I have been on many different teams, seeing countless great players and championships along the way, but no matter who the team was, talent has never been enough. The culture of the team is what really makes a team elite. That is what we are trying to build at Penn State.
My journey in hockey has been a long bumpy highway with many different routes along the way. I took my first steps on the ice with my father and longtime coach at Compuware Ice Arena, where I first found my love for hockey. I have to credit my parents for a lot of my hockey successes, as without them I wouldn’t have found the sport that I am so passionate about. They have always been there to support me, and I can’t thank them enough.
Growing up, my father was my coach until I headed away for juniors. He taught me everything I know about hockey and is one of the main reasons that I am playing D1 college hockey today. Even now, he critiques my game and is always sending me film. In a way, he still is my coach.
And I’ll give it to the guy; he’s a pretty good coach. Leading us to 5 state titles, 2 back to back national titles, and a world title, I think he has proved himself.
Growing up playing minors hockey, there is a rule that colleges cannot contact you until your senior year of high school. You are allowed to contact as many schools as you want, but this can be a difficult process for some. For this, I was thankful that my dad could help, as the scouts always came to him asking about kids on our team and he would let me know which schools were interested in me.
When I was narrowing it down to which school I wanted to attend, I started looking for options close to my home of Michigan. After I visited Miami of Ohio, I felt ready and committed to the program.
Unfortunately, I stepped into a difficult situation in Miami, where our team struggled to find success. We ended our year by losing in the finals of our conference playoffs, leaving a bad taste in my mouth heading into my sophomore year.
As my sophomore year came around, I found myself out of the lineup for the first 8 games, making things worse. I quickly realized I needed to make a change. After speaking with my family, I made the decision to transfer and leave Miami.
Although transferring is never an easy process, I thankfully had some options. Coming in as an 18-year-old freshman, I was still young enough to go back to the USHL to play out the remainder of the year. With the USHL being the best junior league in the US, I was free to compete until I turned 21. Instead of sitting out a year, as most transferred players do because of the NCAA rules, I was allowed to play with some of the top talent in the nation.
Entering into the USHL, a team called the Fargo Force actually owned my playing rights. Crazy thought I know, but the team was so far away from home that I asked for them to be traded to Muskegon, a team based out of western Michigan. In Muskegon, I had the chance to sharpen my skills as we won the Eastern Conference Finals and I got back to playing the sport that I love.
The following year came around at Muskegon and I was named captain. We had a very young team and being an older guy I was able to show some of the younger players the ropes and what it took to play in that league. During that year, I was also proud to say that I committed to Penn State University. After traveling through many teams at such a young age, I was ready to have a program to call home.
On to State College, Pennsylvania.
Penn State…where do I even start. Once I stepped foot onto the campus for my visit I was blown away, literally, by the gusty winds that come down into “Happy Valley”.
Originally, I didn’t know what to expect from the program because Penn State only started playing Division 1 hockey in 2012. But once I stepped foot into Pegula Ice Arena my jaw dropped. I felt like I was in an NHL arena, with the state of the art workout facilities, locker room, and training room. It was something that I have never seen before in a college setting.
I actually still remember seeing my first game at Pegula; it was Penn State vs. Wisconsin and the stadium filled up like an NHL arena. And don’t even get me started on the Roar Zone, Penn State’s student section.
In the words of our coach, Guy Gadowsky, “It’s like taking a section of Beaver Stadium (our football stadium) and putting a lid on it and letting them go wild.”
I couldn’t agree more with this quote, as they are the loudest and wildest fans in all of college hockey. They are the 7th man on the ice and make opposing teams scared of the atmosphere. They put in so much time and effort for creating such an atmosphere, it really gets our team excited.
You can really see why:
So far this year has been one of the best years Penn State hockey has seen in its 5-year existence. Consistently ranked in the top 10, our team reached the number one ranking, doing so for the first time in school history.
Although our team is full of talented players, our success comes back to where we started: culture.
This creation of culture is attributed to our talented coaches and their recruiting process. Always looking for the right fit, our coaches want to find quality players on and off the ice. This means the player is willing to work as hard on the ice as they do in the classroom. That’s something we preach here at Penn State. A STUDENT-athlete, where we commit ourselves to both aspects of the name.
This idea not only helps us stay on the same page but encourages us to push each other constantly. We harp about our culture every single day, where everyone needs to be pulling the same rope or we cannot achieve success.
We want this year to be different. Penn State hockey has never won the B1G tournament, and we haven’t made the NCAA tournament before either. This year we hope to make history and our culture is what will do it. I may have high hopes for our team, but as long as we are all still pulling the same rope, there is no limit to our success. And no matter how this year ends, I am honored to attend such a prestigious university and play hockey for Penn State University.
Trevor Hamilton | Contributor