ve got to be quick.
HF: Do you completely put the pads away during the summer and just do off-ice training?
RM: For the first little bit. I think it’s good to get away. It’s a long season, you play 70 games, in other leagues you play 80. It’s definitely a long season, plus playoffs. You can play a total of over 100 games. When it’s time to relax, I think that’s a big part of training, you have to rest your body. Your body needs it. You give it three or four weeks then you get back at it again.
HF: How would you compare this year’s Columbia team to last year’s?
RM: Well, I think you can look at the stats and kind of see the difference right there. We don’t have as much firepower, but I think our team plays together a lot more than we did last year. We’re putting together a lot more 60-minute games, we’re playing the full game. And we have to, it’s the only way we’re going to win. We need everyone together. We don’t have guys who are going to get 60 goals in this league, so we need everyone to come together. Last year we had guys, we had a Tim Smith that could put up 95 points and could rely on him getting one or two points a game and kind of play a run and gun game. We’re a little more defensive this year and battling a little more.
HF: Who do you think is the best shooter you’ve seen in this league?
RM: Geez, I don’t even know. I don’t like to look at it like that anyway, every shot’s different. They’re shooting in different places every time. Just because someone scores on me, it doesn’t mean I think they’re the best shooter you know. Anyone can beat you, it’s just a matter of the position and what’s happening around you. I don’t know, I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t really pay attention a whole lot to that. I don’t really think like that. I just think I have to stop the puck and that’s the main thing. I’m not focusing on who’s out there and who’s shooting on me. If you do that, you’re not concentrating as much on the puck.
HF: Can you talk about who has coached you over time and how they’ve helped you?
RM: I think the biggest thing is I had a coach in junior (Brandon) who coached the team for two years, his name was Deane Clark. He wasn’t an X and O’s guy, but what he taught us was desire and to have fun playing the game. We’d go through drills and stuff, but a lot of times it was competitive drills where we were battling against each other to win something. He would make it some sort of game so that everyone would be competing all the time. He really made our team want to win all the time. He was an amazing guy, great with the team, easy-going, friends with all the players, talking to them, just one of the guys. He played obviously, so he really enjoys the game and loves the game. I think that really came down to a lot of us. The year before we had a guy that was real hard-nosed, really intense. Sometimes the game didn’t seem as fun. But it seemed like with Deane Clark, if we did lose, it was almost like we disappointed him and we felt bad. That’s the kind of feeling that he gave us. We let him down, and you just never wanted to do that again. That’s the only coach I’ve ever heard of being like that. So I think he was my best coach so far.
HF: Now, he didn’t play goal did he?
RM: No, no. (laughs) He was a player. He played I think a game for the Oilers.
HF: Was he able to help you much with your technique?
RM: No, not at all (laughs). Not really, but I know what I’ve got to work on. I have a goalie coach in the summers who has helped me a lot, for what to work on. When you have a guy like that, he just makes the game fun and it’s not a problem to work on those things. It’s not a chore or anything. He just put in my mind that it’s fun to play this game and it’s special to make a living at it.
HF: How many years have you worked with that goalie coach?
RM: Ian Clarke, I’ve been with him probably six years, five or six years. Yeah, he’s really done a lot for my game. When I started with him, I was pure athleticism, I’d make the big save but I’d let in the weak one or something. He really got my technique in check and I came along, and pretty much everything I’ve done is owed to him.
HF: How did you two get together?
RM: He actually sent me something in the mail. He has a hockey school and he asked me to be an instructor at his school one summer. I went there and it turned out I was the student (laughs). I was doing the demos and I was quick and I could do everything, but I just had to learn it. I just kept going back to him every year. He’s picked my game apart and getting me a little better.
HF: Your call-ups last year and this year, were they all injuries?
RM: Yeah they were. The thing is this year there’s no NHL obviously. Last year I think I was the only guy on Vancouver’s list who could go up, so any time Dan Cloutier or Johan Hedberg in Vancouver got hurt, or even the two goalies for the Manitoba Moose, Tyler Moss or Alex Auld got hurt, I would go up. So this year there’s only two guys who can get hurt and also we have Mike Minard who can possibly go up because he’s with the Manitoba Moose. It’s a little different circumstances, but everyone’s going through it, this lockout is hurting everyone. It’s tough, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but Columbia if I have to be in this league.
HF: Is Columbia really starting to feel like home now?
RM: Yeah, it is starting to feel like home. You get used to the people and they’re starting to become almost like your family, family away from home. The people are great down here and I can’t say enough how giving they are, everything they do for us, it’s so much.
HF: I noticed you just had a birthday this month, what did you do to celebrate?
RM: (laughs) We got a win. I’m not sure if it was here (Gwinnett) or not…it was the 15th of January, I can’t remember. So I got to celebrate with the boys on the bus. That was the most fun I’ve celebrated in about six years. I’m always on the road.
HF: What would people be surprised to know about you?
RM: Surprised to know about me…wow. Um, I’m part French.
HF: On your mom or dad’s side?
RM: Mom’s side. Both her parents’ first language was French.
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