The Cyclone Alumni Association is pleased to share our next story of a former Cyclone who has moved on to a higher level of hockey. In this case, a much higher level! We hope you enjoy this story about Christian Fischer. Go Cyclones!
Former Cyclone Christian Fischer is living the hockey life. It is a life he loves, and one he has worked very hard to achieve. In his own words, there is plenty of work left to do. He will spend the next two season’s in Ann Arbor Michigan as part of the United States Development Program. He is currently on the U17 roster coached by Don Granato. There are two teams training in Ann Arbor to represent the United States, a U17 team and a U18 team. Despite a hectic schedule including school, on ice and off-ice training, limited social time and homework, I was able to talk with Fischer recently, an hour or so before he was off to watch the Michigan/Notre Dame football game. As a player who has committed to play his college hockey in South Bend, you can guess who he was rooting for!
Fischer is a 97 birth year player who knew immediately after the recruiting process for the development program began, that this was a place he wanted to be. That was over 2 years ago. Fischer began his hockey career as a Cyclone, playing for Coach Gus and Dan Reilly. He spent three years in the Cyclones organization. He then moved to the Chicago Mission which is where he was playing when his recruitment for the US Development program began. Fischer explained the process to me, “They follow you through your career and each summer they have a select festival in New York that you go to. There are about 100 kids from all over the country that go to this camp. That’s where the recruiting really starts and you do that for 2 years. Then in March USA Hockey hosts the top 40 camp, which is the final tryout. I pretty much knew when I first learned about the possibility of playing in this program, that I wanted to, and I made it my goal to make this team. I was going to do anything it took to get here.”
Fischer still remembers his days as a Cyclone. “I started skating when I was 3 or 4 and started playing on a team when I was 5 or 6.” I asked Fischer about his routine when he was younger ….what did he do every day to make himself a better player? “Back then there was not too much specialized training but the first thing was never missing a practice, get there an hour early, stretch….you know you don’t want to miss practice for a party or something unnecessary like that, then I worked with an off-ice coach and you gotta listen to him, he will get you better because that type of development at such a young age is huge, and even after that, when you are away from the rink you are not done, you should be at home shooting pucks at the garage or stickhandling, just trying to get an edge on people.” Fischer’s advice for today’s young player…”WORK HARD EVERY DAY….you know, take advantage of the sport you are playing, we are all very fortunate playing a sport that not too many kids get to play and just work hard every day, don’t let distractions get in the way and ultimately have fun.” Beyond the hard work and the fun of the game, as we all know, there is a tremendous amount of time and effort spent by the family to make it possible for kids to play this game, and Christian is no different. “My family has played a huge role in me getting here. They guided me though this whole process. Obviously playing in the USHL was an option for me but they let me choose and they gave me the guidance throughout this whole process and I am very thankful for that.” Hockey is not an unfamiliar sport in the family. Christian’s Dad Mike played in college and his older brother plays currently at the University of Illinois.
With so many young players that have passed through the turnstiles of the Cyclone Organization, it is difficult to remember them all. Club President Mark Plantery, who has seen thousands of players over the years, vaguely remembers Fischer as a Cyclone squirt. “I was coaching my son at a different level at the time.” Plantery had these comments about what makes certain players stand out, even at these younger ages. “I think there are two main character traits, beside athletic ability that will carry a player. One is kind of all encompassing but it involves self-motivation, hard work and determination. So there is something inside that makes this player want it more than other players, makes them want to work harder. The other is passion and a love for the game, and obviously these two go hand in hand.”
There are many characteristics that our first two featured Cyclone alumni, Sidney Peters and Christian Fischer share. It is a common theme among them that hard work and dedication are the keys to success, particularly if you want to compete at the highest levels. Yes, a player needs talent, and the opportunity to play, but at some point, those two alone are not enough to make it to the elite level. I asked Fisher about passion… “passion to me is once you find something that you love, you dedicate yourself, your mindset and your work ethic to achieving that goal. My goal is to have professional career in hockey.”
