Defenseman Ben O’Connor has an impressive career behind him. He moved to the USA to live with his uncle and improve and hone his craft. He has also played a season in France and further afield in Kazakhstan and was called up to the squad for team GB this year for the 9th time since first playing for them in the 2004-2005 season in the World Junior Championships.
For the Elite League he has played for the Coventry Blaze and Edinburgh Capitals before joining the Sheffield Steelers in 2014 and all at the age of just 25. He is making a name for himself and gaining more experience, to give him the greatest chance to be the best player he can possibly be.
I caught up with O’Connor after their first of two games this weekend, a loss for the steel city side against top of the league Cardiff.
It was a brief encounter as the Steelers are preparing for the long road trip to Cardiff for the second game the following night. I manage to ask him a few questions about his experiences recently in with both Team GB and also his experiences at the Jason Hewitt Testimonial game.
Congratulations on making the GB side, how did it feel to be picked and then prepare to go into the first game?
Thank you very much, it is special anytime to go in and play for your nation very special, got a good group of guys that I am close to, and we all come together really well for the tournament. The first game you always have a bit of nerves, the expectation that we set ourselves, we have a lot of fans with the GBSC who do a great job of getting people over there and you want to play and do well for your country. The first two games were great and unfortunately against Italy we did not play good enough but they are three games that we would not usually get the opportunity to play and it is for the world championship.
You played in the Testimonial with your dad (Mike O’Connor) who is a well known respected hockey player and you had a little pretend fight. How did that feel to be out on the ice with him?
Yeah, it was special I remember that as a kid I used to go on the ice with him and the likes of David Longstaff, Robert Wilson and all the big names. This is the first time that I have skated with them in a long, long time and I think the fans enjoyed the little tussle. It was all fun and games until he landed on top of me and knocked the wind out of me.
With you previously playing in France and Kazakhstan what did you learn from your experience over there and bring with you when you came to the Elite league?
[Laughs] We could be here all night! So many things that I do not even realise that I do anymore it is just habit and normal for me now. To the way that I put on my equipment and the little routines that I do with Jason Hewitt and Robert Dowd when we are in the line up, just so many little things.
Moving on to tonight’s game, not the result that you wanted, what are your thoughts going into tomorrow and playing at the BBT [Big Blue Tent. Cardiff Devil’s current home] which is a smaller rink?
They have a very good team that is why they are first in the league, they did very well this evening and so did we for the first two periods, we played fantastic. We unfortunately got away from our game in the third period and that is when they punished us. We have just got to stick to our game plan and we will be successful, there were a lot of positives that we can take with us from tonight’s performance and some negatives that we have to learn from.
Thank you so much to Ben for letting me interview him, great guy and a pleasure to talk to.
Featured image source can be found here