Taking Liberties With… Kyle Bigos
Position: Defenseman, Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL)
Last Amateur Team: Merrimack College (Hockey East)
Youth Hockey Teams: Ontario Jets, Ontario Senators, Anaheim Jr. Ducks
NHL Draft: Fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers (99th overall) in 2009
California Rubber: You’re back playing this season after taking most of last season off. How did you spend your season away from the game?
Kyle Bigos: I started last year in Idaho and things didn’t really work out. So I went to work as a registered behavioral therapist working with kids with autism. I studied human development at Merrimack, and I was always pushed by my academic advisor to work with people. I found out this was something I excelled at, and I had a great time with the company. It’s something I have in my future, and it made me feel settled about my future.
CR: What prompted you to try to return to pro hockey?
KB: I wanted to end on a good note. I had a lot of friends here, and the team dynamic is going well. Having fun with hockey was a priority. I had left my hockey bag packed up and took a hiatus from the gym for the first time in my life for 7-8 months. Then I got the itch to come back. (Quad City Mallards coach) Phil Axtell gave me a call and I jumped right back on the ice in Anaheim with a couple of guys. I did Pilates, which I love. I felt ready. I injured a groin, then played three games, and then injured a hip flexor in the other leg. I started late, which was scary after a year off. (Bigos was traded to the Jacksonville IceMen last month.)
CR: Did you have a favorite hockey memory growing up in California?
KB: Definitely Saturdays at the old Ontario Ice Skating Center. I would get lessons with Fernando Soltero or Punky Vandenberg. I could just play for fun.
CR: What is your favorite memory since?
KB: Winning the Royal Bank Championship with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers (in 2009). It was great to be part of a winning team, especially one with (fellow Californians) Cory Kane, Steve Weinstein and Ryan Santana. Having that one season doing everything right as a team is incredible. That’s what you strive for in the game.
CR: Do you have a favorite place to eat when you’re back in Southern California?
KB: By default, it has to be In-N-Out. There’s a tacos and tamales place on Foothill and Grove I love to go to for lunch. There’s a café next to it that I go to for breakfast.
CR: Are you particular about any of your gear?
KB: My skates. My feet have to be comfortable. I wear bunga pads and extra gel pad and socks. I tie my skates between periods, sometimes during timeouts. The laces have to be pads.
CR: What do you like to take with you on road trips?
KB: I’m a card guy. Give me a pack of cards, get water or Gatorade, and some snacks from the booster club and I’m good.
CR: When you talk to younger players, what do you like to say?
KB: Do what’s going to make you better every day, make you grow as a person. That’s something you’ve got to instill early with kids. Get them more on a focused track. Have fun through bettering yourself.
CR: Who were some of the coaches that influenced you in Southern California?
KB: I can’t even begin to describe what Punky Vandenberg means to me and SoCal skaters. She’s the one who pushed me to be better and get out of my comfort zone. She really cared and made you practice perfection. Without her and Fernando Soltero, I don’t think I would have made it out of Southern California.
CR: Are you a music person?
KB: I mainly listen to a lot of ’90s hip hop. It has good flow and lyrics. It takes my mind off what I’m doing.
CR: What’s your favorite hockey movie?
KB: Definitely “Slap Shot.” The older you get and longer you play in the game, the more you can relate to it.
Photo/Sean Flynn Photography/Quad City Mallards
– Compiled by Chris Bayee
(April 18, 2018)