Fascinating goals, a true leader on ice and in the locker room- that’s only a few reasons why the fans love him. Let’s get to know Brance Orban, the team captain of Gyergyói Hoki Klub.
Hungarians are, and always were quite proud of their nationality, loving everyone who has a drop of “Hungarian blood” in them, you talked about your Hungarian background in a recent podcast (find the link at the end of the article-ed.) could you talk me through the brief history of your family?
I believe it was in the 50’s, my great grandparents moved across to Saskatchewan, Canada. Times were tough and they were looking for a “better life”. My great grandma moved first, then 6 years later my grandpa moved to meet up with her, they got married and they had a baby boy. From there they moved west to Alberta and they did a variety of things, very hard-working people. My grandfather opened a sport store that my dad later took over. I was at my great grandparent’s house all the time. They were really proud Hungarians. This whole area, where I lived in Alberta, from there straight across to Saskatchewan there’s lots of Hungarian bloodlines. My mom’s side (her father) is also Hungarian, so I have HU descendants on both sides.
Do you speak the language or are you trying to learn it?
My wife’s Hungarian, so she’s working on me a little bit, but it’s hard for me to pick up. Now that we have a little one cruising around, almost 2 years old, she’s speaking Hungarian as her mother tongue so I’m learning a lot from her already, I gotta understand what she’s saying obviously. Chris Bodó and I started taking language classes back in Budapest, but unfortunately, they got shot down because of Covid and we never started them again. It’s something we are definitely interested in and we’d like to be fluent, we’re understanding more and more.
The season after your graduation you went to Germany, then Sweden, Hungary, and now you arrived to Romania. You scored a huge amount of points, starting from your junior hockey years and still going strong, where do you have this years-long motivation and persistence from?
I love the game, and I just try to play it the right way. I know what I’m here to do is produce points, be a good teammate. Working hard, having fun, doing what I’m supposed to do and I guess it just happens. I’ve always been lucky to be surrounded by good people everywhere I’ve been, and that helps you feel comfortable and gives the ability to succeed.
You’ve been team captain or assistant captain multiple times, again starting with the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League) and now in the Erste Liga, what would you say brings the dynamic into the group, some behind the scenes things the team does?
We always have in the locker room these basic rules, like be kind, it’s all supposed to be fun and so on. For example, if someone’s late they have to pay a fine, because that’s something unaccepted, and that goes into the team fine “fund” and then at the end we’ll spend the money for the team to do something. So, you’re turning that negative thing, like someone being late, to a positive with this little fun thing. There are certain rules, like dressing properly when you come to games, or when on the road wearing our team outfits. I really like the team events, to organise them, something unique for us, that the guys might not have done before. Like a Halloween party, a North-American custom, where we dress up in costumes, there’s some players on the team that have never done this before, so it’s really fun.
With the experience and wisdom in the field, you’re still young, but how rewarding is the job of a hockey player, if –or-when you decide to hang up the gear, will the well-deserved relaxing years follow, or do you already prepare for a “plan B”/career change?
I wanna play as long as I can for sure. As long as I have the passion to play and I’m having fun I want to keep doing it. I’m lucky to have the support of my family, because sometimes this becomes too much for families and that’s a big reason guys have to retire or make a career change, so I’m lucky to have all the support of my family to keep pursuing my dream job. I also love to play golf, and last summer I became a professional, so maybe I’d transition into the golf industry, but at the same time I don’t know if I would be able to be away from hockey. Maybe I’d do something around hockey, like working with kids, or help with development, help to grow a programme or something like that. I really like to manage people and events so that’s why the golf thing would be more suitable for me, if you’re a professional at the course, that includes managing the course, organising golf tournaments, or different events, like weddings at the venue and all that kind of stuff, I think I would do really good at that. Long story short I think something in the golf industry or something related to hockey development or management.
We’re talking about quite a demanding sport, how important would you say mental preparation is?
I think something’s that’s given me success everywhere, is that I’m always more prepared than everyone else mentally, I always know what I have to do before I get into that situation, I feel like that gives me the ability to just play when it’s time to play.
There are cases when unfair stuff happens on ice, that the fans see and give voice to it too, but you, down there have to endure it, because obviously the penalty, on the contrary isn’t quite worth it. Do you learn this, how to accept and put up with these referees’ word against everyone else’s situations and keep it together almost at all times?
