Hometown Bishop dons USA jersey
Wednesday, March 19, 2008, 07:54 PM
Hometown Bishop dons USA jersey
By ERIC GOOLD
Hunter Bishop has worn many hockey jerseys in his life. West Valley Wolfpack. Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
On July 20, the hometown original found out that the next jersey he wears will be red, white and blue and will have the letters USA printed on the front.
Bishop was named to the 2004 United States Under-18 Select Team that will compete against the world's best juniors this month in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
"Wearing the USA jersey has been a dream of mine for a long time," Bishop said Saturday. "I've never been to Europe, and I'm the first person from my family who gets to go there. I hear it's pretty nice."
The U18 Selects will compete in the 2004 Junior World Cup, to be held Aug. 10-15 in Piestany, Slovakia and in Breclav and Hodonin, Czech Republic. Teams from the host countries and the United States will skate against the likes of Canada, Russia, Switzerland, Finland and Sweden.
"Going to the world tournament will be one of the best experiences in my life," Bishop said. "The best kids from all these countries will be there, and it will be great to see where I'm at compared to them.
"There's going to be a lot of exposure," he added. "We've already heard that there will be a lot of NHL scouts."
Bishop is one of three Alaskans to make the squad. Goaltender Drew O'Connell and forward Evan Trupp, both of Anchorage, will travel to Europe as members of the U18 Selects. Trupp's father, Rick Trupp, played college hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and coached here for several years before moving to Anchorage.
The team of two goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards was selected at the annual Select 17 Festival at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn., July 10-16. The final roster was selected after evaluators watched more than 240 players compete for the top spots.
For Bishop, the journey to Europe began at West Valley, where he played high school hockey for a short time under the direction of coach Erik Drygas.
"He's a great coach," said Bishop. "He teaches real good systems play and he's a real nice guy. He's easy to understand and you don't get confused talking to him. The high school players up here overall are pretty good.
"It changes from year to year," he added. "Up here you don't get to play the same amount as you would Outside, but the quality of player is still pretty good."
After a short stay with the Wolfpack, Bishop moved across town to play for the Junior A Fairbanks Ice Dogs and local coach Rob Proffitt.
"Rob was a great coach," said Bishop. "Coming in at the age I did, he was really understanding and patient. I went from playing midget to juniors, that's a big step. He knew that and he hung in there with me, and he told me to keep working hard.
"I ended up getting put with some really good linemates, and everything worked out for me," he said. Bishop compiled 21 points in last year's campaign with the Ice Dogs, netting seven goals and tallying 14 assists.
Bishop said that Proffitt and coach Roger McKinnon were instrumental in getting him a tryout with the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders, a junior A team in Cedar Rapids, Iowa that plays in the United States Hockey League. After the Junior World Cup is over, Bishop will play next season for the Rough Riders.
"They're similar to the Ice Dogs," said Bishop. "It's tier-one Junior A hockey, and from what I've heard, the USHL is a really fast league. They emphasize good feet and skating, and those are some of my better attributes as a player.
"After playing for Proffitt and McKinnon, I felt very prepared for the tryout," he added. "I just felt like it was the right place to go."
Brent Cornelius, who like Bishop played for West Valley, will be a Rough Rider next season as well. The local foursome of Bishop, Cornelius, Derick Bradish and Caleb Harrison all played in last month's Select 17 Festival.
It's been a long journey in Bishop's hockey saga, and he said that a lot of people along they way have been instrumental in his success.
"I would definitely say that a lot of effort and hard work from a lot of people put me in this position," said Bishop. "All of the coaches and players in Fairbanks have really helped me out."
While Bishop's hockey aspirations have him traveling to Europe and Iowa in the near future, the forward was quick to point out that he has other plans on his horizon.
"Only players who are 64 or 65 go straight to the NHL from juniors," said Bishop, who listed himself at5-foot-11. "I definitely want to play Division I college hockey."
Bishop said that growing up in Fairbanks, of course he loved to watch the University of Alaska Fairbanks play hockey.
"Definitely, I'd love to play for UAF," said Bishop. "We've thought a lot about it. If the opportunity presents itself and the situation is right, it'd be great to play here in college."
For now, Bishop will concentrate on helping the U18 Select Team win its second consecutive Junior World Cup. Bishop leaves for Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, where he will meet with the team and begin practice.
Then after a flight to Vienna and a bus ride to Slovakia, one of Fairbanks' own will be playing for his country.
Staff writer Eric Goold can be reached at email@example.com or at 459-7591.
[West Valley Wolfpack High School Hockey]