*note from the author: Over the course of many years, I have managed to fill my voice recorder up with fun quotes and fascinating stories. A good number of these recordings have yet to see the light of day. There are just too many fun, interesting, and uplifting stories to not share. So, after much thought and feedback from readers, I’ve decided to do a weekly quote dump for the next 14 Thursdays. I hope you enjoy some of these conversations as much as I did.
The beginning of 2018 was quite a time for defender Cameron Gaunce. On January 13th, 2018, he passed Andrew Agozzino for playing the most games in a Cleveland Monsters’ sweater with 226. Not even month later, Gaunce would play in his 500th professional hockey game. During the time between the two milestones, I sat down with Gaunce to discuss his favorite memories, the city of Cleveland, and the advice he would give to anyone entering the league for the first time.
Also, this was the interview where I learned the importance of mapping out questions before you interview a player. As you will see, the questions jump around a bit.
Elaine Shircliff: You played in your 226th game this weekend with a team that’s only been around for 11 years. How does that feel for you?
Cameron Gaunce: It’s pretty special. I think it’s something that when my career is over I’ll be able to really appreciate.Right now I’m excited about it but at the same time it’s hard to understand in the situation. It’s one of those things that when I’m done when I get the bigger picture, it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. Something along those lines right now. It’s something I’m very happy about.
ES: Your wife, has she been with you through all of it? Most of it?
CG: We were dating while I was here first. She moved in with me my third year. So, she was here back in 2012 and 2013. She came back this time. We both really enjoyed the city. Especially how much it’s improved. I don’t want to say it in a bad way but I feel like Cleveland has made a lot of strides and we really enjoy being here. There is so much to it that we really like.
ES: Was the moving tough for her? You went from here to Texas then Portland then Wilkes Barre and then back here. She’s not playing. So, I know it’s a different perspective.
CG: She has been unbelievable through it all. The support she’s been giving me. The adaptability she’s been doing. She’s someone who has been able to find work or some work through it all. And she’s been awesome.
With a lot of guys there’s no grey area if your partner is helping you or hurting you. It’s usually black and white. My wife has been nothing but supportive. She has been excellent helping me to where I am now. I owe a lot to her and I’m very very lucky to have her.
ES: You’re coming up on 500 professional hockey games soon. What have been some of your greatest moments?
CG: Winning the Stanley Cup. Winning the Calder Cup , meeting a lot of the guys. I think that’s what’s going to stick with me the most is I’ve made a lot of really good friendships over the years. Think I’ve played some good hockey here and there. I think I’ve made even better friendships and I think that’s what’s really going to stick with me.
Each team I’ve played on there’s usually a lot of guys who I was friends with on the teams but a couple of guys I keep in touch with over time. I think that’s what means a lot to me. Because hockey players get to know each other pretty well. Between how you are in all situations, you’re with them on the road, you’re with them, you’re roommates very intimate. You are playing with them through very stressful situations and you see different sides of guys. So, the fact that some of these guys know me inside and out , almost as well as my wife does , and the fact they are still friends with me and still keep in contact with me means a lot.”
ES: You had Jock Callander as your coach when you were here the first time. You’re back together again. Except this time, Jock is in a different role. What’s that like for you?
CG: It’s definitely different. Jock is such an influential person especially in the Cleveland area what he’s done for hockey. The best is you talk to Carter Camper about it and Carter being from the area. He looks up to Jocko and he is a hero. When Jock was a coach, he worked a lot with the forwards. I didn’t work with him closely. To see him in a different perspective and talking to him on a daily basis more often now being the team services its definitely different but Jock is such a good guy to talk to about things. He’s very easy going and it’s nice.
ES: Has there ever been a time where in this 500 games where you’ve just like ready to pack it up? or have you always been I’m here, I love it, I’m doing it?
CG: There’s definitely been tough times for sure. There’s ups and downs and through all of it that’s when someone like my wife has become such an important part. I have an extremely good supportive cast. Whether it’s my mom , my dad, obviously my wife, my friends back home. So, I’ve been very lucky through those tough times to depend on them to help push me through it.
I wouldn’t say there was ever a time where I said “I might end it here”. There’s definitely times where you kind of question is this , am I doing enough, should I be doing something differently, and there’s always moments of regret but as long as I’ve been able to look myself in the mirror and know that i’ve worked as hard as I can I’ve been able to kind of get through it.And I think that’s the biggest thing for me so far.
ES: What would you offer as advice to kids coming in or even adults coming in? Actually, some of these guys are 24 year old rookies. What kind of advice to keep them going? Because sometimes it’s hard, it gets frustrating. You find yourself on the 4th line or you get scratched every night.
CG: I think the biggest thing is you need to create a routine. For me, it took me a couple of years to kind of realize that I’m not good enough to just show up at the rink. There’s some guys luckily for me and also unfortunately for me, I’ve played with some of them when I was younger. Some of these guys could just show up at the rink and be the best player at the rink. I had the hubris that I was one of those guys. I believed that oh I could just show up. And I’m not.
So, I think a lot of guys need to realize most people aren’t like that. You need to create a routine for yourself. Every day is a new day. Whether it’s get better or get to the next day you need to make sure you’re doing it and not going through the motions. I think not only will it help you to become a better hockey player but also make you more sane. Because it’s a long hockey season. And you look at this last road trip we were on and if you were just trying to get through it for the sake of getting through it , it was long but if you try to take advantage of every day , create a routine, it will make things a lot better for you.