Captain Q and A: Dan McDonald & Brendan Kotiga


Photo courtesy of Varsity Vantage

2020-21 boys varsity hockey co-captains. Pictured: Dan McDonald left, Brendan Kotiga right.

Last season, the WHS boys hockey team finished with a record of 15-8-2, and three games into this season, they remain undefeated. Two players that have had a big impact on this success are senior captains Dan McDonald and Brendan Kotiga. They provided insight into their hockey careers and how recent events have impacted their seasons.

When did you first start playing hockey, and what inspired you to start playing?

DM: I started playing hockey when I was four years old and I [was] too young to remember why I started playing. I am the first in my family to play the sport.

BK: I first started playing hockey when I was in second grade and I was inspired to play by my dad, who played hockey during his childhood and even played for a men’s league up until his mid-30s.

Do you have any special rituals that you do to prepare for games?

DM: I do, a lot actually. I eat the same meal be- fore every game and get myself there at least an hour before the game. Certain songs need to be played in the car on the way [there]. I put my equipment on in a specific order and tape my stick the exact same way. I shotgun a Redbull seven minutes before warmups and I am always the last person on the ice.

BK: As a team, we warm up together and play music which helps us mentally focus and lock-in. I wear the same “lucky” undershirt to every game because even though it might sound gross, I feel I play better when I wear that shirt.

What has been your favorite memory from playing WHS hockey?

DM: My sophomore year we won conference against Summit, and it was the most exciting, highest level of hockey I have ever played.

BK: My favorite memory from playing hockey for the high school is winning the McInnis Cup championship over Summit. The game was a roller coaster of emotions because we got a 4-1 lead early, then we were down 5-4 and we ended up winning 6-5.

How has the preparation for this year’s season differed from previous years?

DM: It was entirely different. [Not having a locker room] has had a major impact on us. We can’t connect as a team both on and off the ice nearly as much as we could last year. Players had to operate almost entirely on their own in the pre-season by creating their own workout schedule to follow on a daily basis [in order to adhere to] social distancing. 

BK: This season’s preparation has been different because we all have been committed to staying at home and quarantining. This has been difficult for us because we don’t get to bond as a team and build chemistry that way, but we have found other ways to [do so]. Our mindset this season has been that every time we step on the ice could be our last because we know that just like the fall sports, we could get shut down at any time and we’re doing our best to keep that from happening. 

How do you feel about the COVID-19 guidelines for winter sports?

DM: I can’t complain. So many teams across the state have had their seasons canceled so the fact we get to play at all is a privilege. The guidelines are not fun to follow, but worth it in the end. 

BK: I don’t necessarily like them, but it means we get to have a hockey season so I’m willing to do whatever it takes to follow them and have a season. The guidelines also do a very good job at keeping us safe and socially distant which is another reason why I’m willing to follow them. 

What are you doing to keep your team safe from COVID-19 this season?

DM: We don’t go out at all. Our socializing is going to practice and film sessions. When we see each other in person we are socially distanced with a mask, and not in close contact with each other. 

BK: We’ve been making sure everyone is always wearing a mask when we’re around each other and staying socially distant. Also, I’ve been reminding everyone to fill out the daily covid form so that we can prevent another shutdown.

What are your goals for this season?

DM: Just to appreciate what we have and make the most of it. I have been playing this sport for 13 years now and I only have about six weeks left. I don’t want to have any regrets about what could’ve been. 

BK: One of my goals for the season is to be seen as a leader by my teammates and be a good example for all the underclassmen so that they can be good leaders when they’re seniors. Another goal of mine is to win every game this season and bring home some hardware. We have a very talented team this year, possibly the best team to have ever come through Westfield, so I believe that we can accomplish these goals.