Monday, December 28, 2009

A few minutes with…James Hiebert

The Brahmas forward talks about joining the team, the hit on Charlie Effinger, the aftermath and the season so far

After six seasons in Laredo, many fans were surprised to see James Hiebert land in North Richland Hills to play with the Brahmas. The 27-year-old wing from Hay River, Northwest Territories, has been a welcome addition to the roster. Tough as nails, Hiebert has been a target for many opponents and has served five games worth of league suspensions due to scrapes with the Allen Americans alone.

Hiebert has tallied 11 points (3 G, 8 A, +8) and 98 penalty minutes in 18 games played. I spoke with James on Sunday afternoon. Here is our conversation.

Q: After so many seasons in Laredo, how did it feel to come up and join the Brahmas organization?

A: It feels good. Everything is a change and an adjustment but I’ve really enjoyed my time here. North Richland Hills is a beautiful place and I’ve got a lot of great teammates so it’s made the change easy.

Q: How was it, integrating with these guys, after playing against so may of them after so many years?

A: Ah, there’s been a lot of laughs, a lot of jokes about some of the dirty things I did, to Minard mostly (laughing) and maybe Fonger, because he and I had our bouts, but other than that, it’s been pretty smooth. We had a rocky start when I first got here but lately, heck, the team’s been playing great and we’ve been winning games.

Q: One of the things Dan told me about you was how tough you are and some of the scrapes you guys had gotten into and how he hated the prospect of fighting you. You’ve had quite a few scrapes since you’ve joined the Brahmas. Do you see yourself in an instigator role?

A: Well, our team has to be team tough and we try to go out there and do that. Sometimes, certain guys have to fight. I would consider myself, maybe not an instigator, but someone who is definitely worried about what’s going on with his teammates…I think everyone on the team is worried about that. We’ve got a great group of guys with a lot of chemistry and we all want to take care of each other.

Q: Now you’ve been fighting for a long time. You’re not the biggest guy but you’re tough as hell. Any boxing experience; anything in your background that’s been a help?

A: Well, obviously, I hit the heavy bag…I haven’t had any formal training or anything like that. I’ve done a little bit of boxing and a little bit of Tae Kwan Do, but I’ve never taken more than say 15 classes each. But you know, you practice it and you practice when you’re young and just through experience and a lot of getting beat up, you get better (laughing). When I was young, I’ll tell you, I got beat up a few times. It taught me how to protect myself (laughing). So, a little bit of experience there and probably experience is the most important thing other than staying in shape and being able to take care of yourself.

Q: I was in Allen and I watched from behind the half boards as Charlie Effinger skate way out of the crease to meet you. I saw him drop his shoulder and plant his feet, seemingly expecting to take a hit, taking you head on as you approached the net. What’s your take on how all that transpired? What I saw was you going after a loose puck on a breakaway.

A: Yeah, you know, the goaltender’s off limits, so anytime you do that, it’s a possible suspension, but he came pretty far out of the net. He was out by the top of the circles, so…I did make that check, so it’s my fault. I didn’t think I should’ve gotten suspended for it. He wasn’t hurt.

Q: From where I was watching, it didn’t really look like you had a lot of time to react, considering how far he skated out to meet you. Now, you didn’t intentionally take him out, did you?

A: No, I didn’t intentionally, but sometimes when you’re moving that fast, you don’t really think. The puck’s right there…it’s kind of the route you’re taking…he’s in your path…it just happens.

Q: Now obviously, you were going to be a target here at NYTEX when Allen came out. Did you expect them to go after you in the pre-game warm-ups?

A: No, not at all. I wanted to continue playing. They kind of fully instigated that. I was disappointed in my suspension there but you know, that’s the league and their in control and you’ve got to respect that. At the same time, I got hit pretty hard; I got my bell rung pretty hard. I had a headache for a couple of weeks…it’s a little frustrating there, because those guys outweighed me by 40 or fifty pounds, so I was at a disadvantage right off the bat. It is what it is and it’s a long season.

Q: Speaking of the season, it hasn’t been the easiest for the Brahmas with a real tough schedule for the first six weeks or so – it seems like you guys had a little bit of trouble finding your groove but you seem to be in it now. What’s your take on the rest of the season?

A: We got to keep going hard and working our tails off. Nothing comes easy in professional hockey, so if you want to win, you’ve got to stick to the systems and work hard every game or you end up losing games. I think at the beginning of the season, we were just inconsistent. There were a lot of new faces and they had just won a title. We did have a lot of player movement and that doesn’t ever help for chemistry. Now we’ve kind of gotten our lines stabilized – I think we’re playing really good.

Photo Credits: Robert Keith

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