Former Princeton hockey coach Guy Gadowsky told Zach Hyman to go be “The Man.”
At the young age of 15, Hyman committed to play for Gadowsky and the Tigers. With already two years of experience in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, that still wasn’t enough for the college stage — Gadowsky wanted Hyman to play one more year in the OJHL.
According to Gadowsky, once Hyman became “The Man” in the OJHL, he’d learn what it felt like to be the best and translate that feeling into being an impact player as a Princeton Tiger during his freshman campaign.
Yet the move by Hyman to play a third year with the Hamilton Red Wings in 2010-11 — a team owned by his father, Stuart Hyman — was met with stark criticism from Ontario Hockey League teams across Canada.
“I kept getting all these OHL teams whispering in my ear, ‘Zach should be playing in the ‘O,’ ” Stuart said. “ ‘He’s wasting his talent playing Tier II.’ ”
Not to mention, OHL general managers and personnel from across the league cut even deeper at the 2010 fifth-round draft pick of the Florida Panthers.
“OHL teams, like this past year, would say stuff like, ‘Skinner, Carolina. Seguin, Boston. Hyman, Hamilton … It’s a detriment for him to play college,’ ” Stuart added.
Jeff Skinner and Tyler Seguin – both 2010 first-round draft picks — each took the major junior route to the National Hockey League, with Skinner playing for the Kitchener Rangers and Seguin with the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL.
A former teammate of both Skinner and Seguin in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, Zach still racked up 40 goals and 62 assists in just 43 games this year, earning himself Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year honors, an award spread across 10 leagues under the CJHL.
“He destroyed that level,” Stuart said of Zach’s three years with the Red Wings.
A year removed from Gadowsky telling Zach to play a third year in the OJHL, plans have certainly changed as Zach is no longer going to attend Princeton, but instead, Michigan. Following the creation of the Big Ten hockey conference and Penn State’s soon-to-be transition to Division-I varsity status in 2012-13, Gadowsky was named the head coach at Penn State in late April.
And with the change, came Zach’s decision to reopen the recruiting process. You name it, and every big name school was after the 2011 BJ Monro Memorial Award winner, an honor given by the Ontario Hockey Association to its top professional prospect.
But the one name that stood above the Denvers, North Dakotas and Boston Colleges of the world was the school in Ann Arbor and the opportunity to play for Michigan coach Red Berenson.
“If you’re going to play NCAA hockey, that’s the team you always dream of,” Stuart said. “They’re like the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL.”
Zach noted that he fits right into Berenson’s defensive-minded brand of hockey, where he plays both ends of the ice.
“Defense is extremely important to me,” Zach said. “I like to think I’m a two-way player — to protect your zone in order to attack the opposing team’s zone. I really believe in being a defensive player because that’s the only way you’re going to succeed.”
Aside from the hockey, the Toronto, Ont. native cited that the education you receive at Michigan is second to none and was a huge contributing factor into why he chose to spend the next four years as a Wolverine.
“I found the best at the Michigan, which is a great fit for me,” Zach added.
At the Hyman’s home in Hamilton, Ont., there used to be a big block ‘P’ stickered to their front door. Since mid-May, that has since change to a big block ‘M.’ For now, Zach will be the only Hyman wearing a maize and blue sweater, but in either 2012 or 2013, his brother, Spencer Hyman, will be joining him at Yost Ice Arena.
And not too far down the road, there could be a third or potentially fourth brother, as Stuart has five boys, with Zach being the oldest.
The youngest, Shane, a 2003 birthday, plays up a few age groups with 10- and 11-year-olds, with his teammates and parents nicknaming him ‘The Great One.’ He’s already sporting a Michigan hockey jersey whenever he hits the ice for the practice.
Convinced now? How about a reassuring remark from Stuart.
“I’m sure you’ll have more Hyman kids in the Michigan program,” Stuart said.