Chicago Blackhawks prospect Vince Hinostroza became part of an exclusive group when he made his NHL debut earlier this season. Born in the town of Barltett, IL — about a 40 minute drive from Chicago — he became the latest player from the Chicago area to wear the famous Indian-head sweater. Other players in that club include former Blackhawks Chris Chelios, Ed Olczyk and Craig Anderson; current Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling; and Rockford IceHogs teammate Ryan Hartman.
Hinostroza, a forward, was drafted by the Blackhawks in the 6th round (169th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft. During the 2012-13 season, he played Division 1 NCAA hockey for Notre Dame and was named to Hockey East’s All-Rookie Team. The following year, Hinostroza led the team in scoring and was named to Hockey East’s First All-Star Team. He is currently in his first season of pro hockey with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, where he is fifth in scoring. He was also called up for a four-game stint with the Blackhawks.
I spoke with Hinostroza about his college days, adapting to new teammates and being on the ice at the United Center instead of looking down at it from the stands.
Sal Barry: What was your earliest hockey memory?
Vince Hinostroza: When I was three years old, I started skating with my cousin and my dad at Fox Valley Ice Arena. Skating without a stick. And when I was four, I remember joining my first team.
SB: At four years old? Do you remember how you did?
VH: I remember stepping off of the bench and coming onto the ice for my first shift, ever, actually.
VH: Well, I remember my parents telling me about it.
SB: Did you grow up watching the Blackhawks?
VH: Not as much when I was younger, because it was hard to watch them on TV, but I went to games every year and watched as much as I could. But it was obviously a little tougher back then to watch the games.
SB: Did you have any favorite players growing up?
VH: I kind of liked everyone growing up. Then, [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane came. That is when hockey started becoming a big deal in Chicago. So, I was still pretty young when they joined the team. I think that’s when I was starting to get better at hockey, so I really watched them pretty closely because they were younger guys too, and try and learn from their games a little bit.
SB: At what point did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in pro hockey?
VH: As you get older you start seeing you can play at the next level. Ever since you start playing hockey, your dream is to play in the NHL and play pro hockey. So I think as long as I’ve played hockey, pretty much, I’ve wanted to pursue it as a career.
SB: You moved away at 16 to play in the USHL. What was it like to move away at 16?
VH: I don’t think it was that hard for me. As a hockey player, you know that’s just a step you have to take. I think it was harder for my mom, me leaving home and stuff. So it was tough on her. But I knew it was a step I had to take and it wasn’t that hard of an adjustment. I had great coaches in Waterloo, great teammates and a great billet family, so it was good.
SB: When you played college, you had a really good freshmen year. What was the biggest challenge of going from the USHL to the NCAA?
VH: Going to college, you’re playing against 25-year olds and the strength of players, the grind of the game, is a little bit more. As a smaller guy, freshmen year, I needed to come in and put a lot of weight on and work hard in the weight room. And it was easy to do that at Notre Dame with the facilities and the resources they have.
SB: How do you adapt your game to suit your size?
VH: I think I’ve always been one of the faster guys. I think that just comes along with my size. So, I just work on my stride and beat guys with my speed and quickness, and I think it’s worked out so far.
SB: You played in the 2013 World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden. What did you learn from playing internationally?
VH: I wouldn’t say you learn much from the tournament. I think it is that you learn stuff from your own team and you bring personal qualities and traits to the National Teams. I think anytime you get wear the USA jersey it’s a huge privilege. You get to see the best players in the world and play against the best players in the world. I think it’s a huge positive for young players to see how they compare to the other players.
SB: How did you find out you were drafted by the Blackhawks? Were you at the draft?
VH: Yeah, I was actually there. Obviously being a Blackhawks fan, it was awesome. Hearing my name get called by anyone [would be great], but to be the Blackhawks, it was definitely huge for me and it was a great feeling.
SB: Congratulations on your first NHL game (October 17, 2015 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets). Can you tell me a little bit about that day?
VH: There’s a lot of nerves going into your first NHL game. The Chicago Blackhawks are obviously an amazing team, so being a younger guy, you don’t really come in with the mindset of making a huge impact. You just kind of want to go in and work as hard as you can, bring some positive momentum to the team. But the atmosphere was amazing. I’ve been in the stands so many times that it was just really cool to be on the bench and on the ice for the National Anthem and home goals and stuff like that. So it was a lot of fun.
SB: In 2015, you’ve played on a few different teams: Notre Dame, then the Rockford IceHogs, then the Chicago Blackhawks and the IceHogs again. How does a player adapt to playing with different teammates?
VH: In pro hockey, everyone is a great player, so it is easy to adapt to play with all these players up here. I think leaving Notre Dame and coming to Rockford, all the guys were great to me. I already knew a lot of them from development camps and stuff like that. Then this summer, going to training camp, you get to meet every guy within the Blackhawks’ system so you start to build [familiarity] with everyone [and] learn from everyone. So, when you change teams, you already know all the guys, so it isn’t that big of an adjustment. We’re all part of the same organization and everyone is a good guy to each other. So it’s not hard to adjust.
SB: What advice do you have for young hockey players?
VH: Work hard. All the resources are there, especially growing up, these travel teams have a strength coach. They have all these resources for you. I suggest kids take advantage of all the resources they’re given and work hard every day and don’t take anything for granted.
SB: Outside of hockey, do you have any hobbies or interests?
VH: I love fishing. I love being at a lake outdoors in the summer. I love spending time with family and friends. Every summer I go fishing with my uncle and my cousin, and we went to North Dakota last year. This year, I went to Lake Erie with my dad, my cousin and my uncle. Next year, we’re going to northern Canada.
SB: Cubs or Sox?
VH: Oh for sure, the Cubs. My grandpa would watch every game and I think that’s how you determine what team you go for. You’re kind of born into it in Chicago, I guess. My family has always been Cubs fans.
SB: How do you think they’ll do next year?
VH: I think they’re going to be great coming off of this big year and be even better next year. Come back hungrier. It was fun to watch them this year. ■