Nov. 30, 2012
Welcome back Army fans to another year of Army Black Knights hockey. The Army Hockey Family hopes you enjoyed a family-filled Happy Thanksgiving as we head toward Christmas with a few big league games heading into the break.
A huge thanks goes out to all of our fans and the support they've shown throughout the season thus far. Whether you're sitting in the front row banging on the glass at Tate Rink or watching us on the NBC Sports Network from your home in Arizona, your support is never taken for granted and the Army Hockey Family would be nothing without you.
The beginning of the season has proven to be a fresh start in many regards. In the most literal sense, our record reset to 0-0-0, which after last season, is the stat we were most excited about coming into the season.
In another sense, our roster is filled with 14 new faces from all over the country. Yes, you read that right, we have 14 new freshmen on our roster, and in just three short months, they've all made the transition (some more seamless than others) from junior hockey life to military academy life.
While some readers may think the most difficult transition for incoming freshmen would be the shift from civilian to military life, I submit that the shift from junior hockey living to the homework-filled, deadline-meeting, classroom-sitting college lifestyle is the bigger adjustment for our incoming players. If you're not familiar with what I mean by "the junior hockey lifestyle," simply ask any hockey player where they played "Juniors" and they'll get a big smile on their face as they tell you about the little town up in Canada where they were kings for a short time.
For those unfamiliar with the term, "junior hockey" consists of several amateur leagues across Canada, the Midwest, and the East Coast which offers players under the age of 21 an opportunity to gain more exposure to college recruiters during and/or after high school. In order for players to maintain their amateur status, and subsequent NCAA eligibility, junior teams cannot pay their players. While away from home, players live with housing families who volunteer to host players from the team each year and make them a part of their family. Many of the relationships formed from housing families with players last a lifetime. Most junior teams are extremely popular as well, and depending on the city, draw anywhere from 1,000-4,000 fans per game.
While some teams require players to either take a class or get a part-time job in their spare time, a players most important job is to perform on the ice while staying out of trouble. Beyond that, there are very few other requirements for junior hockey players. Junior teams practice once a day, giving players the remaining part of the day to rest, hang out with teammates, go bowling, golfing, swimming, hunting, fishing, play video games, go to the movies, go shopping.... I think you get the picture. Guys on team often refer to the time spent in Juniors as the "Glory Days." I asked a few of the guys to comment on what they missed most about their junior hockey days.
Junior Brian Schultz - "Tuesday Bowling with the boys. We would get done with the lift and hit the lanes in full force every Tuesday. They knew us by first name when we walked in the door!"
Senior Cody Ikkala - "For my gameday breakfast meal, I would make 20 eggs and a mound of hashbrowns, mix it all together and eat until my stomach hurt. That's what I miss most about juniors"
Freshmen Joe Kozlak and Willie Faust piped in saying "I miss having my biggest decision of the day being what to watch on TV before going to bed," and "my post practice round of golf is what I think I miss the most. There was no homework that's for sure." [Kozlak played juniors in Texas]
Although much of this may sound like junior hockey players do nothing when they're not practicing (which is partially true), the time spent away from home and "on your own" is one of the most valuable experiences Army hockey players have before coming to the Academy. The added maturity level of incoming freshman on the team helps with their transition to the structured military life and guys have also learned time management skills which become very useful when homework is brought into the equation.
Hopefully this has given you a little insight into what someone means when you hear them say, "He played juniors for a couple years in Canada."
This concludes the first Army Hockey Blog of the 2012 season. I look forward to bringing Army Hockey fans a more intimate and entertaining look at the team we have this year. We're very excited for the rest of the season and can't wait to see you at the games. If you have questions that you would like answered or a topic discussed about the team, send me a tweet (@johnclark5 ) and I'll be sure to include it in my next entry.
Keep your stick on the ice,