Pass the puck

Students describe their experiences playing hockey


Nguyen in possession of the puck during his game | Photo Courtesy of Eric Nguyen

Ishaani Dayal and Irene Tang

Basking in what he describes as a “surreal atmosphere,” sophomore Neiv Gupta remembers the game when his hockey team played against their cross town rivals. Playing center for the Anaheim Junior Dogs, Gupta could hear the cheers from the crowd ring throughout the packed stadium. The presence of a few NHL players in the crowd also brought a unique sense of excitement and exhilaration to the rink. Gupta describes the game as one of the most memorable games he has ever played.

Gupta started playing hockey at the age of six and has gotten used to the regular weekend trips to and from the Bay Area and Los Angeles for practices. To him, hockey is a huge commitment and has taken up much of his li

fe. Senior Eric Nguyen, who plays forward for the San Mateo Black Stars, also acknowledges not only the time commitment that comes with training and competing in hockey, but also the costliness of the sport. 

“I had to miss out on my friends’ birthday parties one year,” Nguyen said. “I haven’t been able to go to Homecoming because of [hockey] … I think the money is the big thing. Not only is it the travel expenses and paying for the actual season, but it’s also the gear, which is not cheap these days.”

Nguyen was introduced to ice hockey through a friend when he was in fifth grade. After being invited to see a San Jose Sharks game, he “fell in love with the sport from there.” According to him, his favorite part of playing hockey is being with his teammates, on and off the ice. His proudest moment on the team was being voted team captain his freshman and sophomore years. 

For Gupta, one of his biggest achievements is winning multiple tournaments with his team in the USHL (the United States Hockey league), which is a top-tier junior league. He is also proud of placing second in the Silver Stick tournament, which has competitors throughout the continent. Gupta’s favorite part of the game is the intensity. He believes that while other sports may require a specific type of skill set, hockey is unique because it is vital to have a perfect combination of all skills. 

“It’s a very skilled and finesse sport,” Gupta said. “When you play football, it’s a rough sport [where] you’re hitting others but there’s not much finesse aspect to it. With a sport like basketball, there’s very little physicality but it’s a lot about skills [and finesse]. Hockey’s like the perfect combination between [the two].”

Nguyen says that the amount of time the team spends together in tournaments strengthens their bonds. For Nguyen, the support from his team plays a big role in making the sport enjoyable and motivates him to continue playing, and notes the guidance of a previous teammate as an example.

“He was our captain for a year and he was a big mentor,” Nguyen said. “He was so supportive. He gave a blind confidence [exercise], [where] he’d be like, ‘Oh, go over there and I’ll find you.’ And then he did find me then I’d get a goal [in]. It made me more comfortable on and off [the ice].”

Playing ice hockey has taken sophomore Alice Ross all over the map, traveling to tournaments in cities like Detroit, Dallas, Nashville, Pittsburgh and more. While she feels supported on the ice by her teammates, she says that her family has also heavily contributed to her journey with the sport. Ross was initially introduced to hockey at a young age through her Canadian parents, who grew up playing and still participate in club play today. Ross also has two younger siblings who play hockey, which she believes creates a sense of playful “inter-sibling competition,” and makes hockey a big deal in the family. 

“My parents are like [a] taxi service, back and forth from the rink every day after school, because we’ve got three kids in practices that go after school, and then my parents usually have late night games,” Ross said. “They all play, so … my parents are usually [like], ‘If it’s something you want to dedicate yourself to, then we’ll support you.’”

Meanwhile, Gupta’s commute to play is a bit different — his team is located in Los Angeles whereas he lives in the Bay Area, but that doesn’t deter him from feeling close to his teammates. 

“Since the team is in L.A. and I’m in Northern California, it’s not like I get to bond [with] them every single week,” Gupta said. “I’m traveling every other week to go play practices and tournaments with them. But when I’m there we’re definitely really close, and we definitely treat each other like normal friends.”

Similarly, Ross, who plays forward for the San Jose Junior Sharks, says that her favorite part about playing hockey is the second family that she has in the team.

“I’ve got 15 girls who are practically siblings [who] I’ve been playing with,” Ross said. “Some of them are newer to the organization, but some of them I have been playing [with] since I was seven. And it’s definitely bonding when you go [to] tournaments [together] and win, but going through hard losses together and then spending [lots of] time with each other [makes] really close bonds.”