Photo by Rena Laverty
It’s never easy to make a decision to leave home, your friends, family, all to play hockey.
For Gavin Hain, he plans to make the most of his second opportunity with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program for just one year as a member of the Under-18 squad.
“One year ago, I had the opportunity to come here and I made the tough decision not to come,” explained Hain on declining the invitation for his Under-17 year. “Personally, I didn’t feel ready to leave home and play somewhere else. Physically and mentally I’m ready to go this year.
“It was a tough decision. The NTDP is a great program for development. I had a chance to come here and play this year, and I definitely wanted to take advantage of it.”
The 5-foot-11, 193-pound forward started skating when he was two years old, after his family moved to Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
“Neither of my parents played when they just moved from Southern Minnesota to Grand Rapids, which is a hockey community,” he said. “We were just one block from the outdoor rink and that is where I started skating. I started playing hockey and I just loved the team game and the competitiveness.”
Hain was a member of the Grand Rapids High School team that captured the 2017 Minnesota State High School League Class AA State Championship. He tallied a hat trick in the title game as his team won its first state title since 1980.
“It was super cool. I knew it was going to be my year there but I wasn’t sure where I would be yet so it was now or never,” he said. “It was good and positive for our community. We definitely figured out how to put things together. It was our first state title in a long time and big for our community.”
Hain knows he can use that experience from last season to help in the transition to the NTDP with a few simple pieces of advice.
“Every day, you have to bring it. You cannot take a day off, whether it is practice or at the gym. You can’t let up on the gas at all,” he explained.
Favorite NHL Team
Favorite U.S. Born Player
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One Tree Hill
Favorite Musical Artist/Group
Florida Georgia Line
Favorite Home-Cooked Meal
Fast forward to late August and his first few practices with the NTDP and first-year head coach Seth Appert. It was definitely a change of pace for Hain from last year playing high school hockey.
“The level of players and the level of competitiveness of practice is something I have noticed from last year,” he said. “Every part of it — whether we are on the ice or in the weight room — it is a friendly competition. It is something that Coach Appert stresses is in the intra-team competition. When we have mini-games, they keep track and post it to the locker room.
“At home, I would try to get into the weight room as much as possible. With the way the schedule is here, it is possible to do both [practice and lift]. I want to be pushed in all aspects of my game.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
After waiting a year, Hain is understandably excited to play his first game as an official member of the NTDP. The U18s kick off the season against the Minnesota Wilderness on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at USA Hockey Arena.
“I’m excited to put on the USA jersey and play a game. I was able to play two games last year [with the U17s on Oct. 7-8]. Now, I get to wear it as a full-time player,” he said. “It is what you are working for through all of the preseason training. I want to see how the work we have put in and play a game.”
Hain, who has verbally committed to the University of North Dakota after this season, knew that he had found the right fit as soon as he visited.
“It was the school that felt most like home. I visited campus and the coaches, and it just felt right and where I wanted to be for the next four years,” he said.
Plus, he will get an opportunity to play against his future college team when the U18s travel to Grand Forks to take on the Fighting Hawks on Dec. 30.
“It will be fun but at the same time, it will be different,” said Hain. “I will be playing at the Ralph [Engelstad Arena] for the first time and on the opposing team. I think it will get more excited to go to North Dakota next year.”
No matter what happens, there is one person that Hain can turn to for some advice and that is his dad Kelly, who is a former golf pro. His dad has given him some words of wisdom that he has taken to heart.
“My dad will tell me that golf can be a frustrating game,” Hain said. “You can have one bad shot but you can’t get down on yourself. Whether it is shot for shot, or hole for hole, you need to forget about the bad one and move forward. I think that is the biggest thing I have learned from him. You need to move on and do what you need to do.”
That is exactly what Hain is doing this season as a member of Team USA and making that most of his second chance.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.