Zack Bross has learned the Long Island way from his time with LIU’s men’s hockey team including being the first captain in program history. Now the six-foot forward is taking his talent to the New York Islanders ECHL affiliate, the Worcester Railers.
“The Islanders organization is especially one with so much history and so much pride and to be able to try to work my way up in this organization in an area I’ve been, I think it would be really special for me to be a Long Island University player hopefully moving up in the Islander system,” Bross said in an exclusive interview with NYI Hockey Now’s Josh Linsenberg.
Now how did a kid from St.Louis make his way to Long Island in the first place?
Let’s start with chapter one.
Zack Bross started his collegiate hockey career at UMASS Boston, a Division III hockey program. “I always wanted to live in Boston,” Bross said.
Bross was living it up in one of his favorite cities, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, UMASS Boston had halted its play until the 2021 season.
As much as Bross understood, hockey was his passion and he was eager to continue playing somewhere else.
In came LIU.
“LIU was starting up that year. I hadn’t even heard of the school,” Bross said. “I didn’t look that much into DI hockey anymore, because it didn’t seem like it was going to be an opportunity.”
But then LIU Sharks Head Coach Brett Riley came knocking.
“It sounded like a really cool opportunity and something to be a part of from the ground up, and that was something I was definitely interested in,” Bross said. “I had a few other offers but to be able to start something and really leave an impact on a program was something that I found way more valuable than just going in and being another person transferring just another face on the wall.”
Bross wasn’t hesitant to join a first-year program team, but he was concerned if there would even be a season as the pandemic was not showing signs of going away anytime soon. But Brett Riley’s confidence helped settle his mind.
“From the start, Coach Riley was positive and really committed to us playing games. He was 100% convinced that we were going to have a season and he was true to his word,” Bross said.
Now a Long Island kid, Zack Bross liked spending his free time going to the beach and New York City. He also mentioned in our chat how he liked the Italian food scene on Long Island.
On the ice, as mentioned, Bross had the honor of wearing the spoked captain’s patch on his jersey this past season.
“That was incredible [Being named captain]. It was my first experience being a team captain,” Bross said. “So it was really surreal to sort of come in as an older guy (age 25 season), but one who had never played D1 before. It just showed me that I had found a place I belong.”
With the captaincy comes many responsibilities and the collegiate veteran was ready to step up for his fellow teammates when called upon.
“It really pushed me to try to do the best that I could every day, every moment, every drill,” Bross said.
After his season on Long Island came to an end, Bross looked for a new place to continue his hockey career. With his love for Massachusetts still rather strong, the ECHL’s Worchester Railers were at the top of his list.
“I had an agent who helped me out, and he was like, ‘oh a couple of teams are interested,’ and when I heard the Railers were one of them, I told him, okay, that’s my first choice,” Bross shared.
“Like, I will basically do whatever it takes to go there.”
Needless to say, the 26-year-old is amped to get started with Worcester.
“I have it up on the calendar, I think 39 days until Railer season starts and crossing one off every day. I’m itching to get going. Been working out a bunch, skating as much as I can,” Bross said.
Zack Bross has actually been skating at Northwell Health Ice Center, the practice facility of the New York Islanders and the LIU hockey program, as he currently resides here on Long Island until ECHL training camp opens up.
“I don’t know that any of the staff even really realizes it, but the fact that the rink and the organization is helping me to be able to get on the ice whenever I can and have time, It has been really helpful,” Bross said.
The centerman describes his playstyle as physical and intense. The forward has his mindset focused on being a leader with Worcester just like he was with the Sharks.
“I really just want to be a player the team can rely on,” Bross said.
When thinking about how crazy his hockey journey has been, Bross shared that he gets the chills.
“I’ve gone into a lot of places where I think expectations are pretty low for me, and really exceeded those, and that’s something that I’m hoping to do this year with whatever expectations they have for me, is exceed that and be a player who at the end of the year, they’re like wow… we are so glad that he was part of this team,” Bross said.
The Worcester Railers are set to open up their 2022-2023 ECHL season at home in Worcester at the DCU Center against the Adirondack Thunder on October 22nd at 7:05 P.M.