Mike Real, an assistant coach with the Chicago Mission organization explained further some of the characteristics that have served the 16 year old well. “Christian is a quiet leader. A very mature young man. He leads by example in the locker room, in the weight room and on the ice. He is a likeable kid and carries no grudges, he is the ultimate teammate. Everyone loves to be around him, he always has a smile and he does not wear his emotions on his sleeves. Other players want to be like him, act like him and that breeds leadership within a locker room.” At 6’1”, 200 lbs, Christian plays a skill game and likes to use his size and big body to his advantage. I asked Fischer who he admires the most of current NHL players? “Rick Nash….. he is a big power forward with tremendous skill…he knows when to take it to the net and he has the skill if he can’t get to the net, to set up his teammates.” Fischer does admit that one area he would like to improve his game is his physical play. “Being a big guy, I need to learn how to use my size better on the forecheck, I don’t want to be known for that only but I know that I need to work at it.” Gino Cavallini is the Hockey Director at the Mission. The Toronto Ontario native, played in 667 NHL games with Calgary, St. Louis and Quebec, and knows a fair amount about hockey talent. Although Fischer left the Mission before Cavallini arrived, he is well aware of the skill set of this talented player who spent his first 3 years as a Cyclone. “His hockey IQ sets him apart immediately upon watching him play. He has developed both physically and in stature early which boded to his advantage. His puck handling skills and ability are above average as well as his speed and agility on the ice.” For Cavallini and Real, both agree that the future is bright for Fischer with Real adding, “he looks like a pro and acts like a pro at the age of 16, and with him training in Ann Arbor for two years, then going to Notre Dame, he lines up well for a bright future.” Cavallini added, “I would venture that the NHL is a realistic goal for this young man.”
You might be asking, do these kids continue to go to school while they train? Yes they do. One of the aspects of the development program is making sure that the players in the program keep up on their school work. Just because they are there to play hockey, that doesn’t mean that school stops! The kids all attend Ann Arbor Pioneer High School. Christian is a Junior and says the transition has pretty easy for him. “All the guys on the team go to the same school…we have a counselor there who sets up our classes…the teachers are nice, they know about us and they give us our work in advance so we can get it done. We will miss about 9 weeks of the school year for travel and games, so it is nice that they are so understanding and helpful.”
With the schedule these kids keep, having understanding teachers is a huge help. School starts at 7:40, with classes ending for the players at 1:10. The boys take five classes a day, while most other students take 7. Once school ends it is off to the rink for a 1 hour and 50 minute practice, followed immediately by a 1 hour workout in the gym. After that there are video sessions and team meetings. “We leave the house around 7 am and get home around 7 at night, that leaves a little time for socializing and the balance of the night we do our homework, then get to bed and do it all again the next day. We did go to the High School football game on Friday night, so there are opportunities to do fun stuff and to meet kids outside the program. Some of the players choose to stay within the confines of the program, while others venture out when time permits.” I asked him about his living arrangements. “I am living in a house with my Parents and with Matthew Tkachuk. My parents stay here for a month or so, then the Tkachuk’s come here and stay with us.” Yes, that is the son of Keith Tkachuk, who tormented the Hawks at times throughout his NHL career. Most of the players in the program stay with host families in the Ann Arbor area.
Fischer had only been in Ann Arbor for about two weeks when we talked. The U-17 team will play a schedule of games against USHL teams that starts in mid September. They will participate in three international tournaments in Slovakia, Nova Scotia and Sweden. If you want to see some great hockey locally, other than weekly Cylcone action, mark your calendars now for March 28, 2014. That is when the U17 team will play the Chicago Steel at 7:30 pm at The Edge in Bensenville. It is the team’s only appearance in the Chicagoland area. If you want see the best U17 talent that the country has to offer, and a former Cyclone in action, make plans to be there. For more information about Cyclone Hockey or getting your child involved, please contact our Hockey Director, Peter Rutili or our President, Mark Plantery. You can find their contact information on our website. For more information about the USA Hockey training program in Ann Arbor, visit www.usahockey.com. Go Cyclones!