Zach Bogosian of the Tampa Bay Lighting talks fatherhood, resiliency and life lessons from rink to home
Tampa Bay Lighting defenseman Zach Bogosian is back in CHAMPA BAY after playing this past season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He was part of the team that brought home the Stanley Cup in 2020, and now Bogosian and his teammates are ready to go for THREE this season.
We recently sat down with Bogosian for a Zoom chat about his return to Tampa Bay and life as the husband of Bianca and father of Mila, 5, Hunter, 3, and Harper, nearly 2.
First–What made you want to come back to play in Tampa Bay?
Bogosian: Winning with a group is super special; you build lifelong bonds. I really enjoy the group of guys on the team, my wife Bianca fell into a nice group with the girls—it’s really been an easy family move for us. And the buzz around town is great. Obviously with the Lightning going back-to-back, the Bucs winning—as a sports fan it’s amazing, but as an athlete playing in a city like Tampa right now, it makes it a lot of fun, a lot of anticipation for the season. It’s a great time to be in Tampa!
Has fatherhood changed the way you play or approach your life as a pro hockey player?
Bogosian: I remember when I was [a] young player coming in the league and being in the same locker room as a guy who has kids… you look up to them a lot. On paper, you’re not that much older than a lot of guys, but maturity-wise and life lessons—you bring that experience into the rink every day.
Luckily in Tampa, we have so many guys who have families, so that was another driving force in deciding to come back here because you do want to have that support system when you’re on the road. A lot of the kids are the same age, and they all play together. You create that family atmosphere within the locker room. It’s awesome.
Tell us what it’s taken to get to where you are today.
Bogosian: Lionel Messi said, “It took me 20 years to become an overnight sensation.” Everyone that plays a sport—someone somewhere down the line sacrificed, whether it was time, money, or whatnot to have you in that position. I owe a lot to my parents.
I was a smaller kid and there were kids who were bigger, stronger, faster, but I always knew deep down I wanted it more than them, and that’s all you can really ask. At the end of the day, if you have that mental resilience to put forth that effort—because it is a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, a lot of time, a lot of commitment, a lot of sacrifice—in the end it’s so worth it.
Having that resilient attitude and being able to bet on yourself and have that self-confidence to stick it out is something I’m really looking forward to passing onto my kids as they get older.
What was it like to celebrate the 2020 Stanley Cup win with your brothers and family?
Bogosian: Just to have the Stanley Cup in my parent’s house—my grandparents lived there and my great-grandfather built the house, so it’s had a few different generations. My great-grandparents came over from Armenia. They started the family in Massena, New York. A lot of time and effort and all that stuff I just talked about kind of came to full circle and I was the beneficiary of all that. They paved the way for me, so it was cool to bring that to my parent’s house.
There’s no way possible that I would sitting here right now in this Lightning facility, no way possible that I could be here without my parents or my brother to push me [and to] be there throughout my entire career and life. I had to travel sometimes an hour-and-half for practice … and they [my parents] had three boys playing hockey, three boys playing lacrosse or three boys playing soccer. So there were a lot of moving parts to all of this, but somehow someway, I just put my head down and kept plowing through and it just goes back to the support system I had.
Were you surprised to see a team from Florida win back-to-back championships?
Bogosian: I’m not shocked at that it happened. There are a lot of really good players on this team. It’s the guys [who] 5, years ago, 6 years ago, 8 years ago—Vinny LeCavalier, Martin St. Louis—the guys [who] created that winning culture that passed it on to Stamkos and Headman and pass it on to the other guys. The guys that paved the way for things to line up perfectly like they did the last two years to win. It’s great to see.
You seem really excited about playing in front of the fans again! Are you all ready to go for three?
Bogosian: That’s the plan. The guys did it last year and a big part of that group is back, so we’re feeling confident going into the year. When you win, especially back-to-back, you are the champions, you are the success measuring stick if you want to call it that. You are going to get every team’s best, but we’re up for the challenge.
You already heard me talk about the quality of individuals in the locker room. I’m just super excited to be back with the guys and the team and looking forward to playing in front of the fans. I played so many years against the Lightning and I know how good the fan base is and how loud the rink is!
While the players are champions on the ice, it’s the support systems at home too that help make it possible, right?
Bogosian: Anyone that has kids understands, you think you’re exhausted—and then there’s being a parent exhausted. It’s two different things.
My wife is a complete rock star. She understands what our lifestyle is, so does everything in her power to make it easy on me. She is amazing. An amazing parent to the kids, amazing mom. We have a great relationship, but we joke around because I probably wouldn’t be the easiest guy to married to. I’m pretty hyper, so it’s basically like she has four kids at home—she’ll scold me and my oldest. Me and her tag team…but it’s great. We have fun at home.
What are some of your favorite things to do as a family in Tampa Bay?
Bogosian: When I got down here the first time, I was only here for like two weeks before the pandemic started. We basically stayed down by Amalie. We were staying in a condo 10 floors up with three kids at that age—chaos.
We’re looking forward to getting the band back together and just seeing the city, walking around. It’s obviously a great place to live. My kids will be super excited to get back into the rink to watch the games, they love going to games, the energy in the rink. It’s going to be fun.
You just sent your oldest child to kindergarten—what was that like?
Bogosian: It’s just crazy how fast time has gone. We sent her to school at 2 and then boom. She’s in kindergarten. We didn’t have a real sentimental moment when we dropped her off. It’s just cute seeing her unform, backpack and lunchbox.
With your wife Bianca being a former pro-soccer player, do you think you both will encourage your kids to play sports as well?
Bogosian: That’s one thing my parents were really good with me. I played a lot of sports, I had a lot of friends, but it wasn’t hockey, hockey, hockey all of the time. I was a kid, riding my bike. I went to the park. I wasn’t playing hockey every single day. I feel the modern athlete now, the parents or the coaches are making these kids choose one sport when they are like 5 or 6 years old which I think is insane—one, because they’re 5 and 6 and two, the beauty of playing more sports! I played hockey, soccer and lacrosse until I was 16. Playing soccer made me a better hockey player. Playing hockey made me a better lacrosse player- and you get a chance to be in different locker rooms.
At the end of the day, it teaches you how to walk into a new team which is hard to do, have new friends [and] teammates with a bunch of different personalities, learn how to be a good teammate and be accepting and know when to be hard on guys and when not to be hard. It’s all learning.
I just feel like nowadays …the parents are trying to create a robot or a prodigy. Six-year-olds having a skills coach, video coach, skating coach, hockey 7 days a week… I think at times, [that] creates a person that maybe doesn’t know how to play on a team because they are so solely focused on themselves when it’s really important to be a good teammate, especially in the game of hockey.
I just think kids need to have that balance of yeah—I want to be a hockey player, but I also want to be a kid too. I just think it’s super important from a developmental standpoint, socially and athletically to play a bunch of different things.
What has it been like to parent during a pandemic?
Bogosian: For me, it’s been two different extremes. I was with the kids during the first part of the pandemic every day, and then I left for 80 straight days, and then back and with them every day. I’ve had where I haven’t been able to give them a hug and kiss, wake them up or just spend time with them. It’s been challenging at times as a father, but all in all, it’s been alright. There are a lot of people in worse situations who are working hard every day to get through this.
We’ve talked about resilience and failure being a good thing—what lesson has it taught you?
Bogosian: You learn a lot about yourself. As an athlete, your initial reaction after you fail or after you lose [is to] look yourself in the mirror and dissect how you did and go into the team. It’s good to have that self-motivation. To fail, to have that adversity, creates that burning inside you to succeed more.
*Originally published in the October 2021 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine. Image by Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette.