Camaraderie brings MSU Hockey alumni together
On a Friday morning two days before official move in for freshmen, a group of alumni gathered in a familiar spot on MSU’s campus.
They weren’t saying goodbye to MSU or even reminiscing about their former glories. Instead this group was partaking in an annual ritual. Skating around the ice, in the cold confines of Munn Ice Arena were the Spartan Hockey alumni.
Many of the alumni taking part in the five day long Spartan Pro Hockey Camp are in the prime of their respective careers and lives. Some barely over the legal age were mixed in with the battle hardened veterans of the NHL. They all graced the ice as Spartans at one time or another, but once again they donned the Spartan sweater while clad in their pro team gear, but crested in green and white spartan insignia.
The work-weeklong camp that began on Monday, August 24, brings together top Spartan alumni and other pros from around the world of hockey. Each day the group, under the instruction of current Spartan hockey staff, is put through a series of drills and small area games to hone their skills before the training camp for their respective pro teams.
If it has to be labeled, it’s the pre-season camp of pre-season camp. However, the pressures of preseason camp hold no spot here. While the work is serious and the competition fierce, no one takes themselves too seriously. A missed pass, or puck sent ringing off the post isn’t met with frustration but a smile, laughter even. Here the pressures of a failed attempt wash away, and the game is played again in it’s purest form.
“It gets me ready for my training camp and my upcoming season," said current Red Wings left winger Drew Miller, who played at MSU from 2003 to 2006. "Most of all it’s coming back and seeing a bunch of friends and guys from different classes and just hanging out with the boys in green and white.”
“You get to hang out with your buddies you haven’t seen since probably the last pro camp, that’s a big part of it,” added Torey Krug, a current Boston Bruins defenseman and former MSU hockey player from 2009-12.
Hockey has a special lingo, where the guys you play with are called “the boys.” Miller wasn’t only speaking about the guys he played with but all “the boys” who have gone to battle under the Spartan flag. It’s that camaraderie which brings many of the alumni together every year. It’s also a camaraderie that transcends all athletics at MSU, something Krug alluded to when asked about Michigan State.
“It’s the people here at Michigan State, they’re a hard working group,” Krug said. “Obviously we all get along really well. We all have a common goal and that’s to get better everyday. You know that’s not just the hockey program. It stems out to the other athletic teams and the students as well. It’s just an exciting place to be and you know, the people make the atmosphere.”
Krug and Miller have a different perspective when it comes to the camp. They’ve reached the top of the hockey ladder and use the camp to prepare for their NHL seasons, but through the eyes of a player trying to get a foothold on that ladder, the camp is taken with a different approach.
“There’s a lot of good players out here it’s good to be able to measure yourself against guys like that and out there,” former MSU hockey player Brent Darnell said. “It’s fast-paced out there so you have to move your feet and move the puck quick, so it’s a good skate. It’s a good way to get in shape. It definitely opens your eyes to see how the pro guys in the NHL go about their business before skates, after skates, and what they do on the ice to better themselves.”
That is the common bond of this camp. Being a Spartan has transcended their lives and holds an exclusive spot somewhere inside all of them. It’s the chance to grow and learn, another opportunity to improve and become better hockey players, the chance to reminisce but also give back to new Spartan alumni as they venture out on their next path, even if it’s just by example. It’s revelry like this and opportunity to be a Spartan again which provides the fuel to return year after year.
“It’s the enjoyment of coming back,” current Red Wings standout and former MSU hockey player Justin Abdelkader said. “Coming back to East Lansing, seeing all the guys. As you get older it’s harder and harder to see all these guys in the summertime or throughout the year. Maybe if you play against them a night you see them but just coming back and seeing the guys and sharing memories and stories and hanging out at Munn Arena where we had so many good memories together.”