Zach Miskovic relishing his Veteran role both on and off the ice

Author: Katharine Thomas, for PHPA.com
Date: Mar 21, 2018

Once a player enters a season having previously played a combined 260 regular season games of professional hockey in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, or a major European league, he is officially granted “Veteran” status.  In the ECHL, teams are permitted to dress up to 4 veteran players per game whose role is to not only help their team win, but provide leadership and mentor younger players aspiring to advance to the next level.

Zack Miskovic of the Indy Fuel understands the crucial role of being a Veteran player.  He not only serves as team captain, but is also a member of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association (PHPA) Executive Committee, a position he was elected to by his fellow ECHL Player Representatives.  His love for the game has allowed him to persevere through major injury, times of uncertainty, and now helping lead the next wave of professional hockey players both on and off the ice.

Miskovic played three seasons in the USHL with Cedar Rapids before pursuing a university education.  “School is very important to my family and something that was important to me as well,” explained Miskovic.  He instantly fell in love with the small school vibe at St. Lawrence University, located in Canton, NY.  “I went to visit St. Lawrence and there was just no question. I was ready. That was the place for me.”

He initially intended to enroll in the Engineering program, but “once I got to campus, they advised me to watch out for the workload because engineering is a very demanding program.  I ended up double majoring in math and fine arts which I really enjoyed.”

Miskovic played four seasons at St. Lawrence, posting 25 points in 38 games during his senior year.  The defenseman was named to the All ECAC Hockey First Team and an AHCA East First-Team All-American.

Come senior year, his aspirations to move on and continue his hockey career were pretty high and talking to some NHL teams and scouts along the way “was a huge honor.” 

“I had a few options and with Washington being at the top of my list, I chose to sign with the Capitals.  They gave me the opportunity after my senior year to spend some time with their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears. I spent about a month there and practiced with the team which was an invaluable experience to get my initial insight as to what I was getting myself into the following season.”  The Bears were successful in winning the Calder Cup that year.

“I used that experience to learn from a lot of veteran players about how to be a true professional and how to win. It was a great experience, one that I kind of built my pro career around.”

Miskovic enjoyed a solid rookie season the following year with the Bears, posting 26 points in 59 games.  However, during the offseason, he suffered a serious knee injury while attending the Capitals’ development camp.  The injury sidetracked his off-season training and left Miskovic feeling devastated.  “You want to go into camp and be ready to rock and roll and I ended up having to go in a little behind everyone else. But working with the great staff at the Capitals, they were able to get me prepared by the start the season.  I had to push myself to get back in shape and be focused and really drive to compete against a lot of good players at the time to get in the line up and it really challenged my perseverance.”

Another challenge Miskovic has had to endure throughout his eight-year professional career is the nomadic lifestyle of professional hockey players. He played on 8 different teams between 2012 and 2016, including 4 teams during the 2013-14 season alone (San Antonio, Cincinnati, Rockford, Iowa). He sees it as part of the job that most people don’t realize. “That’s one of those things when they talk about pro athletes, a lot of people don’t understand or grasp that it’s not easy. It’s never easy having to pack up and move on and leave potentially 30 friends and then reacquaint yourself with 30 new people.”

Following that 2013-14 season, Miskovic was uncertain as to where his future may lead in pro hockey.  “For me it was tough and it was a trial to see if I wanted to continue playing hockey after that season. It was definitely something I pushed through. I was actually fortunate to make a good connection in Rockford.  I made some good friends there and knew that was a place that I wanted to try to get back to. I really pursued that option and was able to work something out with the team the following year.”

Miskovic played the entire 2014-15 season with the Ice Hogs before signing with the Indy Fuel the following season where he has played ever since, and has been Captain the past two years.

Being named captain left Miskovic feeling “honored to lead a young group, and to help them develop and reach the next level. I wanted to bring my experiences that I’ve gone through like so many other older guys I’ve played with before had showed me. I think it’s a very unique culture that we’re able to do that and help young guys progress.  I get so much satisfaction when one of our guys gets called up to the AHL or a guy I once played with goes to the NHL.”

Miskovic describes playing in the ECHL as “a fun atmosphere to be apart of and that’s what I like to try to create at this level. I help answer questions for the young guys who are trying to move on and get them as prepared as they can be so when their time comes they know what to expect when they get called up. That’s part of the reason I’m here, is to help prepare them and ask them questions about themselves and make them as comfortable as they can from day one.”

His ability and willingness to be a mentor has lead him to take on the role of the Fuel’s PHPA Player Representative.

“My first introduction to the PHPA was in my first year of pro with Hershey.  Andrew Joudrey was our Player Representative at the time and he wasn’t able to attend the PHPA Annual Meeting of Player Representatives that summer, so he asked me to go in his place.  I was young then and just learning at the time. Talking to Andrew and learning more about what the PHPA did for the players, I knew that it was something I wanted to be in the mix with and getting involved in, to help strengthen the union and as years go on it has. It’s pretty amazing to be apart of that and to have the PHPA on our side helps every player in hockey.”

During this past summer’s PHPA Annual Meeting, Miskovic was elected to serve on the PHPA Executive Committee.  “After attending the meetings for the last few years and seeing what those guys do and how much they help with negotiations towards new CBAs and being at the table across from ownership and getting to speak on behalf of the players, I hope I have more of an opportunity to do so in the future and to help strengthen the union even more. I know we have a big summer ahead with a new CBA coming into affect.”

Miskovic points to communication as the biggest thing impacting the success of the PHPA and is something he says he has learned a lot about from working with the PHPA staff and Executive Director, Larry Landon.

“Making sure we have open lines of communication among the players and the union, as well as ownership and the staff underneath ownership is important. It’s good to know everyone is supporting each other. We’re all working together and we all want the best for each other.”

The admiration from Larry and the PHPA staff does not go unnoticed according to Zach. “That’s the thing I truly love to see and see it each summer when we all get together and talk about progressing the game and making sure we’re all able to continue playing.”

He also gives Indy’s current ownership, the Hallett family recognition for how “they’ve brought hockey to Indianapolis and how much they care about the community.  Growing hockey there has been amazing to see and to be apart of. I joined the organization a year after the team’s inaugural season and the amount it’s grown in a short period of time is amazing. I’m super proud to be apart of that and to help continue with that growth. I think that is part of what we to do as professional athletes is to help out with the youth and it will help promote and generate the next generation.”

For now Miskovic is enjoying living in Indianapolis, having recently moved his family there and is looking forward to raising his son in the city. “I would call it a ‘big little city’. It is one of the first cities I’ve played in that has an NBA team, an NFL team, a professional soccer team, and of course our hockey team. There is a lot going on but we still have great crowds every single night that support us and a community that is very happy to have hockey back in Indy.”

Miskovic’s main goal this season is to get his team into the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. “That’s the highest goal on our list right now. That’s the first step to pushing further.”  As team captain, he is also looking forward to the opportunities coming up to the younger players on the team. “I want to see more of our guys continue to reach the AHL and solidify themselves at the next level and to use it as launch pad to create more success within the Fuel.”

 

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