Once the 2007-08 hockey season ended, Traverse City North Stars defenseman Alex Breeden started thinking about… the 2008-09 hockey season.
Breeden, who skated in 160 junior games - including his final 83 with Traverse City - is heading off to the University of Wisconsin-Stout this fall to ply his trade for the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association’s Blue Devils. He also discovered that he wasn’t alone in his future focus.
“I’m going to a team that just came off their first NCAA tournament appearance,” Breeden said of the 18-9-3 Stout squad that went 18-9-3 last season. “And I kind of started thinking about wanting to get back there and maybe even further. I talked to a few of the returning guys and it was on their minds, too. It’s a program on the rise, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Known as much for his stay-at-home defensive posture as his almost-legendary gym regimen, Breeden should be a productive player at the next level, according to at least one observer.
“The guy is all hockey, all work, all the time,” opined Stars coach-GM Anthony Palumbo. “Alex brings a tremendous intensity to the ice, the locker room, and he lives in the weight room. They’re getting a player in Alex who can contribute in the rink, in the classroom, in the community and in the locker room.”
Breeden, a Ft. Collins, Colo., native who registered a pair of goals and eight assists over 47 contests last year, didn’t rush into his college decision. In fact, he got to see two vastly different sides of the northern Wisconsin campus.
“I went for a visit in the middle of winter when we had a weekend off, and then I went back after our season, early in the summer,” he explained.
“Quite chilly the first time, but I really enjoyed the campus. It’s got a small-town feel and there’s a river that runs right through the center. It seemed like a good fit for me.”
Breeden plans to room with former teammate Matt Morin, who finished his junior career with North Iowa last season, and will be reunited with another former North Stars rearguard, Eric Scovill, who is entering his sophomore season with the Blue Devils. He credits his junior experiences in North Iowa and Traverse City with helping to prepare him for the overall collegiate undertaking.
“It’s been a great learning time in juniors - the game speeds up and you have to learn to make faster decisions,” said Breeden, who plans to enroll in Stout’s pre-law curriculum. “But there’s been some value off the ice as well, with managing your time and money.
“You can draw on those experiences when you’re juggling classes, practice, assignments, work and all the stuff that go with playing college hockey. But I feel pretty fortunate to be able to continue to play the game and get a quality education at the same time.”