OMAHA, NE. - The following is an interview that was put together by Frédéric Willener, a writer for Plantehockey.com. A website that covers everything Switzerland hockey.
Link to original text: https://www.planetehockey.com/interview-kevin-pasche-pour-moi-la-nhl-est-le-reve-ultime,728.html
This interview has been translated from French to English.
Q: Kevin Pasche, for those who don't know you yet, can you tell us about your background?
A: I started at the Freiburg hockey school as a player. Me, I only wanted one thing, to be a goalkeeper. So I joined the Yverdon club where you could be a goalkeeper from hockey school. I then played for Villars, because I had the possibility of being upgraded and evolving with the Moskito. When I was there, Doug Boulanger, then a coach in the Lausanne junior movement, convinced me to join them. I ended up spending seven wonderful years there.
At the international level, I had the opportunity to represent Switzerland from the U15s until the last World Championships in Canada with the U20 team.
Q: You said it, you wanted to be a goalkeeper, how did this desire come about?
A: It's simple, my father and my godfather took me one day to see a Fribourg-Gotteron match. It was the time of Sébastien Caron and, I don't know why, I watched him throughout the match. I couldn't take my eyes off him. It was certain, I also wanted to be a goalkeeper.
Q: After several years in Lausanne, why did you decide to go to North America?
A: For me, it has always been a dream to go to the United States to play hockey. I think all young Europeans, especially the Swiss, dream of crossing the Atlantic to play in America.
Q: How did you make the decision to come to America?
A: After the U18 World Championships in Frisco, USA, CHL clubs came forward and we had some discussions. There would probably have been an opportunity for me to join a Canadian junior league. During discussions with these clubs, they made me understand that it would be difficult for me to arrive and already start. There had already been goalkeepers in place for several years and I should have been content with a substitute role.
Then the Omaha club, in the USHL, also came forward and they offered me a job. They told me that I could clearly be number one on the team. I had to make my decision very quickly, in a single afternoon in fact, because the repechage (draft) was approaching. As it was my dream, I did not take long to make my decision and I accepted. In fact, I immediately thought of the enormous experience that was offered to me to evolve in North America.
Q: Why agree to play in USHL when you could have joined the more popular CHL leagues?
A: As I said, there was a chance for me to play in CHL but let's say it was less concrete than in USHL. I know that in Europe, the Canadian junior leagues are more popular than the USHL but, when you are in the United States, you realize that this league is very popular and that the public comes in large numbers to the matches. For the record, I was at the hairdresser the other day and people recognized me.
Q: Before you, goalkeeper Akira Schmid also played for the Omaha Lancers. Did he advise you?
A: I do not know him personally and I must admit that I have not spoken with him.
Q: Often, when a young player arrives in North America there is often a phase of euphoria before, alas, a more difficult phase. Was this the case for you?
A: Yes, indeed. When I arrived there, the first two weeks were perfect and everything was going well. My level on the ice was good and I was playing well. We started the preparation matches and things started to go less well. For a month, I had a hole and everything caught up with me. I realized that I had to adapt to my new life, the size of the rinks, the new strategies and the game.
I played four preparation matches and I had four defeats. It was very complicated for me. Finally things fell into place following my first game of the regular season. Even though we lost, I had a great game with a 94% save rate. I think that was the real trigger for me and the more the days passed, the better I felt.
Q: How is your daily life with the Lancers?
A: In the morning, I start my day around 9:00am-9:30am. I find my teammates for a work-out at 11:00 a.m. before having some time to eat at the ice rink. At 12:45 p.m., we have a video session with the team and we jump on the ice at 1:10 p.m. for an hour and a half of training.
When we move, it is by bus. We are lucky, because in our conference, the journeys vary between one and three hours. The longest trip I made was 6 hours and we stopped at the hotel to sleep before playing two meetings on site. As I completed my sales apprenticeship in Switzerland, I don't have to study there. I'm there 100% to play hockey.
Q: You have experienced many junior levels in Switzerland, what are the differences between our country and the junior ranks in USHL?
