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Second chances: Seals given new opportunity as hockey season opens

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John Seals

John Seals thought he would never touch the ice again.

After concluding his senior year at Portage Central High School in Portage, Michigan, Seals figured he had played his final hockey game.

He hadn’t received any collegiate offers. He had been accepted to Oklahoma State, declared his major for aerospace engineering and packed his belongings to make the 13-hour drive to Stillwater. On a whim, he brought his hockey gear.

“I just only planned on playing pick-up games for fun over winter with old friends from high school,” Seals said.

Packing the gear was a smart move. Prior to the start of the 2021 fall semester, Seals saw a post on the OSU Barstool Instagram page informing him the OSU hockey club would be holding open tryouts.

Seals had been given a second chance. He attended the practices, made the team and was named an assistant captain.

Mere months after club president Jacob Thompson reconstructed the once-defunct OSU hockey club, the Cowboys will host Baylor at Arctic Edge Arena in Edmond on Friday, the first game the club will play in more than two decades.

“Everyone is excited they get to play hockey again,” Thompson said.

Seals is no different. He has taken hockey seriously from a young age, his matured skills after years of sculpting has caught the attention of the coaching staff.

“He is the best one out there,” assistant coach Regen Rudzki said. “He can skate through anyone on the team. I would say he is pretty quiet on the ice, but he definitely is on his element out there.”

Seals is a native of Michigan. His whole family resides in the state. His cousins played hockey at the collegiate level in Michigan. His twin brother plays for the Michigan Tech club hockey team, and while the Cowboys and Huskies both reside in the same league (ACHA), they play in different divisions.

As the farthest north member of the team, Seals’ accent sticks out. The same with his slang, which often draws ridicule from a team whose roster is 90% from Texas.

“I don’t know them off-hand, I guess I say some funny stuff around them,” Seals said. “They never pronounce the (name of) the county I’m from (correctly).”

Thompson, and coach Dylan Pacheco, purposefully mispronounce Kalamazoo County as “Kangaroo” or “Kazoo” to rile Seals up.

“Sometime people from Kangaroo County, it is hard to understand them,” Pacheco said. “You can definitely tell he has got that northern hockey slang.”

Oklahoma has been different from Michigan for Seals. Football is boastfully the prominent sport in Oklahoma, compared to hockey in Michigan. But for Seals, now an Oklahoma resident, he has no plans of returning to Michigan after graduation.

“I pretty much came down here because I wanted to live in Oklahoma,” Seals said. “I don’t really plan on going back up, except just to visit my family.”

For Seals, he wants to help grow the sport he has loved since childhood.

“The biggest impact is I want this program to last,” Seals said. “I want people to actually know OSU as having a good hockey program.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com