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Steezywave co-founder shares his experience as a former high-level ice hockey player

We are pleased to present in this article an exclusive interview with the co-founder of our brand Gaël. You’ll have the privilege of diving into the exciting world of ice hockey with him, a sport he practiced at a high level.

Indeed, before becoming an actor on the electronic scene and co-founder of the Steezywave brand, Gaël played ice hockey for many years.

After training in the small category, he began his professional career at a very young age with the Ducs d’Angers team in the French ice hockey championship.

He spent three seasons at Angers, proved himself in the championship as a defender before joining the Nimes team.

Despite his very young age, he was able to evolve as a starter and played 54 games for the Ducs d’Angers.

He was also involved in the training of the youngest with the aim of promoting and developing ice hockey in France.

His attraction to speed, his familiarity and ease with sliding naturally led him to take an interest in other sports that offer the same sensations, such as rollerblading, bmx, snowboarding, windsurfing, surfing or skateboarding.

Player skate in Ice Hockey competition
Ice hockey equipment

This interview will therefore allow you to dive into the heart of the universe of our young brand, to explore one of the values that represents our brand: sliding sports and more particularly ice hockey.

We’ll have the opportunity to learn about the memorable moments of his career, the challenges he faced as a top player, and the skills and qualities that contributed to his success.

We’ll also cover topics such as managing pressure, as well as the importance of physical and mental training.

Can you tell us about the Angers ice hockey team?

From the opening of the Angers ice rink in 82, I was an assiduous skater, the passion for sliding on ice immediately won me over.

I was able to quickly equip myself to play ice hockey, at the time the Ducs d’Angers was just the ASGA team, I started in the small category. We played our matches at the Haras ice rink.

In the years since, ASGA’s first team has had mixed results.

I joined the team in 1988 at the age of 17 until 1991.

In 1989-1990, the Ducs d’Angers had their best season of this period, finishing the regular season in 2nd place.

The team will rise through the ranks and enter the French elite for the first time in the Magnus league in 1992-1993.

Since then, the Ducs d’Angers have had many successes, notably winning the French Ice Hockey Cup in 2007 and have since held the top spot in the French Championship.

Can you tell us about your career as an ice hockey player and your most memorable moments on the ice?

One of the most memorable moments took place during my first match as a holder directly integrated into the 5th major against the Anglet team in a crowded and white-hot ice rink.

I remember that the communication was difficult, our words were covered by the shouts and the encouragements of the spectators. 

I was very young at the time, barely 17, a very aggressive Anglet team led by a Roger “boom boom” Dubé who subsequently became a pillar of the France team, a fierce match.

Another memorable memory is a match against Epinal and the “legendary” Bob Gainey (winner of 6 Stanley Cups including 5 with the Montreal Canadiens!) as a coach / player, the legend of the Montreal Canadiens on the ice with whom I been able to exchange a few blows with the sticks and checks, it was incredible!

For the record Bob Gainey was to become the coach of the Montreal Canadiens and for that he had to validate a 1 year experience as a coach in Europe, Epinal at the time had broken the bank.

Ice Hockey Game is a sliding sport
ice hockey attacker during a competition match

What were your main challenges as a top ice hockey player?

High-level ice hockey is a highly competitive environment. There are a lot of talented players for a limited number of starters in the teams.

The competition to gain ice time and keep your spot on the team could be fierce, you had to be physically sharp, have a high level of fitness and stamina. The bodies were put to the test, intensive training is necessary to avoid injuries. Also You have to be able to recover quickly. I met many players who were seriously injured, it was also part of everyday life, spectacular injuries.

In Angers, which was my training club, I made friends, we had to adapt to new players each season. For the transferred players, they had to adapt to their new environment, to their new city. Being stable and having a healthy lifestyle are essential elements to last in high-level sport.

This is all the more important as the journeys are numerous and often over long distances. The weekends could be exhausting, you went back and forth with the match, difficult also for your personal life.

Balancing the demands of high-level sport with a fulfilling life can be a real challenge! Family, friends, relationships, studies and hobbies are often left behind in favor of training and games.

We also had to bear the pressure because the expectations of supporters, managers or sponsors were high.

These many challenges require mental resilience, an ability to adapt, discipline and a real passion for the game in order to persevere and succeed in the demanding world of high-level sport.

