Jimmy Hogan is a Pennsylvania native who will be competing at the 2016 ISBHF Masters World Ball Hockey Championships this June in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Jimmy and the Team USA Masters just recently finished up their final preparation camp before the tournament. ASHI managed to catch up with Jimmy and talk to him about his experience, his expectations, and what it means to him to be able to compete at a world championship level.
Jim Hogan, Masters Team USA Defenseman
Thanks for agreeing to talk with us, Jimmy. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
No problem. I was born and raised in Cranberry Township, a suburb north of Pittsburgh. I still live in Cranberry with my wife Heather, son Camden, and we’re expecting another child in October.
The Hogan Family
What do you do for a living?
I’m a corporate controller for a global manufacturer headquartered in downtown Pittsburgh.
When did you first start playing hockey or street hockey? Do you play ice as well? Who introduced you to the game?
I started playing street hockey in 1991 at age 14. A rink opened in my hometown that same year the Penguins won their first Stanley Cup. My high school didn’t have an ice hockey program, but some friends my age and older played a lot of street hockey and I got hooked.
When did you get involved in the competitive side of street hockey? What was the first championship you ever won?
As I continued to improve in cadet, some of the older guys started bringing me into adult leagues that provided me experience not a lot of other kids were getting at my age. Eventually Mark Madden came to see me play and asked me to join his cadet and freshman Wizards teams. That first year the freshman Wizards won a regional tournament at Mayer Dek on Long Island and I won MVD in a regional cadet tournament finals loss at Penn Hills in Pittsburgh. Both championships were played against Long Island teams.
When did you realize you were getting pretty good at the game? Who and what helped you improve as a player and how?
I realized I was getting pretty good when Mark asked me to play for both the cadet and freshman travelling teams, but then my freshman career was ultimately cut short by college. Jumping back into the sport in my early twenties, it was Mark again giving me a shot to play with the Greater Pittsburgh A level team. He and all of the great A level players on that squad were my biggest influences and taught me solid defense, a quick breakout, physicality and aggression were the assets with which I could most help the team.
What was your best hockey memory growing up?
My best hockey memory growing up was scoring an overtime game winning goal in the 2006 A league national’s semi-final game against the Leominster Rams. My worst hockey memory was the very next game losing in overtime to the Leominster Jets in the finals. More recently, being a key contributor to Arsenal’s Can-Am victory (a Pittsburgh team’s first ever A league tournament win in Leominster) was pretty special.
Who is your favorite NHL team? Any favorite players you try to model your play after or maybe were great influences on you growing up?
The Penguins have always been my favorite team. Although my style may be closer to a Scott Stevens or Brooks Orpik, I always admired Nicklas Lidstrom. However, Mario was always the guy that created vivid dreams for me. Hearing old Mike Lange calls during Mario highlights are still one of the few things in life that give me the chills like I’m a kid again.
What is it about this sport that you think makes people take it so seriously and be so passionate about it?
It’s a fun and competitive amateur sport that can be played at all levels and all ages. Favorable cost and rink time availability compared to ice hockey is probably one of the draws to this sport. This more recent Facebook era, video streaming and increased international play has allowed for a more connected community within the sport, which has really helped revive the popularity of the sport that may have dipped in the late 1990’s / early 2000’s.
What is the hardest thing about winning in this sport? What separates winners from losers?
From a team perspective, the hardest thing about winning in this sport is being required to beat multiple high caliber teams in the same tournament. More recently, quarterfinals teams include the Saints, Rams, War Pigs, Americans, Gods, Arsenal, etc. Any of those teams can and have won, so getting by three of them on the same Sunday is very challenging. From an individual perspective, winners confidently rise to the occasion and rely on the talent and intelligent decision making that got them there in the first place.
How did you get invited to play for Arsenal? What do you enjoy most about being a member of Arsenal?
I got invited to play for Arsenal last year after practicing with the team a bit in preparation for Master’s play. I had been away from the sport competitively for so long I did not know one player on the team, including the diminutive Bill Sullivan who is one of the shortest but most recognizable players in the sport today. However, watching this team mature and ultimately win after adding some veteran leadership in coaches George Tarantino and Rip Manion was a great experience. I’m just glad they gave me the chance to get back up to speed and show I could contribute. It has been a real pleasure and I’m grateful to the entire team for allowing me to feel young again.
Jim manning the blue line for Arsenal
How did you get good enough to be recognized as a potential Team USA player? Did you spend a lot of time practicing or playing in leagues and tourneys?
Since January of 2015 I’ve been regularly practicing with Arsenal, playing in the highest local leagues and national tournaments, and hitting the gym. Jamie Cooke and other influential Masters program individuals took notice and I was fortunate enough to play well in the tryout tournament coming directly off a six-week calf injury.
Team Pittsburgh at the Masters tryouts
Talk about the talent on this Team USA Masters squad. What has this experience been like for you playing with such legends of the sport like Rob Sheridan, Mark Goodey, Ricky L’Heruex, etc…
Well what can I say? It’s a dream team for our age group on paper. By taking long breaks from the sport and generally flying under the radar, I’m lucky to even be on the roster with some of the hall of famers and all-time greats of the sport. That said, we still have to work hard and play a disciplined system to win a world championship. Resumés don’t win games.
Jimmy with the Pittsburgh players from Team USA
At the Masters camp in Niagara this past weekend, you were talking about some observations you gained by watching video of the 2014 tournament. What are some of things you learned from watching that video in terms of why teams were or were not successful?
That is true, I did watch tapes of the 2014 tournament and noticed a couple fundamental tweaks Team USA could benefit from based on things teams were and were not doing in that tournament. I don’t want to give away specifics, but some of us may only have one more shot at this so I felt passionately enough about it to bring it up and was appreciative when Coach Jay Machin allowed me to address the team.
How do you feel about all the preparation your team has done in advance of Banff? What are some positives you believe this preparation has given the team?
Preparation for the tournament has gone well. Reliance on individual preparation is always necessary when assembling a team from around the country, but the two camps we held were beneficial for conditioning, team bonding, team strategy, and competitive tests. We will be ready to compete for the gold medal in June.
How would you like to see the sport of ball hockey improve over the coming years?
There are hopes that ball hockey can become an Olympic sport in ten years. To do so, any remaining political divide within the sport needs to be resolved and the current group of guys with real forethought (Chris Banks, Jamie Cooke, Jason Kelly, George Tarantino, Bill Sullivan, Bobby Housser, etc) need to continue to try to legitimize the sport via marketing, gaining sponsorship, community involvement, running quality national tournaments as well as local youth programs. Holding teams and referees to the highest level of accountability and professionalism can only help as well.
What message do you have for the youth of today regarding their hockey careers?
To be successful at anything you need to work hard. Watch tape of Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby in their prime in the NHL or CJ Dempsey and Anthony Cillo in their prime in ball hockey and you’ll see the best players on the rink are also the hardest working. Also know that hockey rarely results in a career, so take school seriously and be good at something else too! And don’t forget to have fun!
Jim showing his terrific sense of humor
Any closing remarks? Anyone you want to give thanks to or give a holler to?
I did not come back just to make the USA team. I came back to win the gold and will do whatever I can to make sure that happens. Finally, I’ve made a lot of friends in this sport and have learned a lot from even more, but special thanks go to Eric Knochel, Steve Betts, Mark Madden, Rick Zinger, David Welsh, George Tarantino, Bill Sullivan, Mark Kiesel, Warren Morgano, Jamie Cooke, Brad Pearce, Heather Hogan, and Camden Hogan. They know why.