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06/16/2008 8:30 AM

Article By: Mike Peck

Throughout the summer, will feature question and answer sessions with players from the 2007-08 team.  The first guest inside the chat room is winger Bryan Bickell.

Bickell recently completed his second season with the Chicago Blackhawks organization.  The Orono, Ontario native was named the IceHogs Most Improved Player during the 2007-08 season after nearly doubling his goal output from his rookie campaign.  After making his NHL debut in April 2007, Bickell appeared in four games with the Blackhawks in ’07-08.

The winger answers a series of questions, including a bunch from our fan mailbag:

What do you enjoy doing during the off season?

Me, personally, I enjoy fishing. I also enjoy working out to get ready for the upcoming season.  But basically I do a lot of fishing and golfing during the summer.

How much time do you take off before you begin training for next season?

This year I took off three weeks.  Just enough time to heal up all the aches, pains and bruises that accumulate over the long season.

You were named the Most Improved Player on the 2007-08 Rockford IceHogs by your coaches.  How would you rate your play this past season?

From my first year pro to this past year I think I improved a lot.  I was on the fourth line during my first year and I expected to increase from that, and I did.  I’m hoping that next year I can continue to improve.

Do you have any pre-game superstitions?

All the guys go and play soccer before the game and kick the ball around a bit.  Before I cut all my hair off prior to the playoffs, I’d like to do up my hair for pre-game warm-ups. I also like to put my stick in a certain spot in the locker room.

How do you mentally prepare for a game?

Over the years, I’ve realized what’s important with my game and going through in my head what I want to do on the ice and think about the positives.  We had a team doctor come in and talk to us last year and he stressed thinking about the positives and that’s what I try to do.

How tough was it to get over losing out in Game Seven to the Chicago Wolves?

It was definitely tough.  Losing in Game 6 in our building then going there and coming up short in Game 7 wasn’t fun.  They ended up going through the next two rounds to win the cup, so just knowing that we had a chance to knock them off in Game 6 or 7 was tough.  I think we could have gone a long ways if we could have beaten Chicago.

Now we’re going to dig into the fan mail bag.

What is like to absolutely flatten someone on the ice?
Jason from Rockford

Good question!  To hammer someone feels good because they are the enemy and that’s part of my game. I enjoy doing that!

As a 5-year-old who has been skating now for 3 years, what are the 2 or 3 biggest phases of my game that I should be working on over the summer?
Logan from Belvidere

When I was a kid I used to shoot a lot of pucks or tennis balls into an open net to work on my shot during the summer.  But during the off-season I liked to play a different sport so I didn’t get burned out from hockey.  You want to make sure when hockey season comes around that you still have the drive and interest and you don’t get burned out.

How much and what kind of training do you do in the off season and is it mostly off ice?
Julia from Winnebago

At the start, it’s mostly off the ice and I work out about five times a week.  I do a lot of weights and running.  Later on in the summer, early August, is when I get on the ice and do some drills and other workouts.  So by August, I’m usually on the ice.

In Game 2 of the West Division Semifinals, you had the "privilege" of throwing down with John Scott of the Houston Aeros.  What was going through your mind when the gloves came off and you realized you were duking it out with a guy who is 6-8, 260?
Mike from Rockford

I was kind of mad because I got slashed and then there was a big scrum.  I somehow got matched up with John Scott and I was like “oh geez!”  And unfortunately he got the better of me.  But the guys on the bench were saying I took on one of the biggest guys in the league.  Maybe next time if I get matched up with him I will do better!

When did you start playing hockey and at what age did you realize you had above-average skill playing ice hockey?

Also, what is your favorite part about coming to Rockford to play hockey?

Maralee from Rockford

I started to play when I was 6. I did a Can-Skate program for a couple of years to learn how to skate before I actually started playing.

I learned that I was above average when I was 13 or 14 playing in the minor hockey at home.  I eventually moved up a couple of ages to play with the older kids. Everyone my age was kind of behind me because they didn’t know how to skate right away, so doing the Can-Skate program was important.
As for playing in Rockford, I liked being really close to the Blackhawks and Chicago.  It was better than last year (in Norfolk) because we are now just a phone call away from a call-up and we can drive to Chicago in the same day to play if needed.

We really enjoyed watching you and the IceHogs this season.  In fact your name was the first one that we learned.  I think it was your hard hits that caught our attention!
So where do you spend your off season and do you play a lot of hockey in the off season or enjoy a break from it?

Looking forward to watching you and the Hogs next season!
The Thomas family

I spend my time on the river (in Canada) where I bought a place last summer.  I don’t play too much hockey during the summer.  Later in the summer when I’m get ready for the season I’ll skate more.  I just like to relax and take a break from hockey and do some fishing.

What kind of music do you like?
Cristal from Rockford

I like just about everything. Right now I like listening to the new Little Wayne.  But everything from AC/DC to Madonna to Justin Timberlake.  I’m an all-around kind of guy when it comes to music!

Do you like the Beatles?
Reghan from Rockford

I never really grew up listening to the Beatles so I guess I’m not a huge Beatles Fan.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a question this week to Bryan Bickell. Stay tuned to throughout the summer for more Q & A’s with IceHogs players.