Sam Ekstrom – Staff Writer
Imagine growing up playing pond hockey in your backyard, passing the puck around with your older brother and pretending you were playing on the same team.
Then imagine getting to live that out for real at the college level.
Eric Huitsing came to Dordt from Edmonton, Alberta. Not only did he get to team up with his brother, Gary, he got to compete for his father’s alma mater.
“I remember hearing stories from back when he was on the team,” said Huitsing, now a senior. “That was kind of the reason I wanted to play here.”
All sentimentality aside, however, Huitsing came to Dordt and made an immediate impact for the Dordt Blades. He scored 24 goals through his first two seasons, including a team-leading 17 goals his sophomore year.
Then-coach Bill Elgersma was not surprised. He understood that the avid hockey culture in Canada often breeds talented athletes.
“When he came in, I wasn’t that surprised at his tenacity or dedication,” said Elgersma. “Many north of the border have that attitude.”
“That is the drive and tenacity that Eric brings to the team, and that is what he demands of the players around him.”
Huitsing has a blue-collar attitude when it comes to hockey, especially goal-scoring. His no-nonsense approach comes from something his father taught him.
‘Don’t fool around; just put it in,’ Huitsing recalls his dad telling him.
That strategy worked brilliantly in one of Huitsing’s finest moments.
It was the home finale of Huitsing’s junior season, and the Blades were tied at two with South Dakota State University in the final period.
“I remember coming off the boards, and I didn’t even look; I just whipped it at the net. I didn’t see it go in,” said Huitsing. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that excited about a goal.”
The Blades wound up winning the game by a 5-4 score.
“I’ll remember that one for a long time,” Huitsing said.
Throughout his career, Huitsing was a leader on the ice and in the classroom. Elgersma felt like this raised the bar for the entire team.
“Eric is the kind of athlete that any Dordt coach wants: a balance of academic and athletic prowess,” said Elgersma. “Eric proves hockey players can do both well… That means no one gets a break on the team.”
Huitsing’s leadership was perhaps never more valuable than in his senior campaign. The Defenders underwent a coaching change and entered just their second year in a conference, the MACHA.
The senior was instrumental in keeping his team focused.
“Somebody has to say, ‘Alright, guys, look. This is the talent we have. Let’s go out there and play how we can play. Whatever happens, happens. Don’t worry about the other team. They’ve got enough to worry about themselves. Just play your game, and you’ll never know what happens,’” Huitsing said.
First-year coach John Langeraap said having a dynamic athlete like Huitsing made his transition easier.
“Being my first year as head coach, I appreciate everything Eric brings to the team on the ice, in the locker room and in the Dordt community,” said Langeraap.
Huitsing concluded his Dordt playing career with 42 goals and 28 assists. Though his time with the Blades is over, Huitsing says still he has a desire to play some more hockey.
But he will forever miss the long hours at the rink with his teammates.
“That amount of time and effort and pain and everything we go through together – that’s something that’s stronger than being a member of the hockey team,” said Huitsing. “The camaraderie between the guys is awesome.”