Brian Holzinger enjoyed a thirteen year NHL career spread out among four teams including the Buffalo Sabres. An American born player, he earned a scholarship to Bowling Green University where he played four seasons. The Sabres drafted Holzinger in the 6th round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft (124th overall). He was a member of the 1998-99 Eastern Conference Champion team that went on to play for the Stanley Cup. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in early March the following season.
His first year in Tampa (2000-01) he appeared in 70 games. The next two were plagued with injuries. He suffered a shoulder injury in 2001-02 that limited him to just twenty-three games and then broke his leg just before the 2002-03 season. The Lightning moved him at the trade deadline to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He played 70 games there as well, over two seasons before once again being moved at the deadline. This time he didn’t have to move so far as the Pens moved him to his native home state of Ohio where he finished out his career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, just a two and a half hour ride from Parma.
Our NHL blogger @wolf3328 caught up with Holzinger last week who was gracious enough to answer some questions.
What is your earliest hockey memory? My earliest hockey memory would be from my squirt level days playing for the Parma Flyers Youth Organization and winning the Ohio State Championship. It was the first “big” championship that I was a part of.
When did you first realize you had the potential to play in the NHL? It wasn’t until I was drafted in 1991 by the Buffalo Sabres. It had always been a dream of mine, like with most other young hockey players, but prior to that, my main focus was to play college hockey at the Division 1 level.
Who was your favorite player growing up? I always liked the way Steve Yzerman played growing up. Playing junior hockey in Detroit for the Detroit Junior Red Wings also gave me the chance to follow him on a regular basis. He was a great leader on and off the ice.
Who was your favorite team? I liked the New York Rangers as a young kid. We had the same color and style of uniforms as them too.
Who is your favorite player now? I really like the way Sydney Crosby plays. He does so many good things on the ice and he is so important to the National Hockey League. He is becoming one of the great young leaders in the game today. He is involved with the community in Pittsburgh and is an important role model for all young hockey players.
Talk about the teams/coaches you played for leading up to Bowling Green? I started with the Parma Hockey Association was I was 5 years old and had played for a variety of coaches. Ken Johnson was my squirt coach when we captured an Ohio State Championship. He made the game fun for us and led all of us to our first significant championship. After playing for the Parma Hockey Association, I joined a AAA program called the Cleveland Americans. We played out of the Michigan National League in Detroit where we played all of our home games. Mike Szymanksi was my coach for the next 4 years, and not only made each of us better players, but also better people. Under Mike’s guidance, we participated in a couple of National Championship Tournaments. I played High School hockey in the Cleveland area during my freshman and sophomore years for Padua Franciscan High School under coach Doug Hauser. Doug was probably the most influential coach I had growing up. He played high school hockey, junior hockey and collegiate hockey during his playing career. He understood what it took at many levels and passed that along to all of his players. Doug went on to coach at Padua for 24 years. I was part of two Ohio High School State Championship titles during my time at Padua and became close friends with many of my teammates. During my junior and senior years of high school, I got the opportunity to play for the Detroit Junior Red Wings of the North American Hockey League. They gave me the chance to play in a competitive junior league that was highly recruited by division 1 colleges. The Detroit Junior Red Wings made my dream of playing division 1 college hockey a reality.
Who were your most influential Coaches? During my younger days it was Doug Hauser at Padua Franciscan High School. While at Bowling Green State University, Jerry York and his staff along with Buddy Powers and his staff were very influential. Jerry believed in me as a player and recruited me to be part of the hockey program at Bowling Green. I was fortunate to play for the one of the best college coaches of all time. When Jerry moved on to Boston College, Buddy Powers took over for my senior year. He guided me to my best year as a college hockey player, which resulted in winning the Hobey Baker Award. Assistant coaches Wayne Wilson, Scott Paluch, Brian Hills, Todd Flichel and Mike Cavanaugh all had an impact as well.
Growing up in Parma, OH tell me about a typical day from your childhood I have a younger brother Brad and older sister Kim. My parents have always been a big part of everything that my brother, sister and I did. They took my brother and I to early morning practices and traveled with us to all of the out of town tournaments and games. My sister was a competitive figure skater, so she was involved in travel for competitions as well. They both pushed us to be the best we could be, both in and out of school. School always came first in our family, which was no surprise, because both my mom and dad were school teachers. They made a lot of sacrifices for us and we are very grateful for that.
What was it like hearing your name called by the Buffalo Sabres at the 1991 Entry Draft? Getting drafted by the Sabres was certainly exciting. I was participating in the U.S. Olympic Festival at the time when I heard the news. I knew there was a chance that I may be drafted, but for it to actually happen was an unbelievable experience.
