Every American can envision the “Miracle Match,” when the “Dream Team” stood draped in American flags with their fists raised on center ice, having skated their way over the seemingly unbeatable Russian squad. Senior E.J. Gann is one of the few students who might know how this feels.
E.J. discovered his love of ice hockey when he was seven years old. He currently plays for 18 AAA San Jose Junior Sharks at the highest level there is for youth hockey. He practices with his team at the San Jose Logitech Ice 4 to 5 times a week, devoting 22 hours to the sport. Starting his freshman year, he began playing competitively with a travel team instead of the “in-house”(no-contact) or no-travel team he played with before.
“I love more practices a week and I love the more competitive play and hitting,” E.J said. “In in-house there was no hitting; once I moved up to travel team the hitting started.”
E.J.’s team has players from all around California. While most of them reside in San Jose and other cities in the Bay Area, some come from places as far as Fresno and a couple have moved from out of state just to play on the team. His favorite part about hockey is the close-knit relationship and family he has with his teammates.
“I love how the team becomes brothers,”E.J. said. “Everyone’s there for each other. I think it’s the biggest team sport. I just love that about[hockey].”
His team is currently 23rd in the nation out of 125 teams of its level. It is coached by Tony Zasowski, who is a former player for Notre Dame and a coach for other semi-professional teams.
E.J. hopes to play division one or division three ice hockey in college. But in California, it is very difficult, basically impossible, to play college hockey straight out of high school. So he hopes to play junior hockey next year.
“Junior hockey is the stepping stone to getting into college hockey because they look for older, more developed players,” E.J. said.
Junior hockey teams are nationwide and are a huge commitment because members have to live with another family and travel constantly. E.J. is currently at the highest level of play that will still allow him to go to school and stay with his family.
“Junior hockey requires some sort of school,” E.J. said. “Usually kids go to community colleges to get some credits. So that’s what I would be doing.”
E.J.’s current hockey team takes weekends to travel often and they have been to big tournaments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Vancouver and Minnesota.
As for hockey being a violent, dangerous sport?
“I haven’t had anything too serious,” E.J. said. “I had a fractured rib once. Shoulder separations are common on the team, but overall nothing too serious.”
Although these injuries may seem serious to most people, at the level and intensity E.J. plays these injuries must be common. E.J. also has a tough mindset out on the ice rink, despite the aggressive parts of the game.
“To be honest I don’t find many situations scary,” E.J. said. “I guess what’s scary is if we’re about to lose a game or if we’re down a goal in the playoffs. I mean I guess if a team comes out and they’re just huge and they’re just playing really physical then that can be intimidating.”
E.J. plans to try out for junior teams in the spring. He is looking at teams in Boston, New Jersey and New York.
“Next year I want to play junior hockey and I’ll play it for two years and hopefully get picked up by college teams,” E.J. said. “I love playing [hockey] and I love the physical game; it’s a great game.”
Colleges will much more likely pick out teams from junior level.
“My goal is to play division one or division three ice hockey in college,” E.J. said.