Photo by Rena Laverty
It was an easy decision for goalie Drew DeRidder to return closer to home for just one season to play for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and the Under-18 Team.
“The training and the program is second to none,” said DeRidder, who grew up in Fenton, Michigan. “It is great experience to be playing closer to home and playing in the United States Hockey League [USHL], in international play and against the college teams. It was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.”
DeRidder was familiar with the NTDP already after spending the 2016-17 season playing for the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. In 41 games, he recorded a 3.27 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage. He definitely had a goal in mind when Cedar Rapids and Team USA played last year.
“Honestly, I was a little upset that I did not originally make the USA team [after the top 40 camp],” explained DeRidder, 5-foot-10 and 168-pounds. “I had some extra motivation to go out there and play well. We beat them both times in Cedar Rapids — both the U17s and U18s — and then, we came here for one game and we lost 1-0. That was tough. I played all three games. I loved the organization and the town. My billets made it the easiest transition last year, living almost nine hours away from home. It was amazing.”
Playing hockey in the first place was another easy decision, one DeRidder could hardly remember making, having started when he was just a toddler.
“My dad and grandpa both played hockey,” he said. “My dad brought me to the rink one day and I just loved it. I can’t explain it.”
DeRidder was able to have his dad James as his coach for almost four years when he was growing up.
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“Growing up in Fenton, I played for the Flint Icelanders and my dad was my coach,” he said. “I played out of there for a few years then I went to the Midland Northstars for two years and then, I went up to AAA hockey after that.”
Playing between the pipes was not the first position for DeRidder. Rather, it was a sick player and an opportunity that turned into him playing the position full-time.
“I was a defenseman and sometimes a winger. Then one day, we needed a goalie,” he said. “Our goalie was sick and he just didn’t show up. I ended up playing in net and I just loved it. I ended up playing more and more and eventually, our team goalie left so we needed a goalie. My dad asked me if I wanted to try it and I realized that I loved it and kept doing it full time. I was eight when I started full-time.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
DeRidder, who grew up watching the Detroit Red Wings, admits that there are definitely challenges when it comes to playing goal.
“Trying to stay in it. There are not very many goalie people out there who understand the position. You have to form how you play,” he said.
One of his favorite memories was capturing the gold medal at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. It was an unbelievable moment for him as he posted a 4-0-0 record in four games with a .949 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA.
“It was amazing. It was the best experience I have ever had in hockey,” said DeRidder. “It might always be. It was amazing to go over there, and not really knowing anyone except the kids from Detroit. Everyone bonded so quickly. It is a bond and a memory that I will have forever.”
While that gold medal is a lifetime memory, DeRidder also cherishes the opportunity each day to wear the colors of Team USA.
“It was amazing,” he said on wearing the red, white and blue. “It’s hard to describe. It is an honor to play for your country.”
When it came to selecting his future college where he planned to continue his hockey career, once again, it was an easy decision. After all, Michigan State University had everything he was looking for and more.
“Growing up around [MSU] — it’s only about one hour from my house and it’s halfway between my house and my grandparents’ house so we always drove right through there,” he said. “My grandparents, and my dad when he was younger, had season tickets. I really love the campus. It will be nice to be close to home. I have a lot of friends that go to MSU.”
DeRidder and his current U18 teammates will actually face the Spartans on Saturday, Dec. 16 at USA Hockey Arena. It will be a special night for him and he knows that it is an advantage to be able to play against college teams.
“It will be interesting and fun to playing Michigan State,” he said. “Playing the college teams will definitely be an experience. I will be able to get used to the pace and bigger, faster and stronger kids, and a lot older guys.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.