You went to BGU and did 4 years and won the Hobey Baker Award, talk about that and how the process works? Having the opportunity to play at Bowling Green for 4 years was one of the highlights of my playing career. To be part of a hockey program with such great tradition was special. I was listed as a pre-season candidate for the Hobey Baker Award at the start of my senior year which was very motivating. As a team, we played well from the start that year and things started to fall in place for me personally. I was fortunate to be voted as the MVP of the Cross Border Challenge in Toronto and the Badger Showdown in Wisconsin. I was selected to the CCHA First Team and received CCHA Player of the Year Honors. I still remember the day when Buddy Powers called me into his office to give me the news. What makes the Hobey Baker Award so special is the fact that it is based on leadership and character, along with on ice ability. To be recognized for leadership and character is what I was most proud of. I was presented the award in Minneapolis, Minnesota with my family in attendance and it is a day that I will never forget.
Talk about your relationship with Coaches John Tortorella, Ted Nolan, Lindy Ruff, Marty McSorley and Eddie Olczyk? I was fortunate to have a pretty good relationship with all of my coaches during my professional career. Each had very different personalities and I was able to learn from all of them. I was able to win a Calder Cup Championship with John Tortorella in Rochester. Ted Nolan was able to get the best out of all of his players and guided our team to the second round of the playoffs during my second playoff experience in the National Hockey League. Lindy Ruff was a player’s coach and lead us to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999. I only had a short opportunity to play for Marty McSorely in Springfield. I always respected him as a player and he seemed to coach the same way he played. I played in Pittsburgh under Eddie Olcyk during a time when the Penguins were rebuilding. Eddie was getting his first chance to coach in the National Hockey League under difficult circumstances. It was exciting to play for someone that had such a great career as a player.
What was it like being traded from the Sabres (with buddies Primeau and Sarich) to Tampa? It was very difficult being traded for the first time, especially when you had played in a city for almost 6 years. I was married at the time and my daughter was 7 months old. Getting traded with Wayne and Cory made things a little easier on everyone.
Talk about former teammates that you remember I was fortunate to play with a lot of great players. In Buffalo I played with Pat Lafontaine, Alexander Mogilny and Dominik Hasek. In Pittsburgh, Mario Lemieux. They were some of the best players that the game has ever seen.
Were you ever in awe while in the dressing room with Hall of Famers like Pat Lafontaine I think the first time you meet those type of players, you are definitely in awe. Pat and the rest of the players just made you feel comfortable and before you know it, it becomes even more natural to be around them. That is because of the type of person that Pat LaFontaine is and what a great teammate he was.
How were you treated by other players I was fortunate to play with a lot of great teammates that all respected one another. Being with your teammates is the part that I miss the most about the game after retiring.
Who was your roommate on the road while in Buffalo I had a variety of roommates during my time in Buffalo. But, one of my first roommates was Pat LaFontaine. It was during my first playoff experience right out of college. It was pretty cool. I even think he let me use the TV remote for one night.
Do you have any funny stories you can share that happened Dominik Hasek played a rookie joke on me and flushed one of my suites down the toilet. I think I only had 3 suites at the time and he left me with nothing to wear home. I am still waiting for him to buy me a new one.
Favorite Personal Hockey Moment Playing in my first National Hockey League game.
Worst Personal Hockey Moment Losing in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals to the Dallas Stars. To be so close to winning the Stanley Cup and not being able to accomplish that feat is disappointing.
Most memorable NHL fight you remember seeing from your playing days? I was able to see a lot of them first hand while playing for the Sabres. My first year I spent some time on a line with Rob Ray and Brad May. They were two of the toughest players I had the opportunity to play with.
Most memorable goal you scored and when? Scoring my first NHL goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Ron Hextall was the goalie.
What have you been doing since you retired from playing professionally? I have been able to spend a lot of time with my family. I enjoy going to all of their activities and watching them grow up.
Talk about your family, how is everybody doing? I have been married to my wife Lori for 17 years and have three daughters. Alyssa (15), Kassie (13) and Molly (11). All three of them play competitive soccer which keeps us very busy.
What are you up to these days? I am currently managing the Golf Shop at a private Golf Club in the Cleveland area called the Pepper Pike Club. I have been there for the last 6 years.
Are you on Twitter? Handle? @BrianHolzinger
How would you like to be remembered? I would like to be remembered as a good person. Someone that treated everyone with respect and earned the respect of others. I have always thought that was important. If people want to remember as a good player as well, that would be pretty cool too. So what are you waiting for? Give Brian a follow on twitter!
[otw_shortcode_button href=”http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=2347″ size=”medium” icon_position=”left” shape=”square” target=”_blank”]Holzinger Career Stats[/otw_shortcode_button]