Nov 05, 2010 | dmoffatt | 9407 views
Past Highlander fits the bill!
Czuczman glad he took 1 last shot.
By John Cudmore
This one is for all those little guys who’ve been turned away in hockey — or any sport for that matter — based on physical stature.
Newmarket Hurricanes defenceman Kevin Czuczman fits the bill.
Next week, when the NCAA’s fall signing window opens, the defenceman is poised to ink a scholarship package with Lake Superior State University where he will begin classes next year. But for Czuczman (pronounced Church-man), it was no forgone conclusion a hockey career was in the cards.
In fact, he seriously considered giving up chasing any kind of hockey career after last season when, as a member of the Junior B Waterloo Siskins, no NCAA attention came his way.
“I didn’t talk to any schools last year so I thought it was time I got on with my life. I was down after last season when there was no interest.”
Fast forward to a successful tryout with the Newmarket Hurricanes and a steady presence on the team’s blueline. The 19-year-old finally started to generate interest among schools in October and really stepped up his game during the OJHL Governors Showcase.
“Everything has happened so quick, ever since the showcase in Aurora,” said Czuczman, a part-time York University student. “To have something like that thrown at you is pretty overwhelming to say the least.”
In the end, he chose Newmarket over the Oakville Blades and Kingston Voyageurs as a junior destination based on conversations with other players, including teammate Braeden Rigney, with whom he played minor hockey.
“I talked to some guys in the league that I’d played with and it was Newmarket’s track record. It was all Newmarket, Newmarket, Newmarket.”
Overlooked in his Ontario Hockey League draft year, Czuczman was discouraged when his minor midget coach moved him to the forward lines.
There isn’t much call for a five-foot, five-inch defenceman in junior hockey. It’s a long way from the six-foot-three, 200-pound-frame with which he is now patrolling the Hurricanes’ blue line, tallying one goal and 10 points in 19 games.
“My whole life, I played defence,” Czuczman said. “Then, in my draft year, my coach moved me to forward. He thought I was too small to play defence. I want to play pro one day so it’s twice as hard. But it is added motivation.”
The scholarship package is significant and a payoff, perhaps, for the way the hockey gods have treated him in recent seasons. He is expected to sign the paperwork Nov. 10.
He also had discussions with schools such as Clarkson and Dartmouth.
Hurricanes head coach Brian Perrin remembers Czuczman from his days as a member of the Grey-Bruce Highlanders triple-A program.
“He was really good, but so small,” Perrin said. “I guess he just shot up and grew into his body.”
Now that his future is decided, he vows there will be no letup in his game as he tries to help the Hurricanes match last season’s run to the OHA final.
“I want the whole team to get scholarships or move on to the next level,” he said.