Skating off the Ice, after a playoff elimination at the hands of the eventual NA3HL champions the Texas Jr Brahmas, Atlanta Capitals defenseman Vito Carlo had played his last game for the Capitals. For all guys who play juniors this moment eventually comes. That time when the page is turned and a new chapter starts. Vito Carlo had played 3 seasons for the Atlanta Capitals and had exhausted his juniors eligibility. The gritty defenseman from Las Vegas, Nevada was a staple of the Capitals defense.
Memories created will stick with these guys forever. Lasting friendships and life long bonds have been formed. Highest highs and lowest lows, then suddenly, as quickly as it started, the junior hockey experience is over. I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Vito about his junior hockey experience, his background, what it was like to play for the Atlanta Capitals, and advice he would give to guys just starting out. I'll attach the entire interview to this post but I also wanted to highlight a handful of questions and answers from our conversation.
Me: Obviously, you started playing when you were pretty young, what levels did you play at? Was there a youth program there in Las Vegas? How did that come about? (P)
Vito: When you start out you start playing house league and then once they know you're ready they let you try out for the travel team, and they only had squirts at the time so they started with squirts. So as a mite we would have to play house league and once you were old enough you could play travel hockey. Squirt travel hockey. I started out in house league and from there I grew from it. Once I became a squirt it just took off from there pretty much. (P)
Me: So that leads me to my next question obviously playing for the Atlanta Capitals, Atlanta to Las Vegas that's a pretty far distance, how did you find out about the Capitals and what lead you to end up there?
Vito: So, at the time, the Capitals were the affiliate of Topeka. At the time I was playing for the junior team here in Vegas. One summer I went and tried out I thought why not and just went to try out for the Topeka team, and they ended up tendering me to the Capitals. I started the season with Vegas and at the mid way point of the season I just felt like why not? Why not just get out of town and go start something new. I kinda wanted a fresh start and I thought Atlanta would be the right place to go.
Me: Let's switch gears for a second, Coach Smith, what was it like playing for him?
Vito: Oh, man. Coach Smith, the way I look at it, I wouldn't be the player that I am today if it wasn't for that guy. I can sit back and I can look at my career. I've played for a lot of coaches. Not just juniors but, you know, midgets, squirts, bantams, pee wees. Coach Smith, he cared about the players being in a comfortable positions and being in a spot where you can succeed, getting you to where you want to be the next year. If you want to go play in the NA(HL), you listen to him, and you take his advice, and you play his game, you're gonna get there. My whole goal throughout juniors was just to play college hockey and I got there. It was from listening and doing what I was told and doing my job and playing the system right. I give him a lot of credit for where I am today, honestly. I can sit here and say he's the best coach I've had.
Me: What's the next step for you, Vito? Where are you taking your talents to after juniors?
Vito: Right now, I'm in the process of schools, I am in the middle of choosing a school which will probably be announced soon. I'm gonna play college hockey and I'm really excited for it.
Vito Carlo was a defensemen for the Atlanta Capitals in the NA3HL for 3 seasons. He finished his juniors career playing in 122 games, scoring 19 goals and 81 assists and a career plus/minus rating of +55. He also played for the south division in the NA3HL's top prospect tournament. Carlo is expected to announce his school choice in the coming week. We certainly wish the best for him and thank him for his time. You can hear the full interview at the bottom of this post.
We certainly hope everyone can look back fondly on their time playing junior hockey and take all the life lessons they can from it. We also hope that you will find your time in juniors fulfilling and instrumental in helping you to develop into the hockey player you want to be. If anyone would like to share their junior hockey experience please feel free to reach out to us and we would love to get your insight on juniors.
LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE