Photo by Rena Laverty
There is one very special person that helped drive Zakary Karpa’s competitive nature growing up and that is none other than his twin brother, Jakob.
“We did everything together between outdoor hockey or mini-sticks in the basement. It was nice to have someone to do something with and we really pushed each other,” Karpa said.
They have always played on the same teams growing up, so it should be no surprise that one of the biggest changes the duo has faced this season is not having each other as teammates.
“We always played on the same team in whatever sport we did,” said Karpa. “This year and two years ago were the first time we were on separate teams. It has been an adjustment.
“Jakob is playing for the U18 Victory Honda this year. They travel so much, even more than us, so when the schedules align, I get to go see him.”
The brothers started playing hockey around 3. Their dad, David, played two seasons at Ferris State University before embarking on a 12-year professional career.
“My dad played professionally and he kind of got us into it,” said Karpa. “When my dad was playing in Carolina, I remember that he brought my brother and I onto the ice for a little scrimmage/practice. That meant everything. I didn’t get to play but I sat on the bench and talked to the guys. It is something that I still remember.”
If anything, Karpa has taken away one important lesson from his dad on the sport of hockey.
“Never get too high or too low. Always keep working your hardest and eventually it will work itself out,” said Karpa.
In addition, since they had to move so his dad could play and later on coach, he really learned about being able to adapt, no matter the situation.
“It is like change has mainly been the story of my life,” said Karpa. “I have always had to change schools, meet new people and change teams. It has really helped me grow as a person and helped me adapt. We live in Novi [Michigan] right now. It’s nice to live at home with my parents.”
Karpa was able to use his dad’s advice especially after he earned a call-up to join USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 Team. After appearing in 12 games last season as a fill-in player, this was one of the best moments of his career.
Photo by Rena Laverty
“It was the best feeling ever, knowing that I would be a full-time player,” he said. “This was the best opportunity for me with the day-to-day practices and all the training staff to help us each and every day.”
He was able to participate in the May training which not only gave him an opportunity to improve his game, but also to interact with his teammates. With all this, it made the transition to the NTDP easier for him.
“I did the spring training with the team last May,” he said. “That really helped as I got acquainted with Brian [Galivan, director of sports science] and the new weight room. The workouts are so tough and the only way to get through them is to push each other and help each other. I think we became closer through all this.”
Photo by Rena Laverty
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound forward credits the program for helping his game grow.
“It has grown the most, playing those games at the start of the year and at the end, playing against older players that is where it has helped develop me strength-wise,” he said. “Playing those 12 games last year has really helped me last year.”
Karpa, who will take his game to Princeton University next year, knew right away that he was in the perfect spot to continue not only his education but also his hockey.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew it was a really good place for me. The coaching staff — I really liked them, as well as the academics. It is the best of both worlds with hockey and school,” he said. “You can almost treat it as part of your freshman year. You will have 15 games underneath our belt so it will be that much easier when we head there next year.”
He will still be missing his other half for a second-straight year.
“My brother is going to try and play juniors next year. It will be different to be so far away,” said Karpa.
At the end of the day, there are two important things to him: one is wearing the colors of his country and the other is being a role model to the kids who come to the USA Hockey games.
“It means everything to represent our country and our families,” he said. “To be role models for little kids in the stands, it’s really humbling. We were those kids at one point so knowing that they want to be us is so cool.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.