Since shortly after he could walk, Austin Hutchinson has been playing ice hockey.
The Issaquah High School junior picked up the game after watching his elder brother find a place on the ice and for most of his life, has called the Sno King Hockey program, one of the few that serves youth players on the Eastside, a second family.
“People aren’t really aware there are even hockey teams in this area,” he said. “But everyone I’ve played with, you create such a bond with your teammates, the people who help, your parents, it is such a great community.”
The Sno King hockey community, and three members of the team from Issaquah-Hutchinson, Remington Lance and Trevor Cole-had one of the biggest moments in program history earlier in March, when they made their way through the Washington State AA U18 tournament to qualify for the national tournament in Connecticut.
“We were all just freaking out,” Hutchinson said. “It was crazy.”
The emotion was warranted, as the win sent Sno King to nationals for the first time and will be a chance to continue the season after a series of dramatic wins at the state tournament.
But before the team can begin thinking about opponents, it has to think about dollars.
With a roster of 19 players from throughout Greater Seattle, the team needs around $8,000 to make the trip east to Hartford, Conn., where the opportunity to face-off against top competition isn’t the only incentive.
Scouts from colleges up and down the East Coast and throughout the Midwest and Canada, where athletic scholarships for ice hockey are awarded, will be on-hand to get a glimpse at the country’s top amateurs. It will likely be the only chance for players from the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest to generate any interest and while the team isn’t packed full of professional prospects, the opportunity to get to college through hockey is very real.
“A lot of our team really can’t afford to go,” Hutchinson said. “Some of the kids, for college, this is a great opportunity for them.”
But for many of the families, footing the bill for a cross-country hockey excursion just isn’t in the cards.
So after a season of practices, car rides to Renton and Totem Lake and across the state for games, the team is looking for help from outside sources. The team is planning to volunteer at Seattle Thunderbirds games and partner on their 50-50 raffle for fans, as well as holding one of their own at Castle Ice in Renton for hockey gear.
With the National tournament fast approaching, scheduled for April 3-8, Hutchinson said the team is focused on finding a way to complete their journey together, no matter the cost.
“There is such a desire to go, and the funding is do-or-die,” he said. “If we weren’t able to, I don’t know how I would deal with that.”
To make a donation to the Sno King hockey team’s trip to Connecticut, visit Castle Ice in Renton or contact Laurence Lance at email@example.com.