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Hill cherishes his second chance to play in front of the hometown crowd

Eric Hill

Oct. 12, 2005

By LINDSEY MECHALIK, LSSU Sports Information student intern

When senior defenseman Eric Hill took the ice last November against Northern Michigan, he became the first Sault, Mich., native to put on a Laker jersey since Jason Welch in 1993. Hill made the team as a walk-on last season after sitting out for three years in order to coach youth hockey.

"The first time I pulled my jersey on for the game I had chills," Hill said. "I only played one shift during the game. It was defiantly a great feeling standing there for the National Anthem. The whole time I couldn't believe it was happening. This is a dream come true for me. We moved back to Sault Ste. Marie when I was 6 years old. Since then, I have always gone to Laker games. When I was younger, the Laker players would skate with us at practice. This is something that I always wanted to do. It was a dream of mine to play for Lake State. I had never cared about any other college teams. I always just wanted to play for the Lakers. Getting the opportunity to do that was definitely a dream come true.

"After my first game, I couldn't take my jersey off. I didn't want to because I didn't know when would be the next time I could put it on again. I just sat there for a long time trying to soak everything up. All of the guys were really positive, helpful, and encouraging. It was just a great feeling."

Most college hockey players come to college hockey from the junior ranks. Hill took an unconventional route to becoming a Laker.

"The year after I graduated from high school, I coached the bantam AA hockey team here in town," Hill said. "For the next two years, I coached the pee wee travel team. I took off three years off hockey for coaching. After coaching and watching my teams play, I realized that I wasn't ready to be done playing. I still had a passion for the game that I wasn't ready to give up. I talked to Coach Anzalone, who was here at the time, and he gave me a chance to walk on. I made the team, and all of last season was basically trying to prove myself as a part of the team. I hope that I have done that so far. This year I am trying to do the same thing. The first game I played in since the state final game of 2001 was as a Laker at Northern Michigan last year."

Hill appreciates another chance to play in front of his hometown crowd.

"When I played for the Blue Devils, we played out here at Lake State for a year," Hill said. "I had played games in Taffy Abel before. But getting to play a game here all over again was one of the greatest feelings. I love the feeling of playing in front of my home town. It was great to see local people and kids. I hoped that kids could see that it is possible, that you can play high school hockey instead of juniors. You can go from high school to college. I want them to know that there are other routes other than the conventional one. You just have to work at it and be determined."

Another advantage of being from Sault Ste. Marie is that Hill's parents can easily see him play. His parents have played a large part in Hill making it as a Laker.

"My parents wanted me to try and play for Lake State for a long time," Hill said. "They help me out with my car payments and things like that so I can play college hockey. During preseason, I broke my hand in practice and will be out for a while. With my broken hand, they have been nothing but encouraging. They saw me struggle through the first part of last year with not getting to play. They went over to Marquette to watch me play in my first game. My grandparents came from Houghton. My mom said she had goose bumps. I knew both she and my dad were proud of me. It was definitely a family experience. When I was growing up, they would drive me to the rink for 6 a.m. practices and my mom would sit up in the stands during practice. My playing for Lake State has been a family dream come true.

Note: Hill, who wore No. 16 in 2004-05, will be wearing No. 29 this season. Hill voluntarily gave up his number so the Lakers could pay tribute to former Laker Tim Breslin, who passed away last February due to complications from appendicidal cancer. LSSU has dedicated the 2005-06 season to Breslin.

Lake Superior State Men's Ice Hockey
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