Special to USAHockey.com
One word describes what forward Ryan Hitchcock felt when he was asked to join the National Team Development Program. That word is honor.
“It was an honor since there are so many good kids that get to try out for the team,” said Hitchcock, who is with the Under-17 squad this season. “It was definitely a great experience to be asked, and I took it in a heartbeat since I knew this was the place to play.
“I went home [after the 40 camp] and signed the papers. As soon as they asked me, I knew right away I wanted to be here and was definitely coming. It was the first place I wanted to played at.”
The 5-9, 151-pound native of Manhasset, N.Y., started playing hockey when he was 5 years old. He also played lacrosse until two years ago, which he believed helped him with his hockey. Both sports, he said, involve speed, skill and toughness.
“They are pretty similar with the way they are played except for the skating part,” he said. “It probably helped me a lot playing lacrosse.”
His parents, Kent and Mia, have also played a major role in helping him excel in hockey. They have driven him all over the country to play, including some 60- to 90-minute commutes last year when he played for the New Jersey Rockets in Berkeley Heights, N.J.
“They had to take time out of their day to pick me up,” he said of the commute to Berkeley Heights. “I took the train to practice, which usually took 1 hour and 45 minutes, and they would pick me up.”
Now he is making the transition to the NTDP and the United States Hockey League. He has noticed a few differences between last year and this year when it comes to speed and physicality. He also credits the workouts in helping him improve his game.
“I played against older guys last year, but the guys are even older this year and a little more skilled than last year,” he said. “Darryl Nelson [strength & conditioning coach], coach Kirk Culik [off-ice conditioning coach] and coach Carrie [Keil, the skating coach] do a great job off the ice in getting us better. I have to give them a lot a credit.
“The first week with Coach Culik was a wake up call. The discipline, whether it was a push up or running, and the attention to detail that must be handled at all times. There is no slacking off.”
This attention to detail continues to drive Hitchcock. He has taken to heart some words from U-18 forward Kevin Labanc, who also previously played for New Jersey Hitmen before joining the NTDP in 2011-12.
“You got to be ready to work hard, day in and day out. You will get better if you do,” Hitchcock explained on the advice he received from Labanc.
After all, he has the honor and privilege of wearing the colors of his country, each and every day. It’s the reason why he jumped at the opportunity to play for the NTDP.
“It’s really special,” he said. “It’s hard to put into words; you get chills really seeing all the jerseys hanging up.”
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.