“You just have to try to have fun every day and try not to take it so seriously. You have to try to do other things. You can’t just say that you want to play hockey since you are five years old and do nothing else.” -Adam Gajan
By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
GREEN BAY – Sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference of the USHL has been no easy feat all year for the Green Bay Gamblers.
However, their performance would no doubt be less impressive without high performing athletes on their squad, such as Adam Gajan, an international player from Poprad, Slovakia.
Although a force to be reckoned with now, Gajan said that he was the first person in his family have a profound love for hockey.
Making the decision for himself to play, Gajan said that he’s not sure why, but being a goalie was something he had always gravitated towards.
“I don’t even know. I just wanted to be a goalie since I was two years old,” said Gajan. “I don’t know what it was that made me want to be a goalie and obviously I don’t remember when I was that young, but my parents told me that I have always wanted to be a goalie. It just kind of started from nothing.”
Gajan said that he never gravitated towards any other sport the way he did with hockey.
“Hockey was always my priority. I was never deciding between two sports or something like that, but growing up, soccer is a pretty big thing in Europe so I played soccer. I was cycling and playing tennis and stuff like that like all of the other kids, but hockey was always number one,” said Gajan.
Someone to look up to
Like many other young players, Gajan said that his love for the game was fueled by watching his favorite player on the ice.
“My favorite goalie in the NHL is Andrei Vasilevskiy, so I like to watch him. I watch other [goalies] too and everything, but I really like him and how he plays,” said Gajan, giving praise to the Russian Tampa Bay Lightning goalie.
The mental side of things
Although his love for the sport is unfaltering, Gajan said that it can be rough at times and that a lot of people don’t understand the mental toughness it takes to consistently perform at your best.
“Sometimes you have your best moments, other times you have harder moments, like when you lose a lot of games. It’s hard to get back and it bothers you for a while. It’s hard to get back on your game, so that’s probably the hardest part,” said Gajan.
“It’s hard, like what happened to me during the world juniors. It’s hard enough losing a regular game during the season to come back for your next game, but those games are once in a lifetime, so it’s really hard to get back.”
Despite his own youth, Gajan said that he has some of his own advice to give young people just starting out in their hockey careers.
“You just have to try to have fun every day and try not to take it so seriously. You have to try to do other things. You can’t just say that you want to play hockey since you are five years old and do nothing else. Just try to have fun every day and do things outside of hockey, too,” said Gajan.
Although he has had amazing experiences playing hockey, Gajan said that he has had his fair share of adversity and mental slumps, like any young player.
“Last year before I committed to Minnesota Duluth, I wasn’t playing terribly, but we were losing and every game was like a one-goal game. But then everything changed. I committed to Minnesota Duluth, we won our last few games back in Chippewa and got to go to world juniors — we had a great run there. I don’t know, it’s just something that happens to everyone, so just know that you have opportunities to have great games all season,” said Gajan.
Gajan said that when mental blocks like this pop up for athletes, sometimes it is better to just rely on others to distract you from whatever problems you are having on the ice so that you can just relax.
“Sometimes I just need time to myself to think about everything. There is always some friend or someone you can talk to, not even about the problems you are having (on the ice) but other stuff so that you can forget about everything else. I have a mental coach but you don’t really talk to him about problems you’re having, it’s more about performance and working to always be getting better,” said Gajan.
“When hockey stuff isn’t going great, I just talk to anyone about anything.
What the future holds
Gajan has great things ahead of him in his hockey career, including finding out what the future holds for him after being drafted by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks.
“It was a great experience. Everything happened so fast for me. I could have been drafted a year ago, but no one even knew about me. I came to Chippewa, and after two games I talked to about 20 schools and so many NHL teams wanted me and everything just happened so fast last year. Being drafted so high, I mean, after last year, I wasn’t even thinking about the draft. My dream was always to make it to the NHL but I wasn’t thinking about the draft because I wasn’t anywhere close to being drafted the year before. It wasn’t my only goal coming to the USA, but I’m happy for it,” said Gajan.
Unlike a lot of younger athletes, Gajan said he was entirely committed to making hockey his career, leaving home very young to pursue his dreams.
“I left home when I was 14 to play in Finland. My last two years in Slovakia I played in the furthest town from my hometown, so I’m used to living alone,” said Gajan. “I had to do everything on my own, like laundry and cooking.”
Gajan said it wasn’t until he made it to Chippewa that he finally had people that he lived with and his experiences in Green Bay have been great, on and off the ice.
“I like it so far. There have been ups and downs. Not everything is going this season as I had hoped but you always just have to keep going and hope that it will get better,” said Gajan.
Having close teammates has really made a difference, according to Gajan.
“I think we are a good group of guys,” said Gajan. “Everyone works hard in practice and the guys are having fun. We have big goals this year, so hopefully we can accomplish something,” said Gajan.
Although the Gamblers are in the latter half of their season, Gajan said that the team is more than ready to take on their next few games.