Take 5: An interview with Breck Bucks defender Jesse Reller
Special to the Daily
Breck Bucks vs. Aspen Leafs, opening home series
When: Oct. 2-3, 8:05 p.m. nightly
Where: Stephen C. West Ice Arena, 189 Boreas Pass Rd, Breckenridge
Players to watch: Milou Lofstrom, Jake Wetter, Anthony Flores
The Buck’s regular season runs from October until March. All home series games are played on Saturdays and Sundays. To purchase individual or season tickets, see www.breckenridgebucks.com.
Editor’s note: This is an extended version of a Q&A with Jesse Reller that appeared in the Sept. 30 edition.
The new Breckenridge Bucks junior hockey team features players from across the country, with a few locals sprinkled throughout the lineup. One of the first locals to join the team — and one who promises to be a key addition — is Jesse Reller.
When playing last season for Summit High School, the 185-pound Silverthorne resident was considered one of the best high school players in the state, earning a spot in the 2015 Colorado Senior All-Star Game. At 5 feet, 11 inches, Reller is an enforcer-type player, leading the defense with an aggressive, fearless playing style. Never shy of issuing a punishing check, but still wary of pushing too far, he should provide an intelligent and poised presence on the Bucks D-line.
With the season opening series this weekend against mountain region rival Aspen, Reller and the Bucks have been practicing in full force to make sure they start the season off with a win. The Summit Daily sports desk caught up with Reller to see what playing for the Breckenridge Bucks means to him, and find out more about the team’s monumental season opening matchup on Oct. 2 in Breck.
Summit Daily News: What’s it like growing up and playing hockey in Summit County?
Jesse Reller: I would say for a small town it’s pretty impressive, especially for a mountain in Colorado, where hockey still isn’t the biggest thing that’s around. They really try and get kids interested young. I mean, I started when I was four, and I’ve been through the program every year since. They’re really good at providing a team for everyone and getting good coaches in there, kind of improving everyone and getting them up to the next level. I
It was kind of a drop off at the end … You do youth hockey, and after that, it was limited to you either had to go big enough to go play juniors somewhere, if you really wanted to try, or college. Now, with the Bucks here, you have another option to keep building, which I think is great for the program, given that the other thing that we struggled with growing up here is that kids who are above the rest end up going to Denver or other places to play hockey, and it’s hard to keep them in the county. Whereas now, this could change things and make that program that much better from the start.
SDN: Speaking of opening up doors, I read that you thought your hockey days were over before finding out about the Bucks.
JR: I was pretty interested in maybe taking a year or two to just ski and just have some fun time, and then go into the Coast Guard. I forgot about hockey until right after, right around springtime, right around graduation, and that’s all of a sudden when it was like, “Oh wow, just wish I could give that a go,” and made the team. Everything turned around from there. (It) came up almost overnight.
SDN: You guys had your first scrimmage on Sunday. How did that go?
JR: It was pretty good. We divided our teams up and brought in our high schoolers that we felt will do good in that situation, throw them into gaps and different teams. It made it just a little difficult with the change in abilities, with the change in pace. But it ended up being a good kind of exercise for us to get an actual, kind-of game feel — players to play with each other a little bit.
SDN: What’s the experience been like playing for head coach Jesse Davis?
JR: I think he’s a great guy. He really cares about us and wants us to do what’s best for us. Initially, things have been a little different for him, and we can tell a little, given that this is a first-year team, a start-up team. So, there’s a lot of work that goes into that, a lot of work to get everything going — get all the gear, get all the schedules, get everything set up — because that’s a brand-new thing for Breck. I mean, there’s 20 home games, and we got to work in around all other schedules, all that. Jesse’s doing everything for us that he can, and has been a great coach. It’s been in and out, given that he has to deliver stuff with hockey and expects us (to be) better, better players and all that. But he’s doing everything that he can, and he’s a great coach. I’m certainly glad to play for him this season.
SDN: For you, how noticeable was the jump between high school and junior play?
