Just as you can count on the sky being blue and grass being green, you can count on Chase Berger bringing a smile to the rink every day.
However, although Berger may boast a friendly, approachable aura off the ice, he’s strictly business when the puck drops. He showed Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans as much during his brief stint with the team while playing on an ATO at the end of the 2018-19 season. The two-way forward has had a long journey to reach the pro ranks with the Penguins, starting in a burgeoning market for hockey talent to ending up Penn State proud in his college days.
Learn all about Chase in this Penguins Prospect Profile!
Q: What was it like growing up in St. Louis, Missouri like for a young hockey player, a young man with aspirations of playing professional hockey?
A: I don’t know if my aspirations were to play professional, I just always wanted to make the next team. For me, a big goal was to play Division I (college hockey), and then anything from there would be gravy. There’s a couple of guys – fighters, like Cam Jansen and Brandon Bollig – that made the NHL, but not a lot. My brother played at Princeton, so I thought playing Division I would be possible. Growing up, I thought, like I said, I just want to be good enough to make the next team. Eventually, I made it to Penn State.
When you have that mentality your whole life, you don’t want to end it at college. You want to keep going up and up and up.
Q: Your time at Penn State – four years there, and I don’t think you even missed a game the entire time you were there – what was your experience like at Happy Valley and helping build a program essentially from scratch?
A: It was unbelievable. It’s amazing to see where we came. For us, I don’t know if we even had a vision of where we wanted to be, whether it was make the tournament or whatever. I think we just wanted to get better every single day. The coaching staff does an awesome job of fostering an environment where everyone wants to get better. You’re only worried about the next game.
We’d do all that, but we’d also have a ton of fun doing it. It wasn’t an environment where you’d lose a game, and it’s he end of the world. “Hey, we’ve got some work to do, let’s get to work. But let’s be happy about it, and let’s have fun.” I think we embraced that, and we played with that style of work hard, have fun and score a lot of goals.
Q: Penn State has a huge following. How cool is it to see the Penn State support system whenever you show up in Wilkes-Barre and I’m sure people interested now in development camp in Pittsburgh?
A: It’s unbelievable. The Penn State community is something that I’ve never seen anything like. Everywhere we go, it seems like there’s always a Penn State jersey in the crowd. Always some at home games. So for me, I just try to be as friendly as possible, and if I ever see someone like that, I try and give ’em a head nod or give them a puck or whatnot.
I just feel so welcomed by the community. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri. I didn’t know about that coming in. And they’ve welcomed me with open arms, and I couldn’t be more appreciative.
Q: For someone who hasn’t seen Chase Berger play hockey before, how would you describe your game?
A: I think I’m a really solid two-way forward. I take pride in my defensive game. And yeah, I might not be the flashiest player, but I think I get results as far as I like to go to the net, shoot pucks, get dirty goals, kind of do whatever it takes offensively. Defensively, I think I do the little things. I backcheck hard, I block shots, stay underneath the puck. I just want to be extremely consistent defensively and provide on offense, as well.
Q: You got a taste of the American Hockey League at the end of last season. How valuable was that experience coming into what’s going to be your first season as a pro?
A: You get to see what you’re working towards, and you get a whole summer to prepare for playing at that level. It’s nice knowing your strengths or weaknesses going in. And obviously, coming to [Pittsburgh], coming to rookie camp, I feel a little bit more comfortable because I know some of the guys and I know some of the coaching staff. So just that comfort level that I have now, I think that will jumpstart me as opposed to years past, coming to a development camp where you don’t know anybody. It was huge for me, I think.
Q: Backtracking a little bit… You’re from St. Louis, Missouri, and I know you’re probably a Penguins fan now that you’re in the organization, but I’m guessing you grew up a Blues fan?
A: Yeah, I did.
Q: So this has been an exciting summer for you, I bet. Right?
A: Yeah, I was rooting for the Pens, but when they went out, I went back towards the Blues. It was something else.
St. Louis is not a “traditional hockey market”, but we’ve really come a long way. The city was just engulfed by it, the Stanley Cup, the whole run. So it was cool to see the city stop for every game. It felt like we were in Toronto or something for a bit.
Q: How many times did you play “Gloria” this summer?
A: Oh my God, I was just telling somebody that my neighbor would have a party every game. Every game, invite the whole neighborhood over or maybe set the TV up outside, and they had all Blues decked out everywhere. They had “Gloria” going the whole time. I remember one radio station played “Gloria” for 24 straight hours after they won the game to go to the Cup. It was awesome.
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