Skating across the blue line, I slash to the middle—in between two defenders—and jerk my head to the left. Cross Hanas—a forward from Dallas—glides into the zone and rifles a pass my way. The puck—floating through the legs of a rival player—meanders through a crowd of people before finally landing on my stick. Glancing at the goalie, I snap a shot on net, and a second later, my teammates and I celebrate on the glass as we take a 1–0 lead in our game against Team Navy at the USA Hockey National Player Development Camp.
For a week this summer, I had the opportunity to play with 180 of the best sixteen-year-old skaters in the United States. Staying in the dorms at the University at Buffalo, I competed in two practices and five games with Team Grey—which was composed of players from Boston to Detroit and Washington DC to Minneapolis. After two separate tryouts—one in Anchorage and one in Las Vegas—I received a spot at the National Camp along with three other defenseman from the Pacific District (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada) and was able to attend the camp for a second consecutive year.
Over the course of the week, we had three wins and two losses, and I had two goals and three assists, but the camp was so much more than just the on-ice competition. As a team, we attended seminars on nutrition, age-appropriate training, and skill development, but my favorite presentation revolved around USA hockey pride. Having the opportunity not only to represent my family and my state, but my nation at the camp was something I’ll never forget. Every skater had USA emblazoned on the front of their jersey, and two former Olympians coached my team—one from the 1984 men’s team, the other from the 2010 and 2014 women’s team. Regardless of regular-season rivalries and different geographic backgrounds, we were all brothers under one flag and a part of something bigger than ourselves; I was very proud.
Besides the seminars, my teammates and I played a lot of “Sewerball,” a game in which players try to keep a soccer ball in the air with their feet. We also composed minute-long recreations of our favorite movie scenes, and on the final night, we held a joint barbeque and cornhole/Giant Jenga contest with another team.
If I could only use one word to describe how I felt that weekend, I would say “grateful.” USA Hockey created an incredible atmosphere on campus, and it was surreal to see the NHL Central Scouting Agency watching our games. Moreover, I’m thrilled to face off against many of the friends that I made during camp—especially my teammate from St. Mark’s—in the future, and I can’t wait for the battles to come! Skating alongside some of the country’s best was a very humbling experience for me, and I am excited to bring all that I have learned to the O’Brien Rink next winter. Hockey season can’t come fast enough!