Hickey joined the Sun Devils after UAH’s hockey program was cut short and later reinstated
As a hockey player, second defender Tanner Hickey is not used to seeing curveballs. But last summer, he, along with the rest of his teammates at the University of Alabama at Huntsville Chargers, was “thrown out of the blue”.
The UAH’s athletics division dropped several sports programs, including men’s hockey, in May to ease budgetary strains due to a lack of funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just had a meeting one day over the summer and (head coach Lance West) was just completely choked on it and he just said we’re closed today guys. I fought for it, but due to lack of funding, we can’t hockey team have more, ”Hickey said of the abandonment.
As a result, the Canadian freshman was included in the transfer portal with his 27 now-former teammates. ASU called him just a few days later to show interest.
“They surprised me because I didn’t really hear much for the first two days,” said Hickey.
ASU junior defender Jarrod Gourley, who played two seasons with Hickey at the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League from 2016-18, knew Hickey was available and could add a valuable skillset to the program.
“I got in touch with Tanner and he knew I wouldn’t lie to him about the program and immediately told him what we stand for and he loved it,” said Gourley. “Tanner saw himself as a good match with our culture and what our team is trying to do.”
Hickey, like any transfer, did his homework and looked at what each program interested in him offered. Hickey believes talking to Gourley in that process helped his navigation through the transfer portal.
“I just know a guy who’s going here and he also texted me while the coaches were talking to me, it makes it a little bit easier to (make that transition),” said Hickey.
After Gourley spoke to the head coach Greg Powers, Tanner decided to commit to ASU.
“(Tanner) comes in with immediate eligibility and a year of college experience in his pocket, and that’s a kid who could probably play for everyone in the country,” Powers said. “People will find out how good he is.”
While Hickey said the decision to move to ASU was a “no-brainer,” he ran into another split in the road.
People from the collegiate and professional hockey communities launched a fundraising campaign that raised more than $ 750,000 towards the recovery of the UAH hockey team for the 2020-2021 season.
“Powers called me (after UAH’s recovery) and said, ‘Hey, of course we want you, but we totally understand if you want to go back to Huntsville,’” said Hickey.
Hickey had the chance to return to UAH for his sophomore season or start a new chapter in his hockey career at ASU. He chose the latter.
Hickey brings a skillset to a team that puts a high premium on defender offense. This emphasis has been seen with previous players such as Brinson Pasichnuk and Joshua Maniscalco, who both left the program for the NHL this summer.
I’m looking forward to taking that opportunity, but it’s something I have to earn, ”said Hickey. It will certainly not be given to me. I’m looking forward to working there and hopefully earning a spot.
Hickey finished the 2019/20 season with three goals and seven assists in 30 games, enough to lead all defenders on the team.
“I compete hard in all three zones, and I am a little bit more offensive than defensive,” said Hickey. So hopefully I can contribute to the offensive side of the puck, and just add an ethic of hard work to this.
Hickey has found a new home with the Sun Devil hockey program after enduring multiple turns during his trip to the team.
“I’m committed to you now,” Hickey said to Powers. “You are my team now.”
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