Annie Berg may have led the Brock Badgers in points for two of the past three seasons, but she does not necessarily consider herself a scorer. The daughter of a 10-season NHLer, Berg feels that her strengths lie in having a more robust style of play – one greatly reminiscent of her father’s.
“My dad was a player back in the day,” Berg told THW. “He played for the Leafs, Rangers, Islanders and Senators. He was always a really good skater too, and he was a tough-guy. I try to model myself after him. I know men’s hockey and women’s hockey can be a little different. I like to see videos of him being the big tough-guy. I like to try to bring that to my game. I love watching those old games.
Bill Berg played well over 500 NHL games, and played very much the way his daughter described. Some may ask though: “Why compare the daughter to her father? Why not just focus on her alone?”
Discussions With Dad Developed Her Understanding
If you speak with Berg, she draws the comparison to her father all of her own accord, and would not have it any other way. She is very proud of her father’s NHL career, but does not gloat about it either.
“I can’t give enough thanks to my dad and all he’s done with my game,” Berg went on to say. “He was a scout for the Minnesota Wild for a bit. I would have the opportunity to go with him to AHL, OHL and NHL games. We’d just sit there and talk about players. His job was ranking players and giving them scores for different parts of their game. We’d sort of banter about different players because we see things differently, which is completely okay. Just having that banter and being able to talk hockey like that, I think it grew me as a player more than anything.”
As much as she has learned how to see things in other players, Berg has been able to apply that same lens inward and focused on herself. Her ability to think the game of hockey has only boded well for the Brock Badgers. The program should expect some great things from their newest captain when her senior 2019-20 season gets underway.
Brock’s Leading Badger
Through her first three seasons with the Badgers – 72 games in total – Berg has generated 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points. She led the team in scoring as a first-year player in 2016-17, scoring 23 points (11G, 12A) in 24 games. Berg repeated the feat this most recent 2018-19 season, but upped her total to 25 points (11G, 14A) in 24 games.
As odd as it might seem, even though Berg has led the Badgers in scoring, she does not consider her offense to be her best attribute. She is a a sizable skater, and she uses it to her advantage to create opportunities.
“Yes, at Brock I’ve been the leading scorer,” Berg said, “but I don’t think that’s necessarily my game. My game is getting the feet going and grinding, and being a big body out there to try to set up other people.”
Even in her sophomore season when her goal and point totals dipped a bit, Berg still assisted on goals 12 times in 24 games. Those 12 helpers were the most for any of the Badgers players, and helped spring teammates like the Ieradi sisters – Amanda and Christina – to have big seasons in goals.
“I think what sets me apart is that I’m more of a unique mix,” Berg explained. “I’m kind of a bigger girl. I’m 5-foot-9 – which puts me on the taller end – and I can move. My best attribute is my skating, bar none. I think that’s a rare combination when you can be a bigger body who uses their size and speed. I know my game, and I don’t ever overshoot my abilities. I know that I’m not a goal scorer. But it’s just creating those opportunities. “
Brock Has Been the Perfect Fit for Berg
A native of Beamsville, Ontario, Berg is able to attend school and play hockey essentially in her own backyard. With a focus on becoming a doctor once she graduates, Brock has given Berg the ideal combination of academics and athletics. She is able to enjoy the sport that she loves, and not having it feel like an obligation.
“For me, (Brock) was just the right fit because I know that I play my best hockey when I’m enjoying it,” she shared. “I know a lot of times you see people go to D-I schools and some really competitive programs, and you see them feel like it’s a job. For me, I love playing hockey and I never want it to feel like a job.”
Berg initially considered playing NCAA Division I hockey at St. Lawrence University in Upstate New York. As is the case with important matters in life, everything happens for a reason. By staying closer to home and finding her place at Brock, Berg feels that her connection to the game has felt more natural than what players elsewhere might have encountered.
“Especially when you see people so young and they’re already sick of the game,” she stated with great sincerity. “You have to love it to play your best. Everyone who is in sport knows that feeling of going to practice and it feels like it’s not fun anymore. You feel like, ‘I have to go to hockey.’ Not once in my three years at Brock has it been that ‘I have to go to hockey’ – it’s ‘I get to go to hockey’. That’s what has always been most important to me.”
Berg helped Canada win a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF Women’s U18 World Championship in nearby St. Catharines, Ontario. She is also an accomplished wrestler and rugby player.
“O, Captain! My Captain!”
For three straights seasons Berg has been a force to be reckoned with for Brock. She has had numerous multi-point games for her team, including six times in 2018-19 alone. A leader by example and a true thinker of the game, Berg was recently named captain of the Badgers for the upcoming season.
“This year I was named captain of our team for next season,” Berg said with pride in her voice, “which is a big leadership role. I was an assistant this past season. Bringing my experiences through hockey, I’ve always been the type of player where if everyone does their work, it will work out. I need to put-in so that everyone else does too. Leading by example. Through my years I’ve learned and have tried to shape more for others. I can be that way, but I need to bring people along with me. They have to all be on that same page too, so I’m trying to incorporate that into more of the off-ice stuff.”
In addition to what Berg wants to achieve as team captain, she also has some personal expectations in mind for what she can do on the score sheet. She is a multifaceted player, so her leadership skills and ability to grind are just as important to her as being a difference-maker by putting up points.
“You try to not look at them, but anyone who says they don’t are lying,” Berg laughed, when referring to statistics. “My goal for myself is that I want to be at one and a half points per game. In those two seasons when I led the team (in scoring), I was just under and just over a point per game. I have one last year, and I want to be up there at one and a half.”
“I Let My Game Speak for Itself”
When you speak with Berg, she has an energy and a realism in her voice that cannot help but excite others. She is able to “rally the troops”, so to speak, and she comes across as the type of player that teammates readily buy into for a chance to battle alongside of her.
Though her final season at Brock is just around the corner, Annie Berg still has something to prove.
“I let my game speak for itself,” she said firmly. “Being an ex-NHLer’s daughter or son, there’s always an expectation. There’s also assumptions that you’re only where you are because of your father. That motivated me too, because I knew that wasn’t the case. I just want to show everyone that I deserve to be here.”
Berg also has the foresight and the wherewithal to know that hockey will not last forever. She needs to be prepared for the future of life after hockey, and she believes that Brock has given her the opportunity to do just that.
“It’s so much more than the game,” Berg expressed. “It’s not just getting points, or winning and losing. It’s all the things that you don’t notice while you play. I decided to stay home and play for Brock. I think that if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have found myself. Yes, live in those university years and soak up every moment of playing hockey because careers are short. But you’ve got to think about life after. I think hockey taught me that you’ve got to commit when you’re there but you also need to realize that there’s so much more to life, and there’s so much life after your career.”
General Manager of the Buffalo Beauts (NWHL). Hockey history writer “The Hockey Writers”. Credentialed media for the NHL Combine and 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY, USA. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Lifelong hockey fan for over 40 years. Proponent of the women’s game.