Abbotsford Canucks’ defenceman Alex Kannok Leipert’s style of play brings a blend of Canadian roots, Thai influences and a fearless commitment.
He was born in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, which is three hours northeast of Bangkok.
Kannok Leipert moved to Saskatchewan at five years old, took up skating and started playing hockey at the age of six.
“We visited Canada when I was two and a half, because my Dad's Canadian, and we went to a Regina Pats game and then I just fell in love with it. Once we moved there, I said I wanted to play hockey and that was it,” said Kannok Leipert. He never looked back.
He played for the Regina Pat Blues and Regina Monarchs in the Saskatchewan AA Hockey League and the Regina Pat Canadians in the Saskatchewan AAA Hockey League before moving to the Lower Mainland to play for the Vancouver Giants and then Abbotsford.
The 6’0”, 200-pound defenceman has a mindset and skillset that translates well at the forward position, which has given Head Coach Jeremy Colliton depth and predictability in the forward group if there’s injuries or call-ups.
Kannok Leipert likes that each position is unique and his favourite part of being a defenceman is being able to survey everything in front of him while the best part about joining the forward contingent is being in the middle of the offence.
“I like that, that's fun for me, getting in there and being physical and trying to get pucks on net and stuff like that. I definitely have a lot more respect for forwards now,” he laughed. “There's a lot less time than you think, and guys are usually right on top of you."
Simplifying the game helps him shift between the two positions, and he’s got a list of three pillars that delineate the positions. When he’s patrolling the blue line, he focuses on playing north, quick with the puck, and smart. At forward, his mantra is to play physical, fast, and be in position.
Colliton says Kannok Leipert brings a lot of energy to the group, and his adaptability is important to the team. He’s a vocal leader on the bench, which helps him stay locked in and keeps everyone on the same page throughout the game.
“He’s got fantastic character, a heart and soul type of individual. Obviously, we've moved him around, he's played a lot of holes this year, which is not something I think he was expecting, but he's a guy that when he’s asked him to do something, he just does it for the team,” Colliton shared.
Kannok Leipert captained the Vancouver Giants for two seasons between 2019-2021 and he’s carried that same mentality to Abbotsford, setting an example for his teammates.
“He does little things like getting us out of the d-zone, or going through a defenceman, and make sure a puck gets out. It doesn't show up on the score sheet, but it's massive for your team to take the pressure off,” Colliton said. “A lot of times when we show team video, he's on the video because he's doing those little things we're asking the other guys to do. He’s willing to do things that not everyone is willing to do.”
His tough, physical play has been something he takes pride in and his desire to stand up for his teammates harkens back to his Thai roots.
Every few years growing up, Kannok Leipert would go back home to spend part of the summer in Thailand. He got into muay thai to stay in shape and as a conditioning tool he still likes to incorporate it into his summer training routine.
“That's where the confidence to learn how to fight and protect myself came from, I think that's part of my identity just trying to protect my teammates and stand up for guys,” he said.
"It's really good. It's hard to do it during the season with everything going on, but I like to touch up on it in the summer and it's helped me a lot.”
Last year in a three-game series during the regular season against the Calgary Wranglers, the six-foot Kannok Leipert took on the hulking 6’8” Adam Klapka that ended with Klapka down on the ice. Kannok Leipert said he sat out the first two games of the series and got the chance to settle the score with Klapka in the third game.
“He [Klapka] was just running around everywhere, and I was fuming up top,” he recalled. “When you don't play, it's even worse, and then you see guys doing that to your teammates you say to yourself ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve got to do something about this.’”