Veteran Voice: Derek Nesbitt, Atlanta Gladiators

Veteran Voice gives ECHL fans the chance to get to know a veteran in the League ahead of the 2018-19 season.  In this installment, the ECHL spoke with Derek Nesbitt of the Atlanta Gladiators, who enters his 14th professional season in 2018-19 and captured a Kelly Cup title with the Idaho Steelheads in 2007.

Name: Derek Nesbitt

Age: 36

Hometown: Egmondville, Ontario

Team: Atlanta Gladiators

2017-18 Stats: 71 gp, 15g, 22a, 37 pts.

ECHL Career Stats: 426 gp, 156g, 235a, 391 pts.

ECHL: What made you decide to re-sign in Atlanta for the 2018-19 season? 

Derek Nesbitt: This is home for me. My wife and I have a home here and she was born and raised here. This has been home for me for a number of years now. They’ve also treated me very well here starting back to my first year pro in 2005-06. 

ECHL: Having played six seasons with the Gladiators, what does the city and fans mean to you?

DN: As I said before this is home for me. I love living here and calling the greater Atlanta area my home. There are still fans here that I’ve seen in the stands since my rookie year. That’s always a nice feeling seeing familiar faces which helps make it feel like home more and more every year.  They’ve always treated me very well here and for that I’m grateful. 

ECHL: With Jeff Pyle coming back as head coach, how excited are you for the season to get started?

DN: Jeff and I have had a great relationship for almost 14 years now. I have always had a ton of respect for what he’s done in this league. He has such a unique quality about always getting the most out of his players and helping guys who may be a little lost at the pro level finding their way again. His resume for advancing players from this league speaks for itself. 

ECHL: How have you been able to perform at a consistently high level during your 13-year career?

DN: First off I just love the game. Without that you definitely can’t keep going. But besides that I embrace the grind of it. Every season ends it only takes about a two weeks and I’m missing it again already.  I enjoy taking care of my body and staying in shape. That’s really changed as I’ve gotten older to where it’s not about bigger faster stronger anymore, now it’s about maintenance, functional movement and flexibility.  Which is another challenge in itself because I continue to learn more about my body and what I need to do to keep going at the level I want to be at. 

ECHL: How can the Gladiators build off last season when the team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in five years?

DN: I don’t know if it’s building each year after year in a league like this. Teams don’t rebuild per say because of the obvious continued movement with players year by year or even day by day. But we have a core group of guys already back on board who want to win and want to be a part of something together. And I believe that’s where it starts. That’s one thing Jeff and I have been working towards together in recruiting and with players we are bringing in this season. 

ECHL: As a veteran in the League and a leader in the dressing room, what is your message to the rookies and younger guys in the room?

DN: In the ECHL and even in the AHL, young players have a tendency to get stuck in a place of being more concerned where they should be or want to be rather than where they are. You can’t advance in your career, or within your own team even, if you’re too worried about things you can’t control.  Guys always seem to get called up to the AHL and even the NHL when they least expect it, and I don’t think that’s just a coincidence. Also, I really believe in giving more than you take, and to always do what you can to leave a place better than you found it. 

ECHL: How are you spending your summer? 

DN: I work with our youth hockey program here at our practice rink in Duluth, the Atlanta Phoenix. So that’s kept me busy throughout most of the summer. My wife and I also took a four-night cruise out of Miami with stops in Nassau, Bahamas and Havana, Cuba in late June which was amazing! And we will be heading up to my hometown, Seaforth Ontario, for six days in mid August. 

ECHL: What are you most looking forward to for the 2018-19 Season?

DN: Just playing again!  Getting back to the grind and I am really excited to play for Jeff again also.  And excited to see how some more of the new changes within our organization continue to progress moving forward here in Atlanta.