BLOG: Mazanec Comfort Level Rises
How great would it be to be a professional athlete?
Think about it: you would get paid for doing something you love. You would get paid to play "a game".
It would be pretty awesome, right?
Now throw in the wrinkle of doing this in a foreign country.
Admirals goalie Marek Mazanec did that last season. He got to live his dream of playing in the NHL and he did it in his first year in North America. Heck, he was the NHL's Rookie of the Month for November with the Nashville Predators.
Mazanec appeared in 56 games in his first North American season. He posted a pair of NHL shutouts and led the Admirals with 18 wins last season.
So you would think he was over the moon, right? Well?
"It was not that fun, actually," says Mazanec, "because everything was so new for me. I didn't know what to do or where to be. Who should I talk to? I was just trying to follow the group and do my best."
"It was a long season for me."
A stranger in a strange land. Mazanec was fortunate to find counsel among his goalie brethren.
"I talked to Mitch Korn (former Predators goalie coach) a lot in Nashville. Magnus Hellberg was my roommate last year. He helped me a lot, too. He helped me with the apartment and where to go in Milwaukee."
Before the playoffs started, I asked Mazanec to do a video interview for www.milwaukeeadmirals.com. He didn't want to, saying he was uncomfortable with the language.
This past summer, I noticed he was getting active on Twitter (follow him at @mazanec222). He was posting some humorous items and comments. That signaled to me that he was getting more comfortable with his living situation.
"I have been more active on social media. It's a good way for me to introduce myself to people. My English has improved a little bit. I know the people in the organization. I know the city. It's way better than last year."
Mazanec watched some English lessons on Youtube to try to improve his understanding of the language. When he was younger, he learned German as a second language, but he says English is much harder to pick up.
Adding to Mazanec's comfort this season is the fact he has been with his teammates for a while in training camp.
"This year I was separated into the Milwaukee group earlier. Last year I spent a lot of time with the Nashville group. I think it's better this year because I can be with my teammates."
Mazanec is also excited to work with new goalie coach Dave Rook.
"The goalie thing is about talking. It's mental and it's about talking. We have to be honest with him and tell him what we like and don't like. That's the only way he can help us."
Mazanec is looking forward to this season.
"The plan is to win the Calder Cup for sure. We have to make the playoffs first, but, yes, we're shooting for the Calder Cup."
With a goalie looking to build off an impressive rookie season despite being in a difficult headspace, it'll be interesting to see how far he can take them this season now that he's feeling more like himself.