As we get in stride for weekly Freshman Focus articles, our second spotlight finds Bloomingdale Bulls rookie sensation Zander Badger as our subject. Hailing from Riverview High School, Zander plays in the top defensive pairings for the Ice Bulls and I was lucky enough to catch up with him after a practice at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum last Tuesday. Here’s who’s inside the helmet:
Zander Badger- Offensive Defenseman for Bloomingdale Hometown: Clearwater, Florida 5’2 110 lbs Playing out of Riverview High School Righthanded Curve: Kane Preferred Brand: Bauer Favorite Food: Steak
I was first introduced to Zander Badger while helping with the LHSHL Elite Development Program tryouts and as the #InsideTheHelmet graphic suggests, he was a sight to see. I wasn’t sure if he was a two-way forward overeager to be on the backcheck, or if I was in shock to see a five-foot defenseman using the same curve as Patrick Kane and skating past other players like they were traffic cones. It wasn’t until the first few LHSHL Freshman/Sophomore EDP practices that I realized he was indeed a defenseman, but he was also a more aggressive skater and scorer than many of the forwards he plays with. By the time it came to an interview, the first thing I wanted to know was what his background in the sport was like. He told me he’s been playing since he was 5 years old, but also plays soccer and has been a running back in football before. Knowing this, we sat down at The Powerplay Grill inside the rink and opened with a few Quick Release Questions.
Me: PK Subban or Victor Hedman?
Zander: Victor Hedman
Me: You have to be a hype beast, are you buying Yeezy’s or Supreme?
Me: Gatorade or Powerade?
Me: Disney or Universal?
Me: Chik-fil-A or PDQ?
Me: Xbox one or PS4?
Zander: Oh, that’s tough, I have both… Xbox.
Me: Would you rather take a math test or write an essay?
Me: You mess up a drill in practice, what coach is the one to make you skate a lap?
Zander: Haha, [Coach] Murphy
The ice had been broken and I had already judged Zander for choosing Xbox over PS4, so I steered the conversation to what had gotten us to this an interview on a Tuesday afternoon at an ice rink- High School Hockey. I asked him how he could make an impact on a game where most are bigger and more experienced. He responded quickly and I’m sure he’s thought of it before, “I always try to beat them with speed because most of them are pretty giant. If I have to go into the corner I’m just thinking that I have to win the battle and go all out.” This sentiment was echoed
when I reached out to Bloomingdale Coaches Michael Falbo and Travis Murphy. They both noted that he was an “offensive-minded defenseman and always worked to get the puck out of the zone and make passes that could set up other players for scoring opportunities.”
I asked Zander if he felt like a leader in the Bloomingdale locker room and on the bench during games due to the nature of his play and he was humble despite what anyone can see while watching him skate with his teammates,
“I try to give advice to the younger guys, but I’m careful to try not to say something wrong. I’ve still got time to grow and learn before being a bigger leader.” He may not be leading the locker room verbally yet, but after surviving the cuts throughout the LHSHL EDP tryouts and being a top defensive pair in varsity, I’m sure his on-ice statements will lead lesser experienced teammates without question.
Zander’s family is heavily involved with hockey. As an only child, his family has followed him through playing travel and now with the Lightning High School Hockey League to make sure he stays as involved in hockey as possible. His mother notes that “He has done lots of other sports over the years but would rather be on the ice than anything else”. On the flip side, his dad is the reason for the number Zander wears, “My dad is on the radio and used to do a show with Dan Boyle so I wear number 22 and try to model my game after him.” Zander’s family has allowed him to explore hockey as much as possible thus far in life and I asked him what he plans on doing post-high school, “My family has done a lot of traveling around for me and my mom’s my biggest fan. They prioritize hockey because it means a lot to me, so I want to pursue hockey as far as I can push it. I want to play pro hockey.”
At the end of every Freshman Focus interview, I ask the players to put into perspective that they have four years in front of them to make their mark on the league, develop as a player, student, and person. We give them time to send a message to themselves four years from now and to other players playing their first year in the league. Zander left the interview with two memorable messages for the audience.
To Zander Badger, Age 18: “I hope that you have grown both in height and in skill. You’re 5’2 110 right now, let’s improve that.”
To first-year players reading this focus: “Always play your best, and never ever give up. Put 100% effort into practices. Don’t ever get down on yourself if you get destroyed by someone two feet taller than you. It’s already happened to me a bunch.”