Ice hockey stick
hockey defender hockey defender taps with his stick the puck
What are the skills and qualities needed to succeed in high-level ice hockey? To succeed in high-level ice hockey, several skills and qualities are necessary. Here are a few that I think are the most important:
  • As I have already pointed out, physical condition: Ice hockey is a physically demanding sport. You must be in excellent physical condition, with good cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and agility to be able to perform at the best level for 3 thirds of time or more.
  • Be technically strong: One must have strong technical skills in the field of skating. Be very agile, master the handling of the puck, constantly improve in the precision and power of throws, passes and all the technical gestures that make up the wealth of ice hockey. Since I was playing as a defender, there was also a big part on checking…
  • Have an excellent vision of the game: it is essential to anticipate the movements of your teammates and opponents on the ice. This allows you to make good decisions quickly, find free spaces and distribute passes efficiently.
  • Play Smart Hockey: Understanding game tactics and strategies is crucial. We must be able to read the game, analyze situations and constantly adjust our positioning. A thorough understanding of the game allows you to make the right decisions on the ice in 1/4 of a second.
  • Competitive mentality: Ice hockey is a competitive and demanding sport. You have to have a winning mentality, be determined and persevering, and be able to handle the pressure of important games. For example, I remember a match that marked me when I was very young: Angers lost 3 to 1 at 5 minutes from the end of the match. An attacker’s break resulted in a penalty for Angers, great atmosphere… The player therefore scored 3 to 2, the opposing team doubted. The equalizer will arrive 2 minutes later, 3 to 3. Angers press, push really hard and 30 seconds from the end of the match, deliverance arrives! Finally 4 to 3 for Angers! An example of perseverance and determination that has always accompanied me.
  • Like teamwork: Ice hockey is a team sport. We must be able to collaborate with other teammates, communicate effectively on the ice and implement collective game strategies. Team cohesion is essential for success.
  • Discipline and work ethic: one must be disciplined and have a solid work ethic. It involves adopting good training habits, being committed and motivated, making the necessary sacrifices to achieve your goals.
It is important to note that the development of these aspects requires regular training, adequate supervision and a passion for the sport.

What role did physical and mental training play in your career as a professional hockey player?

Physical and mental training played an essential role in my career as a high-level hockey player.

My good physical condition had an undeniable importance in the competition. I remember my beginnings in the weight rooms. 

The course in the room was intense, the whole team took all the machines one after the other at a very high pace. It allowed us to develop our cardiorespiratory endurance and our physical strength.

The work on the technicality of skating with the puck and without the puck was almost daily, long hours of training on the ice.

On the mental side, you had to be solid and focused, at the time that occupied a good part of my thoughts… I often visualized game situations, tactics and movements to improve my decision-making and optimize my performance.

Obviously, during these years I developed a resilient mentality to overcome failures, obstacles, and maintain high motivation despite the difficulties.

the referee whistles the start of the ice hockey game
Ice hockey arbitrator bends down to retrieve a stick
How did you deal with the pressure of important matches and high-level competitions? Mental preparation was essential to handle the pressure. I kept a positive attitude towards the upcoming match. For me the Saturday night game, wherever we played, was always a great sports party! I had routines in place before games to help me focus. Having a familiar routine can give you a sense of control and confidence. In terms of timing, there were two phases. As the matches were played on Saturday at 8 p.m., the first phase was before 4 p.m. (the time of the team gathering at the ice rink). Everyone had their routine, their habits. For me, it was a late morning, a relaxing breakfast then a good lunch: the “pasta” for lunch, a siesta and “go! ” at the ice rink. Everyone had their habits, I remember that one of the players always took the same route, the same streets to clear their heads and arrive at the meeting at 4 p.m. concentrated. For the second phase, from 4 p.m., everything was very structured, warm-up, short jog off the ice, briefing, equipment, warm-up on ice, re-briefing and finally match!
Covers of skate fate
Covers of Skate Fate, Skateboarding Zine
Different Surf design

To conclude, can you tell us about the link that may have between hockey and your interest in other sliding sports?

The practice of ice hockey allowed me to open the doors to a vast world of sliding sports. When I started ice hockey, I was a fan of skateboarding, “roller skates”, windsurfing, bmx.

We practiced as soon as we had enough money to buy equipment.

I’ve always loved the aesthetics and creativity of board sports gear and gear.

In each discipline, there was a real style, a very addictive American influence, stars like Tony Hawk, Jenna de Rosnay Kelly Slater who we saw everywhere.

Years later, I’m still influenced by that cool and very creative mindset.

This naturally led me to participate in the Steezywave adventure to perpetuate this state of mind through clothing and accessories.

Photo from the personal album of Gaël – Duc d’Angers – 1990
Photo by Matthew Fournier, YIFEI CHEN, Krzysztof Baran, LOGAN WEAVER, Gerhard Crous, Krzysztof Bbaran, Tungsten Rising, Markus Spiske, Tatonomusic sur Unsplash et Jared Eberhardt sur Flickr 

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