Interview with Medicine Hat Tigers Goaltender Mads Søgaard

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Talk about what it was like playing hockey growing up in Denmark. 

Mads: Growing up playing hockey in Denmark was fun. The thing is you don’t get noticed by scouts until you’re 18 or playing professionally somewhere. There is not a lot of national attention regarding junior or minor hockey in Denmark.

At what age did you start thinking playing in North America was a possibility?

Mads: When I was 14 years old, I had my first professional practice. At this point, I realized that maybe I could do something with hockey and possibly make a living. 

At 15 years old, I moved to Esbjerg to experience how to live away from home. I knew down the road I wanted to go to North America. I used the year in Esbjerg as a preparation year.

I had the option to move to Sweden as well. My thought process was I want to make it to the NHL. The opportunity to come over and get used to the smaller ice surface and see how the game is played in North America made it an easy decision for me.

Your first year in North America you played for the Austin Bruins of the NAHL. Was your initial goal to earn a scholarship to an NCAA school? How did you end up in the WHL?

Mads: When I came over to the Austin Bruins of the NAHL, they had a rule in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) where import goalies were not allowed. My intention when first coming over was to commit to an NCAA school and continue to develop while trying to attain a degree. 

At around the midpoint of the year with the Austin Bruins, I started hearing rumors about the CHL allowing import goalies. For me, the WHL is the most similar schedule a player can get to an NHL schedule. It was an opportunity to play against the best junior hockey players in the world, and when the Medicine Hat Tigers selected me, it was a no brainer. I’m 19 years old, and I’m just living the dream. 

You’re a very tall goalie (6’7) what are some of the challenges of being a large goaltender?

Mads: As you get to more competitive levels, teams start to scout more and look at goalies tendencies. For most tall goalies, it’s harder to get down to the ice fast and close up the five-hole. That is something I work on a lot because I want to be as well rounded as a goalie as possible. 

I try to pinpoint aspects in my game where I can improve on. The key is being honest with yourself and understanding you can always get better. 

You were drafted 37th overall in the NHL draft. What was that experience like for a young goalie coming from Denmark?

Mads: It was a great weekend for my family and I. When the Ottawa Senators selected me, it was a surreal feeling and hard to describe. 

The big thing for me is I was picked by an organization that has a plan with me, and it’s a great fit. To be chosen as a Danish goalie, it was a huge honor, and I want to do everything I can to make it to the NHL.

What are some things you learned going to the Ottawa Senators development camp and working with NHL coaches?

Mads: When I got to the NHL camp, I realized I could stop the pucks. The big takeaway for me was as a player, you need to be consistent. In Junior, you might be able to get away with letting things slip a little bit, but Ottawa was always talking about being consistent every day. 

The thing that helps with consistency is creating a routine both on the ice and off the ice. Things Ottawa talked about were eating habits, stretching, doing the proper exercises, and getting enough sleep.

I made it to the main camp, and being on the ice with Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson allowed me to see what NHL goalies do each day. 

What is the most critical aspect of being a great goaltender?

Mads: The most critical aspect of being a great goaltender for me is developing good feet. As a goalie, you need to be a good skater and have the ability to push across the crease and hold your edges. 

What advice would you give to young goalies as they continue to progress in their hockey journey?

Mads: In terms of goalies growing up, the essential part is to enjoy the game. People forget that hockey is just a game and that it’s supposed to be fun. If hockey players have a passion for hockey and enjoy it, they will continue to develop. 

Fun Story with Mads

My first year in Europe was in 2016-2017 with Esbjerg Energy. Mads was part of the minor hockey system in Esbjerg. Mads was 15 at the time and would practice with our team occasionally. 

We were apart of the Champions Hockey League (CHL) that year. The CHL is the champions from the previous season in all leagues across Europe play in a tournament to crown a winner eventually. 

We were apart of a group with Zug (Swiss A) and HIFK (Finland Liiga). Both of those teams and leagues are ranked very highly in the European hockey community. 

In preparation for the CHL games, one of our goalies was injured. It opened the door for Mads to dress as our back up goalie. Mads traveled with us to Zug. Esbjerg to Zug is more than an 11-hour bus ride with no traffic. If anyone has ever driven in Europe, you know you’ll always run into traffic or construction.

After losing 8-3 in Zug, we hop on the bus and head back to Esbjerg. We drive overnight, and we get stuck in traffic. Our 11+ hour bus ride turns into 16 hours. On our drive back, Mads U17 coach messages him asking him if he would be available to start that night. Mads agrees to play.

Long story short:

  • Mads travels 16 hours on a bus overnight
  • Gets off the bus 20 minutes before warm-ups
  • Heads straight to the dressing room and starts the game for his U17 team
  • Mads helps his team to a 4-1 victory

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