Gulls Exit Interview: Chase De LeoMay 28, 2021
By Matt Weller/SanDiegoGulls.com
Following the conclusion of the Gulls 2020-21 campaign, Chase De Leo spoke to the media to reflect on the challenges of the season, discuss his upcoming summer training and thank Gulls fans for all their support.
The third-year Gulls forward enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his young career, leading San Diego in goals (15), and ranking second in points (15-19=34) and assists. De Leo owned a seven-game point streak (5-7=12) from Mar. 31 to Apr. 17.
The 25-year-old became a lethal power-play weapon for San Diego, finishing tied for second in the American Hockey League in power-play goals and points (7-7=14).
De Leo also hit several milestones, highlighted by reaching 200 career AHL points with a goal on March 26 at Bakersfield.
The La Mirada, CA native also earned an opportunity he had been dreaming of since he learned to play the sport - suiting up for the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. He accomplished the feat on April 9, skating in his fifth career NHL contest and his third as a Duck.
Below is a transcript of De Leo’s exit interview, edited lightly for clarity.
On the 2020-21 season:
It was definitely an interesting year, lots of ups and downs. It’s a good reminder that it’s a blessing we get to play a team sport. It was a long offseason, where you’re kind of just training by yourself. A lot of the time you just feel like you’re in it alone. It’s nice when you get to come to the rink and you’re with 20 brothers. You’re all in it together, no matter what the circumstances are. Whether it's in a pandemic or no pandemic, no matter what the day is, you’re never alone. You’re always with your brothers and you’re in that battle together.
On missing playing in front of Gulls fans:
We missed America’s Finest Fans in San Diego. One of the better parts of playing in San Diego is playing in front of all those fans. I think it's 12,000 fans every game, pretty much. We missed them the entire season this year. I just want to say thank you to all the fans who are watching and supporting. Since I’ve been here, it’s been unbelievable support. It’s been awesome. I’ve got nothing but good things to say.
On managing the challenges of the pandemic:
From day one, we made it very clear that it was our goal to not have any positive COVID tests. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. From the staff to the players to everybody, just following the rules and guidelines and taking the necessary steps. It’s not just when you’re at the rink being a professional, it’s 24/7 around the clock. You’ve got to take care of your body and do the right things.
I thought we did an amazing job as an organization, all the teammates. To not have one positive test the entire year is pretty amazing.
On his desire to improve:
It was my first time ever just training myself. I just took it upon myself in my parents garage, kind of old school. It was tough at times for sure.
You’ve just got to keep working. You can always improve every day. You can learn something new and improve on something. Never be satisfied and always be hungry. I’m going to make the National Hockey League. I know I’m going to make the NHL. If I don’t believe that, nobody else is going to believe it. At the end of the day, you can always improve and keep working on things.
On his offensive success:
The fun part about playing hockey is winning games, competing with your boys and scoring goals. There’s no feeling like scoring a goal, especially in a sold out arena. It’s the best feeling in the world. There’s nothing like it.
I wanted to come in and make that point that I’m ready to go. I want to be that guy. I’ve never been a passenger. I’m not a passenger type. I want to be in control and I want to grind with the boys. That’s the best part about it.
On playing for the Ducks at Honda Center:
Honestly, I skated for two hours in the morning. I worked out for two hours in the morning. Didn’t know I was playing in the game until 4:30. It’s a privilege to play in the National league. It’s the best league in the world. Anytime you get to wear this jersey, obviously for me, it’s massive.
I remember being at all the Ducks games, in a suite at the Pond, playing floor hockey with a fork and a wine cork, pretending I was Jean-Sebastian Giguere. To be able to be there was pretty surreal.
On playing for his parents:
They’ve sacrificed everything for me. I wouldn’t be here without my parents. Coming from California wasn’t easy. There were tons of sacrifices for them. As you get older, you realize how much they really had to do for me to get to this point. I wish they could have been there to watch me at the Honda Center, but I know I’ll be back playing there again.
It was an amazing experience being able put this jersey on and live my dream. It was everything I ever wanted as a little kid.