In case you missed my story today on Pierre-Andre Bureau and Dusty Collins signing with the Reign, go check it out online here.
Here’s how the rest of my interview with Collins went:
What led you to re-sign with the Reign?
It’s kind of one of those years where I didn’t re-sign with Manitoba. We’re going to San Antonio (the AHL’s Rampage), hoping to make their team. Obviously if that doesn’t pan out, there’s no place else I’d want to be in that league, other than in Ontario. In my mind it’s a perfect situation.
How has your hockey career gone since the last time you were in Ontario?
It definitely has been going well. When I left and got called up to Manchester, it went real well. Then I got called up by Manitoba, and we made it to the Calder Cup Finals. That’s probably the best way that year could’ve ended up.
What about last season?
I had a decent year individually. We got knocked out in the first round. We hoped to stay in the (American) league, but if the San Antonio situation doesn’t work out, it’d be a great place to be – between the fans, the environment, the way the org treats you, the staff, with (trainer/equipment manager) Bobby Walls and Karl, it’s a first-class organization.
How closely have you followed the Reign since you last played here?
You are so busy during the season, but you build relationships and friendships with guys, and have a connection there, so you keep tabs to an extent. Once in a while, you see how teams are doing, you want the best for me.
Were you surprised to see the Reign miss the playoffs last season?
I wasn’t obviously there (last year) on the team, so there’s a number of reasons I’m sure – it could have been injuries, every year some time you get a lot of guys – I heard a lot of guys were called up. There’s a lot of call-ups, a high turnover rate among the players. Your lineup, your roster’s always changing. In terms of the core players that are there, the coaching staff, I don’t think it’s too much of a concern.
How have you evolved as a player?
There’s a lot of the same tendencies. I’m still going to be the guy that provides a lot of energy, comes around and hits guys, fights once in a while, plays a good defensive side of the puck. I think also I provide a good two-way game. My game has evolved over the past two years. I think I’ve matured a lot as a player and evolved in the right direction. I think it’s only gone in the right direction.
Do you bring a different perspective to the game having spent the last year and a half playing at the next level?
Any experience … to grow as a player, grow as a person, being a little older too – I have different perspective now. It’s really more (that) of an experienced hockey player, yeah. You know what it takes to be consistent every day. Become a more consistent hockey player. I have the same attitude, work as hard as I can, bring a good attitude to the locker room. The hockey side, it’s not a different perspective, but you have a little more knowledge of what to bring as a player to be your best, night in and night out.
How did you land the training camp invite in San Antonio?
I was with the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League before I played in Ontario. They were the Double-A affiliate of the (NHL’s Phoenix) Coyotes. I went to a tryout there my first and second year. There’s always been an interest and connection there in the Phoenix organization. In terms of opportunities, San Antonio is going to be the best situation for that.
You’re an Arizona native, correct?
Yes. I’m here right now meeting with the Coyotes right now, for two or three weeks out of the summer. I recently got engaged, so I’m actually in Marquette, Michigan, where I went to school. That’s where I’m putting roots down.
There’s a camp down here called Athlete’s Resources, not really an agency camp, but a camp to prepare professionals to live down here for the upcoming hockey season. I’m going to be trying out there in San Antonio, so I’ve been skating – me and the Coyotes hockey players – for the next couple weeks. Just to compete, prepare and train at the highest level possible.
Is this a new experience for you?
I typically train, ever since the past five or six years in the off-season, with the NHL guys, just more so this year. Usually a week or two before the season. Now I’m doing it a bit earlier.