I mean it’s tough, I’m still getting better at it. There’s times when I realise after the fact that I need to say less and accept it and I know I have to show the referees respect. If you do so, they give you respect too. So, if maybe there wasn’t the right call in that situation or something was called when it shouldn’t have been, you just have to respect the game, they’re trying their best, but they’re gonna make mistakes too, they are humans. You just gotta hope that what goes around comes around, and if you get a bad call here, you’re gonna get a good call later.
A bit more personal question: is there any specific person (or more) who inspired you along the journey and to become who you are today?
For sure my father. He passed away 3 years ago, I think about him all the time, his nickname is on my sticks and I have a picture of him in my stall. I would talk to him after every single game since I’ve been a little kid and he’s for sure my number one inspiration. But I have a really great support group, like my best friends, my close family, they are always following along, we talk about the ups and downs. Sometimes even when you’re not talking about hockey with your best friends helps you through the lows of the season, so I’m really fortunate to have a very close friend group and support system.
And how do the non-hockey player members of the family (which there aren’t many) deal with you playing this quite aggressive and dangerous sport?
Some of them really don’t understand what makes me so inspired to play and chase the dream, be away from home for 9-10 months a year, but over the time they started to appreciate how much I care and the life that it’s given us. On a separate thought, this career has shown me the world, I probably wouldn’t have seen so many countries if I wasn’t playing hockey. My dad was a professional hockey player, he played in Europe, he always said that seeing the world is a great life experience. Beyond hockey you can meet so many good people, you’re learning about new cultures and different places in the world that you never would’ve experienced if you stayed in your comfort zone. I really appreciate the opportunities that hockey’s given me.
Being one of the league’s stars, how do you “deal” with the spotlight, attention and the enthusiasm of the fans?
We love it, it’s a small town and truthfully when we played here as guests, we would just come in on one road to the rink and then leave and I honestly thought “ah I could never play there!”. But when me, Chris (Bodó) and Zoli (Szilassy) were talking, coach said “they’re really good people, the nicest people in the world, it’s a hockey town and you have to see it for yourself”. We got here and we were pleasantly surprised, and for sure he was right. The people are so nice and the enthusiasm is awesome, that’s why we play the game. I love that the fans are so passionate about their team and that’s something that drives us to play better. We’re a community here and it’s not just the players on the ice, it is this community’s team.
The people involved in this hockey club are really special people, and you can kind of feel the tingle in this dressing room, that reminds Bodó and I of that 2018 championship team. I think we’re gonna be in the mix just from the feeling we have with our group. I think having good people along the way is important, and we’re fortunate to have that.
You have your lovely family, a beautiful dog here with you, you received this summer a professional status in golf withing the PGA of Canada (Professional Golfers Association), you’re one of the league’s leading players, to sum it up, could you tell me a bit about who the off-duty Brance is?
I like to have fun. Usually during the season it’s with my teammates, but I always try to do fun and exciting stuff, and see things that I’ve never seen before. Here we’re so close to nature, we’re doing lots of hikes and stuff involving nature. Whenever we can we try to get together, like I said do unique things together. In the summer time my priority is training, but I try to do golf as much as possible. That’s kind of my escape, I think. It’s a mental battle, usually 4-5 hours around the course. 9 months of the year I’m getting hit and competing on the ice, the training and the gym is a little bit different in the summer, it’s more for yourself and your ability, strength or recovery, but I still have that desire to compete. I’m able to do that playing golf where I’m not gonna get hurt for the next season. And I truly think that the mental part of golf has helped me with hockey too, because it’s very meticulous, shot by shot and you have to be mentally strong. So, for me I’d say that’s it: hang out with friends, family, in the summer time golf and getting ready for the next year, that always comes quickly.
Probably my first goal in the Austrian league, my dad and sister were there. It was a long battle for me to climb leagues, and at that time that was kinda my NHL, so it was pretty special.
There was a charity game for my dad before he passed away and it was a happy-sad kind of moment. He got a penalty shot at the end of the game, and he scored. It was really cute, I’d say that’s probably my sad-happy moment, because I also knew that was the last goal he’ll ever score.
-most unforgettable moment
Winning a championship with MAC was pretty special, we had a real great group with that team. We were destined to win and we got it done.
-Erste Liga’s regular season
I think we had a solid regular season. Our goal from the start of the season was to finish with enough points for home ice advantage. For the first time in the club’s history, we were able to do that! We are very happy about having home ice to start playoffs on Thursday! The goal now is to win Game 1!