Photo by Rena Laverty
Spencer Stastney first tried hockey at age 3. As a kid, though, the Mequon, Wis., native was an all-around athlete, playing everything from soccer to baseball to football to lacrosse.
“But as I got older, I eliminated one each year,” he said. “I figured out which one I wanted to play, and I liked hockey the best.”
That proved to be a good choice, as the sport eventually led him to the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, where he just wrapped up his Under-17 season.
For Stastney, a defenseman who played with the Chicago Mission U16 teams, the transition to the NTDP was an eye-opening experience.
“Speed wasn’t really a problem, but the strength definitely was,” he said. “It was learning how to use your advantages to your strengths. It really was very different but tougher. It really took a toll. You have to play smarter and faster and make the smart play.”
Looking back over the course of the season, Stastney also realized that mindset plays a major role in his success. In practices, he learned to play with the mindset of being gritty and not being afraid to block shots, and that translated into more success during games.
“At the start of the year, I would never go to the dirty areas, such as going into the corner or blocking shots,” he said. “I have now made that part of my game, and that has made me a much better player.
“I think I blocked a couple of shots by accident and realized it didn’t hurt too badly. Blocking a shot will always help your team, and it will give you momentum. It’s an unselfish thing that I take pride in doing and it makes my game better all-around.”
Stastney, who is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, said his strength has improved more than any other attribute during his first season at the NTDP.
“I have become a stronger player, and I can use my body more,” said Stastney, who tallied one goal and 13 points in 56 games this season. “I can use that body position to help me in the corners and in front of the net. I have gained about 15 pounds of muscle since I got here, and hopefully that will help me even more next year.”
One thing that never changes is how much Stastney appreciates being able to wear the USA jersey.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I had an Instagram post that said there is no better feeling. The first game, I had a smile on my face the whole time. It stayed on all season. I just love being out with the team and representing the United States of America. In international tournaments, it’s a lot of fun.”
Wearing the jersey stands out even more during international play, he said.
“Going to other countries such as Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and flying into other places, it was a really cool experience,” he said. “Once you are there, playing Russia, Sweden or Finland — it’s just amazing.”
Of course, he does have a few favorite memories from this season.
“Internationally, I like playing the Russians,” Stastney said. “We were up a lot against them early and they came back, but we still won. It was fun to beat the Russians.
“Before I came here, I didn’t realize the rivalry. I thought it was just another game. Once you are out there, and you see and feel the atmosphere, you realize it’s something entirely different. When we were in the Czech Republic and played the hometown team, the crowd was against us. They were just screaming at us. It felt nice to beat them; it was amazing.”
With summer now in full swing, Stastney has a few simple plans as he prepares for his U18 season.
“I need to stick to our program with the workouts and the lifts,” he said. “I need to eat healthy, relax and regroup for next season."
“I love the Milwaukee Brewers so hopefully, I will get to a few games too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo by Rena Laverty
Favorite NHL Team
Favorite U.S. Born Player
Favorite TV Show
Favorite Home-Cooked Meal
Mac and Cheese