A: There is already the public. It must be recognized that in Switzerland, there are often 50 people who attend the junior matches and it is often the parents. In the United States, there are between 2,000 and 5,000 people for the matches.
The level of play is also very different. The game is much faster in USHL due to the size of the rinks. The shots are more precise and more powerful than in Switzerland. In Switzerland, it takes longer to build games and shoot. In North America, players shoot more often in the hope of getting a rebound to score. I also had to get used to better controlling rebounds, it was a big adaptation for me.
There is also the rhythm of the matches which is different here. We have 62 games a season in the USHL, so we train accordingly off the ice. There is also one thing that does not exist in Switzerland, and that is exchanges. In America, the possibility of being transferred is very real, it has already happened to some players on our team.
Q: For your first season in North America, your statistics are impressive (current 2nd goalkeeper in the league). Do you have an explanation for these results?
A: I think that the level of my team, which is excellent, helps me to perform and vice versa. My evolution has been very rapid here and I have already taken several steps. I also worked a lot on my mind. Before, when I missed a performance, my morale went down quickly, but today, I'm more constant.
My recent selection for the U20 World Championship and having faced a big nation like Russia also gave me a lot of confidence. In the end, I can't really explain my good performances, I think it's a whole. The fact that I can only focus on hockey also played a role.
Q: You just mentioned the last U20 World Championship which unfortunately stopped due to cases of Covid. How did you experience that?
A: My feeling is torn between extraordinary and bizarre. The World Championship is the tournament at the junior level! Everyone is looking at it, there is nothing greater at this level. It's still an incredible experience and I'll say it again, to face Russia was a great moment for me. The audience, the cameras, everything feels amazing, it's a special feeling. I remember that during the warm-up, I smiled so much. The feeling was incredible.
Q: Seeing the cases of Covid multiply in the teams and certain matches being canceled did you realize that the tournament could be canceled?
A: No, honestly, I didn't think that could happen. It is true that there was pressure with the Covid and we knew that we could be affected by cases. When the preparation matches were cancelled, it was difficult to keep up the motivation. With the cancellation of the match against the USA, we realized that things were starting to get bad. The rest, you know it…
Q: The organization of the tournament was fairly criticized, especially by some players, do you understand these criticisms?
A: If you speak in particular of the goalkeeper of the Slovakian team who complained about the people in the hotels, I agree with him. For me, things could have been done differently. There were a lot of people who had nothing to do with the tournament in our hotel. It was up to us to pay attention to this world and not the other way around.
In 2021, I lived the experience of the U18 Junior World Championship in Frisco, Texas. It was really perfect, we had no contact outside the team. No one came into the hotel, it was really strict. With the arrival of the Omicron variant, I must say that I don't understand the choices that were made in Edmonton. But that's how it is, I hope we can still compete in these worlds later in the season.
Q: How do you view the NHL?
A: For me, the NHL is the ultimate dream! Alas, I'm a little short and NHL clubs don't like it that much. It's a draft year for me, I have to continue my good work with Omaha if I hope to be drafted. If it's not the case this year, I can still be next year, it's up to me to confirm my good work.
Q: Do you have a goalie role model in the NHL?
A: Yes, I've always loved Carey Price for his composure, his style of play and what he brings to Montreal. I also like Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators. I get a lot of inspiration from his game, because he's the same size as me. When you are smaller, you have to work on speed. I admire Saros, he breaks the codes and proves that, despite his size, he is one of the best goalies in the NHL.
Q: You said it, you will be eligible for the repechage (draft) next July, how are you living this event?
A: I don't think about it because I find it hard to believe that I can be drafted. If I am not, that will not prevent me from working to hope to be the following year. Even if it would be a disappointment, it won't prevent me from having a great career. But it's true that being drafted is a childhood dream, it's something big.
Q: Do you have a favorite club in the NHL?
A: I'm a Chicago Blackhawks fan. If I could choose a team where I would dream of evolving, it would be this one without hesitation.
Q: What can we wish you for the future?
A: That the rest of my season goes well, that my performances are good and that I attract a little more attention.