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Gibson Homer is Right at Home Between the Pipes for U17s

By Becky Olsen, 03/03/20, 11:30AM EST


The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native is learning to use his large frame with the NTDP

Photo by Rena Laverty

Some kids are drawn to the big pads. Others are taken by the stylish helmets. For Gibson Homer, however, the allure to playing goalie was much simpler.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan, native just wanted to stop shots.

“I don’t think my parents ever wanted me to become a goalie,” said Homer, now a goalie on USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-17 Team. “It’s how it worked out, though. I tried goalie a couple times and I loved it. I loved flopping all over the place and stopping pucks. It just kind of stuck with me.”

Homer first started playing hockey at age 3, and though he played some forward and defense in his early years, he’s been primarily a goalie since squirts, he said.

Hockey has always been part of Homer’s life, owing in part to his dad, Kenzie, who played for Ferris State University. Kenzie later coached his son through Gibson’s 16U season.

“This is the second year that he has not been my coach,” Gibson Homer said. “It was fun. I was the only goalie for most of my career growing up and since he wasn’t a goalie, I was more on my own. I worked with a goalie coach and he worked with the players.”

One piece of coaching in particular has stuck out to Homer all these years.

“Before every game for as long as I can remember, he always told me to have fun,” Homer said. “That has really got me where I am. He gave me that passion for the game.”

That advice helped Homer transition into the NTDP and adapt to the older competition in the United States Hockey League.

“Getting used to playing in the USHL was the toughest part,” he said. “After playing 16U [for Fox Motors] last year and now, playing against guys who are 18 and 19 years old. It’s crazy. The speed of the game and getting used to it.”

One thing that’s helped Homer has been working with goalie coach Kevin Reiter this season.

“There has been so much learning and so much taking it in, whether it is the new level of shots or taking in the speed,” Homer said. “Coach Reiter has helped me progress up to where I need to be to play at the top level.”

The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Homer is also learning how to really use his size.

Photo by Rena Laverty

Photo by Rena Laverty

“I have always been the tallest in my school or on the team,” Homer said. “More recently, I have tried to learn how to use my size to my advantage in net. Being big, trying to take away and learn about the angles of the shots and everything. It’s been more recently. Growing up, I just tried to stop the puck. Now, there is more to it than that.”

Another transition for Homer and his teammates has been the travel, particularly two trips to Europe. Despite having to make 5,000-mile trips, the team finished first at the Four Nations in December in Kazan, Russia, and then second at Five Nations in February in Ufa, Russia.

“The first time we went to Russia it was tough with the travel. It was so tough, and then to play three games in four days,” he said. “The second time going there, I had it in my mind that this is going to be tough and this is going to suck for the next week. Once I was there and being with the guys, it wasn’t bad at all. We didn’t get first place this time, but it was still fun.”

At the end of the day, though, the experience of playing internationally with USA on his chest was one Homer will never forget.

“Playing against [Team] Russia in Russia and putting on the USA sweater is just incredible,” he said. “It is an unbelievable feeling. You see the crowd, and everyone is against you. You are in your own world. It’s really special and it’s a great feeling every time you put that jersey on.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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