Zach Bogosian said he hasn't felt this good in a while. The summer had been good to the 25-year defenseman who spent time taking care of a lower body injury he suffered in last season's penultimate game. He once again committed himself to his off-season training program to put himself in the best possible position entering Buffalo Sabres training camp.
There was another big thing that happened to Bogosian this summer. He took on a new role: Dad.
In May his wife, Bianca, gave birth to their daughter Mila. And all those cliches about being a parent and changing your life rang true.
"It does change your life, obviously for the good," Bogosian said in KeyBank Center Tuesday morning. "It was the best day of my life when she was born. It’s been a fun last four-and-a-half months. Everything that you read about or heard about being a parent – it’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s awesome. You don’t get much sleep but it’s still awesome. It’s been a great summer. Fortunately we had her in May and I had the summer to spend with her. Now that hockey is back up it sucks I won’t be around her as much, but that’s the way it is. It comes with the territory."
That time away with his daughter wasn't just precious family time. It provided a much-needed break from the job of being a hockey player, from the grind that can mentally destroy players.
"I think a big thing a lot of people don’t realize is mentally just getting away from the rink is a big thing," Bogosian said. "I think a lot of people want us and everyone to be hockey-hockey-hockey 24-7 and that’s not the way it works. It’s nice to get a little bit of a break and then when you’re away from the game long enough you miss it so much, August rolls around and you’re chomping at the bit to get back. That’s the way it works and I had a good summer of that."
Ready to return to hockey, Bogosian is looking for more improvement from last year -- more leadership, more chemistry with defensive partner Jake McCabe and more offensive production.
Bogosian had a tough start to the season but found his groove netting 16 of his 24 points after the All-Star Game. He finished with seven goals, three on the power play.
His expectations for his first preseason game focused on "just trying to dust the rust off" but coach Dan Bylsma has seen Bogosian already playing with pace.
"He's skating great," Bylsma said. "He’s been a leader for us in the first three days of camp and how we want to play, the pace which we want to play and that’s what we’ve seen so far. Even in morning skate he’s excited about the opportunity to get on the ice and play a game here."
Has Bylsma noticed any change Bogosian, the new dad?
"We talk a lot about the sleep you need to have success and making sure you're getting sleep and right now he’s probably on the other end of that and still doing well," Bylsma said.
Sleep hasn't been that difficult to come by, Bogosian said. Sure, his household is a bit livelier now, with his wife, baby and two dogs who are vying for attention, but the perspective and balance it brings has been an immeasurable bit of grace.
"It definitely puts life in a different perspective when you have a kid," Bogosian said. "It maybe motivates you a little more. You know that you’re taking care of another human being and that gives me motivation to play as long as I can and to have her experience the things that I've experienced.
"You come home from the rink and you smile every day. I love being a dad."
His Instagram account certainly backs that up:
A photo posted by Zach Bogosian (@zbogosian47) on Sep 19, 2016 at 4:13pm PDT