As long as I can remember sports have been a huge part of my life, and none more so than hockey and baseball. My dad played hockey and baseball growing up as well so he introduced me to both sports at a young age. In Cokato we were fortunate enough to have a house two blocks from the town outdoor rink. I started ice skating there around the age of three, my mom told me I would rollerblade in the basement around the age of two. As soon as my brother Paul could rollerblade we would spend hours in the basement trying to emulate out favorite players, mine was Michael Peca (not sure why). As I got older I changed to emulate my favorite Gopher’s players, guys like Thomas Vanek, Paul Martin and Jordan Leopold. My cousins were also huge hockey fans and at any family gathering we would go in the basement and play mini-sticks. As I grew older I would walk to the rink myself and eventually joined town hockey. It was twice a week and because of all the hockey I was good enough to play with kids three and four years my senior. I had steady improvement until I joined travel hockey in 6th grade. In 6th grade I had a reality check when I made the “C” team. I was a bad skater and my first year I made a lot of improvement in my skating, and improved enough to make the “A” team the following year. Then my first health problem came up and my development was hindered. I had no growth or muscle development, thus I was slower than everyone else and could get pushed around. I found the problem to my weakness in the middle of 8th grade when I was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. Gluten free, I had to eat gluten free for the rest of my life. I took two years off of hockey and resumed playing in 10th grade. I was bad in 10th grade, no denying it. I was 4th line Junior Varsity with what seemed to be little chance of making varsity in the future. Between 10th and 11th grade I went to the weight room 3 times a week and did hockey specific workouts to help my game. It paid off as halfway through my junior year coach pulled me aside on the bus and told me I made the varsity team. All my hard work paid off, it is one of my favorite memories. I had been a forward in high school, but with only one returning defenseman Coach Olson asked if I would try out as a defenseman. This was a huge challenge for me, as a forward you primary focus is to score, defenseman have to focus on your own end to keep the puck out of the net. I ended up being one of the starting defenseman on opening night. I will never forget my first Varsity goal. We were playing Delano, a team with many of my friends. They were up on us one nothing nearing the end of the first. There was a huge scramble around the net and i crept in from the point their D tried to clear, but it went right to my stick. I quickly fired and heard a clang of the post, then I saw the puck go out of the zone. S***, It went off the post I thought. Then I saw the referee signal a goal. Tie game, cloud nine. I barely noticed the lump in my calf, which had come from a blocked shot earlier in the game. Hockey also gave me one of worst memories when the season ended. Going into college I knew what I would miss the most besides my family would be hockey and baseball. It is a weird feeling going into this time of year knowing I won’t be out there playing with my best friends. I will miss all the bus rides, team meals and even the crushers. Hockey and sports in general has helped show me the value of hard work. I will use the values learned the rest of my life.