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 Patrick Gaul of the South Carolina Stingrays, who enters his seventh ECHL season in 2018-19.
Name: Patrick Gaul
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Team: South Carolina Stingrays
2017-18 Stats: 64 gp, 11g, 18a, 29 pts.
ECHL: What made you decide to re-sign with South Carolina for the 2018-19 season?
Patrick Gaul: If I was going to play hockey anywhere, it was going to be South Carolina. I definitely wasn’t planning on leaving South Carolina to go anywhere else. I was kind of on the fence as to whether I was going to play another year. In the time I’ve been in South Carolina, we’ve had some really solid Kelly Cup Playoffs runs. This past season, Orlando put a wrench in our plan there, they played really well. It just left a sour taste in my mouth, and after that series ended, I thought about it for about a week. From the end of the season to a week later I went from contemplating retirement to ‘Yeah, I’m playing again, I’m coming back.’ I like competing, I like winning, and I’d like to win a championship in South Carolina, so, I figured at least one more year at it.
ECHL: In the 2016-17 Season, the Stingrays were in the Kelly Cup Finals. Then, like you said, Orlando threw a wrench in your plan, eliminating the Rays in a first round sweep in the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs. How do you regroup personally and as a team after ending the season that way?
PG: We’ll have a lot of new guys, a new coach which definitely changes things, and even new ownership. But with how long the season is, we try to take things a game at a time or a weekend at a time. Occasionally we’ll split the season up into eight game segments. Although it was unfortunate that last season went the way it did, it just gives us another opportunity to learn from. We were having trouble scoring goals is what it came down to. Orlando’s goalie, Cal Heeter, played well, and we couldn’t finish. So, you take it as a learning experience. If we get in a situation like that again, hopefully we try something different and change something up. But I think you can always take something from a loss or a bad experience. So hopefully in 2018-19 if we come across a situation like that, we do a better job this time around.
ECHL: All of your time in the ECHL has been in Charleston playing for the Stingrays. What does the organization mean to you?
PG: I can’t even really put that into words. I’ve now got my Doctorate in Stingrays hockey. The organization from the top down is first class. From (former longtime majority owners) the Zucker family, all the way down. The people on the staff; many of them are good buddies of mine. The culture of the Stingrays organization is very much about character and bringing in good people that want to help make the community better. I know a lot of guys when they leave college, which is typically that kind of culture with a tight knit group, and go to pro hockey, very few people find that. So for me to go from Notre Dame, where I had a really tight knit group of friends there and a great culture there, to an ECHL team that has, in my opinion, a similar culture of winning and team first, it’s awesome. In theory, playing for the Stingrays has introduced me to my fiancé, Victoria, who will become my wife, and the job I will do when I’m done playing hockey. So having the luck to land in South Carolina did a lot for my hockey career and just my life in general.
ECHL: Tell us more about the job you’ll do when you’re done playing hockey.
PG: A former Stingrays player, Johann Kroll, started a financial advisory firm in Charleston. I stay in Charleston in the summers, I pretty much live in Charleston full time now, so in the summers I go in and work with him. I got licensed last December during the season, so I’ve been working with him. We’ve got a local business and then he started marketing towards hockey guys. A solid part of our clientele are hockey guys that are still playing – you know, former teammates, buddies, etc.. So it’s kind of similar to the Stingrays organization; it’s hockey guys taking care of hockey guys.
ECHL: In all your years of professional hockey, what has been your most memorable achievement so far?
PG: The winning streak we went on my third year is far and above the most memorable (The Stingrays won 23 consecutive games from February 7-March 27, 2015). I’ve never played on a team where it felt like we just couldn’t lose. And that’s kind of how that year went, well, starting in February at least. We were kind of up and down the first part of the year and then, Spencer Carbery, our coach that year, brought us in the morning of Super Bowl Sunday to do a workout. That workout was absolutely zero fun, but then we didn’t lose a game for the next almost two months.
ECHL: As a Veteran in the League and a leader in the dressing room, what your message to the rookies and younger guys as you head into a new season?
PG: Playing in the ECHL and playing professional hockey in general, you kind of have to roll with the punches a good bit. You’re going to sign with a team, and feel like you were a key contributor on your college team and then you get to camp and there’s just not going to be a spot for you. That’s just kind of how the League works. There’s been plenty of guys that have bounced around the League and played in a handful of different places and then three or four years later they’re signing an NHL contract. So I would say to a younger guy entering professional hockey to not be discouraged. I got cut twice before I made a team. My career actually started in Utah during the lockout year. I was only there for Training Camp, I never played a regular season game. So I would say just be prepared to roll with the punches and don’t be discouraged if things don’t go your way out of the gate.
ECHL: How are you spending your summer?
PG: I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’m currently back at Notre Dame with some of my old teammates training for a week. This week is one we mark early in the summer and look forward to. I was in Lake George, NY not far from where the Adirondack Thunder play. I was actually going to the wedding of Paul Rodrigues, who played for Adirondack. My fiance and I actually ended up getting engaged in Lake George as well, so it was a great trip. I was in a wedding in Chicago. We spent some time with my fiance’s family and my family in New Jersey. Then I was in Laguna Beach for a wedding. After Labor Day I’ll be in Charleston for the rest of the time until the season starts, so I’m really looking forward to that.
ECHL: New ownership, new coach, probably a lot of new faces on the team as well this year – so what are you most looking forward to for the 2018-19 Season?
PG: Really for me it’s just getting back to playing games. When you finish the season losing four games in a row… I hate losing. It will be nice getting to meet the new guys. With a new coach, it’ll be a slightly different environment in the locker room, even if he does things similar to the old coach. So I’m just looking forward to into the season and watching the team start to come together.