“In Southern California, I’m the best, yes.”
Rudy A. (6th grade) has spent his entire life on the ice. At 1 1/2 years old, he tried on his first pair of ice skates. By two, he was on the ice learning how to figure skate, biding his time until he turned 5 years old, the age at which he could join a hockey team.
“My grandpa, he played hockey, and I used to come to the games,” Rudy shared. “I liked it a lot, so I was little, and I picked up a hockey stick, and I would just run around the house playing hockey.”
His early training proves to be paying off. Rudy’s three years of figure skating lessons better prepared him when he was finally eligible to join a hockey team.
“He started as a player,” Rudy’s mom, Elena, said. “They were really happy to have him [on defense] because he skated well enough, but he always dreamed about being a goalie, so [after two years] he was like, ‘I have to try.'”
Elena and Rudy decided he would try out the goalie position for a year to see if he liked it and then make a decision if he wanted to return to a player position or remain a goalie. The answer was clear.
“I like being a goalie,” Rudy said, before diplomatically adding, “I like being a player, you know it’s fun to score goals, but [as a goalie] you’re really like a big part of the team. [The team] really depends on you, and you always have to be ready no matter what.”
Now in junior high, Rudy’s come a long way, literally and figuratively, since he first began playing.
“He started on a Russian team,” Elena shared. “When he was five, he lived in Moscow, and he started as a Russian player for the Moscow hockey team.”Elena and Rudy moved to California when he was six years old. Originally living in Glendale, the family then moved to Anaheim after Rudy made the Jr. Ducks Mite team.
He’s been with the Ducks ever since, trying out every year with hopes of making it up to the next level, sometimes skipping a few. This past year, Rudy jumped four steps up after his try out. This year, the goal is to make it to the Jr. Ducks AAA team.
The teams are based on birth year, and the 2006 (Rudy’s birth year) AAA team is one of the best in the nation.
“This summer, they were in a championship and won the best American team and the second [best] in the continent,” Elena explained.
It’s an ambitious goal, but if anyone has the determination, it’s Rudy, who proudly and enthusiastically states that his goal is to not only make it to the NHL, but eventually to an all-star league after his NHL career.
“I want to go all the way,” Rudy said with resolve.
Despite his passion and goals, Rudy is quite level-headed for a 6th grader with lofty dreams. He has a two-part backup plan if the NHL doesn’t work out.
“Not everyone, you know, makes the big league,” Rudy said matter-of-factly. “So, if I don’t become a hockey player, I want to become a [hockey commentator]. And then if I don’t get that, which would be really upsetting, but then I would be a coach.”
Rudy is already preparing for a possible career as a commentator (even though he may not realize it) by getting comfortable in front of a camera with his own YouTube channel. The channel is spoken in Russian, so Rudy (yes, this talented child is also bilingual) can share with those back home about his American hockey experiences.
While having a backup plan is admirable, Rudy’s achievements this past year prove he’s working hard to make his NHL dream a reality. Last year, he won the Anaheim Ducks Mini 1-on-1, winning tickets to an NHL All-Star game.
“I got to meet all the players and I got to talk to all the Russian players in Russian, so it was really fun,” Rudy shared excitedly.
Rudy also took second place for the title of Best Goalie in America in his birth year division. His loss to the Kings, however, still makes him the best in Southern California in his division.
“In Southern California, I’m the best, yes,” Rudy quickly clarified.
Rudy’s accomplishments don’t end on the ice rink, though. His 11 hours of practice a week and summertime trips to Russia for hockey camp haven’t affected his grades. In fact, he proudly shared he made honor roll this term.
“I average about two honor rolls a year,” Rudy said.
He also loves learning about ancient history and reading. When asked what his favorite book was, he groaned at the thought of having to choose.
“If I would read [my list of favorite books], it would go over an hour,” he shared.
Despite having to travel quite a bit for his hockey games, Rudy said his teachers are understanding of missed days of school here and there.
“Fairmont has been really great about me missing school,” Rudy shared. “I like it because they give me more of a looser schedule, and they don’t get on me for missing days. All my friends and classmates send me the work that I missed. So it’s really nice, and the teachers are super nice.”
Rudy thanks his biggest hockey supporters.
This benefit isn’t lost on him, though. He is, after all, in 6th grade. When asked what his favorite part of hockey is, he didn’t hesitate before saying, “It gives me time off from school!”
His answer made him chuckle, but with more wisdom than it seems a 6th grader should have, he quickly added, “No, hockey just teaches me life lessons, like how to be a good teammate and traveling and all that stuff. It’s really interesting. You get to see more of the world.”