JR: It’s definitely a big change, but it’s not a surprise in any way to me. Playing on a mountain high school team, we’re kind of the team that whoever tries out (will) make the team because we need the numbers. We go down to Denver and play big schools like Monarch and Regis and Cherry Creek, who pull from nine to ten different schools and have all the top players in those schools, and (they) create these sort of these all-star teams that are, in kind of a way, junior-level hockey, or just a little bit under it. I’ve seen the play, I’ve played against it and, now, it’s going to be a fun thing to play against, given that the rest of our team is an all-juniors team. It’s a very big change, but at the same time, it’s exactly what I expected and kind of what I’ve seen before, so I’m ready for it and prepared.
SDN: How would you describe your playing style?
JR: I try not to let anything get past me. I like to rush the puck, I like to rush the play, and hitting is kind of one of my big things. I am a very aggressive player when it comes to it. I love to hit, like to be very aggressive with it. But there’s certain defenders — you wonder sometimes why they’re playing defense —‘that never really move up in the play at all. I sit right in the middle of that. I love being up there, but, at the same time, I love sitting back and making sure I’m back there to support when it gets back.
SDN: How confident are you that local guys can make an impact on this team?
JR: There’s a saying that I started on the team that we use all the time. That is, “air management,’ and that’s something most people don’t realize it takes. It doesn’t just take a few weeks or a month — it can take much longer than that, depending on how hard you’re working. You may be used to the altitude after a month, but if you’re not managing your air correctly, especially in a game where we have three 20-minute periods and you’re going all out … It might be the second period and you might have nothing left, but you could be in the best shape of your life. You just don’t have any air.
That’s some of the things I feel me, Ben (Schoeffield) and George (Kamins), and one other kid from Vail (Benjamin Barron), bring to the table, where we’re able to push that and know how much we can do. Also, I feel the biggest factor would be kind of hometown pride. … Me, Ben and George have always grown up playing in front of a high school crowd, pretty small. We’ve got like 50 kids in our little section, and that includes parents, and that’s it. Sometimes, the away team has more fans than us at a home game. Now, we’re playing a home opener against Aspen. … Battle Mountain’s our main rivalry, but Aspen’s been right behind them for Summit. For me, Ben and George, there’s going to be a lot of pride and stuff involved with that too. Go out there and really play our hearts out, do everything we can to beat those teams, especially at home in front of hometown fans, who all know us.
SDN: Why should someone who doesn’t know much about the Bucks or hockey come to this weekend’s games?
JR: There’s definitely a lot of people up here who don’t know much about hockey. It’s the fact that it’s a brand-new thing that’s never been seen in Summit. Obviously, it’s pay to get tickets, just like a high school event would be, but the difference is the level of hockey is way higher. I would say the game style is like a professional platform, given that periods are a full 20 minutes of ice time. It’s a different kind of play. You don’t have the high school rules with all that extra stuff.
It’s just an exciting thing, and, personally, I’d think it’d be a great thing to get into if you don’t know anything about hockey, just to experience that and see what we’re trying to go for. … (Our) coaches (have) been pushing really heavily on the publicity side, to get it out there. And there’s great deals with tickets and there’s great sponsors offering stuff. It’s just going to be a big, fun atmosphere, to be able to go and watch hockey and really, they just want to make it a big event, where you and all your friends can go. When you get there, you’ll be able to see even more of your friends and pack the stands every night. … Given that it’s our home opener and we obviously want to win in front of our hometown (against) Aspen, and for me, Ben and George, we’re going to try our hardest. It’s probably going to be one of the biggest games of the year, to just beat Aspen for our home opener.
SDN: What do you like to do in your free time?
JR: I like to whitewater kayak, and we have lake kayaks also … (It’s) kind of a peaceful, relaxing thing, just more of an individual sport, just take the time and do that. Obviously, being in mountains, just hiking, backpacking, or one of the big ones is going fishing — just anything along those lines, anything pretty much outside.
SDN: Do you take anything from these individual sports back to the ice?
JR: Calmness. There’s a lot of things a teammate could do that could really get you rattled, get you pretty mad. For fishing, for instance, you see the fish come up to connect your fly, but you didn’t set the hook. You could get pissed at it, or you could recast out there and see if you could get him again, just something to stay calm. … It’s like if you got a teammate that’s pissed you off or did something. Take a minute, stay calm and go on with it, that kind of thing.
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