Nice to have seen this article. Hope it can keep up in years to come...
From the Daily Bulletin, San Bernardino County
Asked to produce identification while going through security at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last week, Univeristy of Alaska Anchorage hockey player Chris Tarkir handed over his driver's license. "A hockey player from California?" asked the security agent. "Are you serious?".
Yes. and there are plenty more just like him. While it is unusual, almost surreal, for a Division 1 college hockey player to hail from California 10 or 15 years ago, more than two dozen current Division 1 players come from the Golden State.
Tarkir, a freshman left wing for the Seawolves, and his twin brother Zach, a sophomore defenseman at Northern Michigan University, where born and raised in Fresno, and still live there in the off-season. They are just two of the Californians who have expanded the talent base in a game that was once almost solely the province of kids from northern climates.
When Alaska Anchorage played in the NCAA tournament at Boston College in 1991, Boston sportswriters were so incredulous that Seawolves center Steve Bogoyevac was a Californian, you'd have thought Bogie had just flown in from the moon.
Those days are gone. Folks who don't follow hockey might be surprised to find out there is a creature as the California rink rat, but those close to the game have long recognized the burgeoning talent pool in California.
Anchorage coach John Hill traces the emergence of California hockey back to 1988, when NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings. Gretzky's arrival in California raised hockey's profile there.
"You're probably now seeing the effects of that," Hill said. "All these (Californian) kids doing things now were little kids then."
And they're making an impact.
Tarkir's five goals tie him for second among UAA goal scorers.
Gabe Gauthier of Buena Park scored the lone goal in Denver's 1-0 win over Maine to capture the 2004 national championship.
Brett Sterling of Pasadena, who is following in the skates of La Verne's Noah Clarke at Colorado College, is the nation's second-leading scorer.
And Wisconsin sophomore Robbie Earl, the Los Angeles native who blistered UAA for a hat trick in November, is tied for second in Western Collegiate Hockey Association scoring.
Chris Tarkir is the fourth Californian to play at Anchorage, following Bogoyevac (Newbury Park), Jeremy Mylymok (Newport Beach) and Randy Sperry (Rancho Palos Verdes). University of Alaska Fairbanks has a Californian, too, defenseman Cramer Hickey of San Jose.
The 25-year-old Clarke moved from La Verne to Minnesota in high school to be able to spend more time playing hockey. He went on to Colorado College, where he was first in the NCAA with 49 assists as a senior, and third in points.
He is now in his second full year as a professional, playing for the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. He has posted 13 goals and 18 assists in 38 games for the Monarchs this season.
In December 2003 he became the first native Californian to play for the Los Angeles Kings.
Like many before him, Takir could see California emerging as a hockey hotbed, even as a youth player occasionally playing on travel teams.
"Every team you played against had at least one guy who was really good, good enough that you thought , "If he sticks with it, he'll go places,' Tarkir said."
Guy Gadowsky, the former Fairbanks coach who played and coached professionally with the Fresno Falcons and is a family friend of the Tarkirs, said the current crop of kids from California proves hockey is no longer a provincial game.
"It's something I'm really happy to see, and the Tarkirs are a perfect example," said Gadowsky, who now coaches at Princeton. "If you can get hockey players out of Fresno, you can get them out of anywhere."