The Penticton Western News caught up with former Penticton Vee Joey Laleggia, who returns to Penticton for the Canucks Young Stars Classic with the Edmonton Oilers. Laleggia wrapped up a four-year career with the Denver Pioneers hockey team in which he was named the DU Male Athlete of the Year.
WN- How has your summer been like Joey?
JL– It’s been really good. I’ve been training hard and getting ready for camp. It’s been awesome.
WN- What kinds of things have you been doing to get ready?
JL– I have been working out at home here in Burnaby. Started working out with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this summer and his brother and a trainer named Kevin Zeigler. I think it’s really been beneficial for me. It’s been awesome and I’m excited to get things going here in a week.
WN- When you’re not training, what kinds of things do you like to do?
JL- Ha. Well when I’m not training, I’m usually really tired from training or going out on the ice. I like to get out and golf when I feel up to it or else I’m a pretty simple guy. I like watching movies. Seeing friends.
WN- What’s your favorite movie?
JL- I don’t know, I got a lot of favorite movies. I watch a lot of TV shows too.
WN- How does it feel knowing you are finished with being in university?
JL- It’s different for sure, but I’m excited for what lies ahead. Being a pro hockey player is something I have wanted to be my whole life. I’m excited that I finally get the opportunity to do that now.
WN- What did it mean to you to be named DU male athlete of the year?
JL- It was a pretty big honor just to be named in that class of athletes because we have a pretty prestigious athletic program in Denver. I was pretty sidetracked being in Oklahoma City when all that was happening so I didn’t really think too much of it.
WN- Since you finished, have you thought about your final year? If so, what?
JL- Just with everything that happened after the season, it was a little bit harder to reflect on the year itself. After sitting back and watching the videos of all the seniors speeches, and our year-end banquet, it’s a little different knowing I’m not going back, but sitting here now, I achieved all my goals except for winning a national championship, that I could have gotten out of my senior year. I couldn’t have asked for anything more except for winning that championship, which was too bad but Jim Montomery has done a great job with that program. I think we all believe in him going forward.
WN- What is it like to make the transition from college player to pro?
JL- It’s a little different. Just the style of play. The style of play in college and pro are two completely different games. I noticed pretty quickly when I got down to Oklahoma City. It was different, but it was good, just getting my feet wet there at the end of the season and I mean being a pro hockey player is everybody’s dream. I’m just happy that it’s become a reality now. I got seven games in. Two games in the playoffs.
WN- What are the Oilers pros like?
JL- They are all great guys. It’s a really good group. Especially the group we had in Oklahoma. The majority of us being younger guys. It was really awesome, the team was really close. It’s probably why we surprised a lot of people too in the playoffs at the end of the season.
WN- What was that experience like?
JL- It was awesome. It was great to get up there at the end of my season and get to see what kind of style the pro game is. It was a great experience being there. I’m very happy I got the opportunity to do that.
WN- That must help going into this year’s camp?
JL- Yeah, it helps a lot. Just knowing what to expect.
WN- What was the last rookie development camp for you like?
JL- It was good. It was pretty similar to all the other ones, except we did have a little more star power there this summer with Mr. McDavid and that it attracted a little bit more media. Just seeing the fans that came out to Rexall to the last four on four game was awesome. Even when you didn’t think it was possible, it makes you want to play for that team even more than you thought.
WN- What is it like facing Connor McDavid?
JL- Oh, he’s an unbelievable player. All the hype around him is, he definitely deserves all of it. He’s special and in the end I’m glad that I’m on his team. That I’m not going to have to face him.
WN- What is he like as a person?
JL- Extremely humble person. You would never know that he has the star power that he does. And has the fame that he does. He reminds me a lot of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at the same age. Ryan has been one of my best friends since I was very young. That’s a good trait to see in somebody who is just that good and that humble at the same time.
WN- Soon you will be returning to Penticton, have you thought about that?
JL- Oh yeah. I’m very excited. My whole family is coming up. It’s gong to be awesome to get back and play in that rink. I’m just very excited. It’s been a goal of mine for the last couple years going back to college. I’ve been very excited to play in this tournament in Penticton.
WN- What do you cherish most about your time with the Vees?
JL- Everything. It was just an unbelievable two years. I’m so happy I got the opportunity to play junior hockey in Penticton. I still try and help Fred as much as I can with recruiting whenever he needs it. If he needs me to make a phone call or anything like that. I like to give back. I like to keep in contact with Freddy a lot. Let him know what’s going on. I know he sent me a quick text after the last development camp. He’s good like that. He develops relationships with his players. That’s probably one of the reasons why he has so much success.
WN- What do you think it will be like playing in the Canucks Young Stars Classic?
JL- It should be great. It should be a great experience. I get to play against all the best rookies and young players from those four teams in Western Canada. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of that class. I hope to come in and show everybody what I can do.
WN- What do you look forward to most when it comes to playing in the Classic?
JL- Just getting to put the Oilers jersey on for real for the first time. Playing back in Penticton of course.
The Edmonton Oilers hit the ice for their first game against the Canucks on Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. For game tickets, visit the box office at the South Okanagan Events Centre or call 1.877.763.2849 or visit www.valleyfirsttix.com.