The Inferno Interview - Max Birbraer
Next up on the Inferno's list to catch up with is no other than Boom Boom himself, Max Birbraer. This interview has been in the making for some time but we thank Max for taking time out of the office schedule and his gym sessions to get this done for us.
Birbraer has had one interesting career to date, starting off in his homeland with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk before heading to Canada with Newmarket Hurricanes to continue his career before heading back to Israel to renew his passport before being arrested and imprisoned for avoiding military draft. Birbraer was released from the army and could carry on his dream of playing in the show.
Max was drafted in the 3rd round 67 overall in 2000 by the New Jersey Devils and played 3 years with the Albany River Rats before heading to Florida as a free agent. He spent the following 3 years between the AHL and the ECHL before heading to Cardiff in 2006. Birbraer spent two year with the Devils in his first stint then headed back to Russia to try his luck with Kazzinc-Torpedo. After spending half the season in Germany he headed back to Cardiff which he now calls "home"
During his time with the Devils Max has put up some impressive numbers which have helped the Devils over the years. Games Played 259 Goals 117 Assists 180 Points 297
We catch up with Max to talk about the state of British Ice Hockey, his initial views on the Big Blue Tent and his interesting (or disturbing ? your call) days off....
The Inferno - Where do you think the British leagues focus their future development plans? Do you have any thoughts on Import levels? What should GB hockey do to improve?
Max - To be honest I have no idea about the British leagues development plans. For me that is exactly the problem. There is no spokesperson for them (or if there is one i never heard anything from them).
The Import level is a tricky one. With ten teams in the league there is much thinner pool of Brit talent especially, with few of GB guys leaving the league. With 11 imports it seems league created more excitement and probably overall quality. That will most likely drive revenue up and help clubs and the league stabilize.
Saying that, this is not as positive for young brits coming thru as they most likely get less ice time. If the league was 8 teams like it was few years ago i would definitely say that 10 imports would work much better.as you can see it’s a bit of a double edge sword!
In my opinion GB hockey should definitely update the infrastructure to catch up with the rest of the main and credible leagues. Any changes or improvements should be open and up for discussions with fans, players and owners. Again saying that maybe they are not able to run things that way as most decisions are made to prioritize survival of the league first. So then improvements take a back seat in which case its more understandable.
The Inferno - Who’s the best forward you’ve played on a line with and against?
Max - Best forwards I have ever played with were Arnott and Elias in the New Jersey Devils training camp. It was very brief coz few days after they had a mutiny against me and decided to upgrade to some "Duster" named Sykora! He turned out to be ok so no hard feelings!
In this league i had a privilege to play alongside of really talented guys like Mark Smith, Jason Silverthorn, Jon Pelle, Scott Matzka and the list go on....
Playing against the name of Theo Flurry pops up in my mind.
The Inferno - You were in the first group of players to play in the big blue tent, what were your initial impressions of it?
Max - My first reaction was "Am i being Punked?" When I arrived in Cardiff and someone pointed at the rink and said there it is all I saw was 4 huge wooden pillars. When I asked "Is this a joke"? Patterson who was the coach at the time answered "Don’t worry. It’ll be finished in a week and a half" This is where I found out about Welsh timing. Just like “Now in a minute" it’s never now or in a minute! So if you apply this to "Be done in a week and a half" I further found out that it meant 3 and a half months! Boy but when we got in to our new arena (tent) we never looked back. It was a great first year during witch i played with one of the best group of guys ever!
The Inferno - Which one current player in the British leagues (Brit or import) would you like to have playing with you in Cardiff for the upcoming season?
Max - If I'm fortunate enough I'm really excited to play with new guys to this league Mac Faulkner and Chris Blight but if you talking guys in this league i think Jeff League would be my first choice. In terms of British talent I really like Dowd. In my opinion not only he is the best Britt at the moment he also one of the best overall.
The Inferno - Where do you see hockey taking you? Is coaching something you’d consider or do you have ambitions in mind for after hockey outside of the sports?
Max - At the moment I still really enjoy playing the game so have no plans of retirement yet. Missing half the season with an injury last year gave me a priceless opportunity to see and experience the game from behind the bench which made me appreciate coaches a little more. You truly see the game differently and more clearly witch makes you understand why coaches are miserable pricks! (Joke).Coaching after hockey is not the avenue I'm prioritising at the moment but a definite possibility.
The Inferno- You’ve got a day off, what are you doing? What’s the ideal day outside of “work”
Max - I have a secret regime on my day off witch I’m gonna reveal right now exclusively to you
9pm-........-Promotion at O'Neill's
The Inferno - Have you set yourself any goals for the upcoming season?
Max - I would like to use term "our" goal because when you achieve something as a team most often than not you tend to reach or better your personal goals. I really believe we have so far signed a team that capable of winning trophy.
The Inferno -Are you one for superstitions and rituals pre-game? If you are would you comfortable telling us what they might be?
Max – NO. Just stay out of my way the day before or on the day of the match!
The Inferno - What do you consider the strongest part of your game and what 1 thing would you improve - and why?
Max – I honestly can’t highlight a particular part of my game that I consider the strongest. I’m interested in all aspects of the game but if had to give my self-advice on what to work on it probably be consistency.
The Inferno - What’s the Best arena you’ve played in for atmosphere and where’s the worst?
Max - It’s easy! BBT play-off atmosphere is second to none. Worst is Cleveland when you play in front of 300 people in arena that fits 18000 it’s like watching paint dry!
The Inferno - Any thoughts on how this year’s team is shaping up ?
Max - Few more guys to go but so far G has done a very good job of putting together a very good team capable of winning silverware.
The Inferno - During this off-season, we’ve noticed you’ve been working in the office. How did this come about? Are you enjoying this new experience?
Max - As you know I have missed half a season with an injury. I guess it’s the similar thing to coaching. Due to not playing I still wanted to stay involved with the team as much as i could. Things like helping G, Matzka and Franny with coaching side of things when needed. Giving extra hand on match nights, doing promotions and appearances, .....etc. After the season has finished Paul Regan asked me if i was interested to do a similar thing in the office couple days a week to witch I couldn’t say no. I never had desire to do office work but having experienced it now i think it’s a priceless opportunity to pick up new skills witch might help in the future.
The Inferno – Anything you’d like to add ?
Max - Also, i would like to use this opportunity to thank the whole Devils community, the Devils hockey club including doctors and surgeons at Vale Healthcare for not only taking care of me for the remainder of the season but showing faith and loyalty by making me part of team for the upcoming season.
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