What do you think about being the first Iowan to ever sign with the Heartlanders?
Lellig: It's pretty cool, you know, growing up in Waterloo, not too far away, just playing my whole life in Des Moines, Omaha, you know, all over the place. It's fun to be playing back in Iowa and to do it here, it's fun.
You graduated from college at University of Minnesota-Duluth. You had your fifth year at Bowling Green and now you're back here in the state of Iowa. So take us a little bit through your path the last few years and how exactly you ended up here in Coralville?
Lellig: I went to UMD (Minnesota-Duluth) for four years and it wasn't really in the cards for me to come back for a fifth year. So, I was searching for a place and Bowling Green happened to be the right place for me. You know, school wise working on my MBA and hockey wise it was a good opportunity for me to play a lot and I enjoyed my time at both spots. You can't say enough good things about them and then after I graduated I was looking for a place to play. I had good conversations with [Head Coach] Derek Damon and here we are.
It's neat that you were here at a game last year on March 22 when you watched your former collegiate teammate Jesse Jacques from Minnesota-Duluth. At that time, were you thinking that this could be on your radar as a place that you might be interested in?
Lellig: Yeah, it was definitely on my radar. I actually had conversations with Jesse about possibly coming down and playing a few games at the end of the season, but I was still at Bowling Green at the time taking classes I wanted to finish up my MBA and not have to worry about hockey. It was fun to get down here and see a game and see what it would be like to play here. And I really enjoyed it.
A few months ago you happened to be coming through town and you stopped by to meet Derek Damon and see the arena a little bit more in depth. So what was that like?
Lellig: It was great to see the locker room, things like that, the inner workings of things, which was awesome. We had a great conversation, too, about his vision for the team and it fit with what I was looking for.
I know it might be a little bit weird to talk about it in these terms, but there's not a ton of native Iowans who have played pro hockey and now you’re one of them. Four have played in the NHL. Four played in the ECHL last year, and there’s a handful that have played in the AHL. To be one of the select few, how does that feel?
Lellig: It's cool. I think the game of hockey here is growing. I know in Waterloo over the years it's getting bigger, so playing pro and at a high level in college too, it's cool for young players to see and hopefully gives them the motivation to maybe do it again.
You mentioned a little bit about your game and Derek's vision he's talked about. So in what ways do you see your skills and traits fitting into his defensive vision?
Lellig: The defensive game has been my game since I can remember. I'm not, you know, too much of an offensive defenseman. I take care of my zone first. Play physical, play hard. So just trying to bring that type of mentality and doing what I can to keep the puck out of our net. Just things like that. I take a lot of pride in the penalty kill, too.
You know Iowa City better than most. You've been down here a bunch of times throughout your entire life. What do you like about the idea of playing in the Corridor here in the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids area?
Lellig: This area with the University of Iowa is fun. I grew up going to football games, basketball game, so getting a chance to do that a little bit during the season if we have some free time would be nice and then it’s nice to be close to home. I have friends and family all over the place here and in Davenport and Waterloo. A lot of kids I grew up with go to school here or living here. So it'll be cool to, you know, catch up with them again when we can.
Thanks again Hunter for taking a few minutes!
Lellig: Thank you.