Like many hockey hopefuls, Jimmy Hayes left behind the life he knew to pursue a dream.
Born and raised in the Boston area, the 18-year-old said good-bye to family and friends, teammates and schoolmates two years ago when he packed up his hockey bag and moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., to join the National Team Development Program.
While the transition to a new home, a new school, a new team, and a new family, all in a new state has been relatively smooth, there were still some adjustments that needed to be made.
For one, his previous school, the Nobles and Greenough School near Boston, had a total of 500 students for both middle and high school. He now attends Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, which has more than 3,000.
And, when he first moved in with his billet family, Hayes recalls that he was too shy to even open the refrigerator because “I wasn’t really sure if I could.”
As time went on, Hayes and his new family got more and more comfortable with each other and he now has no problem raiding the fridge after school.
Still, it’s on the ice where he feels at home. And why not? He’s been on the ice as long as he can remember. His grandfather taught him how to skate when he was somewhere around 2 or 3 years old. He played on his first organized hockey team at 5, and has been obsessed ever since.
As a youngster, he was always either playing hockey or daydreaming about it. It’s “just what I was always wanting to do,” says the talented forward.
When he reached the seventh grade and realized that he had a chance to continue playing in high school, he suddenly started taking the game very seriously. After weighing his academic and athletic options, Hayes found himself attending Nobles, one of the most prestigious prep schools in the Boston area.
“Once I made the varsity team, I knew that [hockey] was a part of me and is something that I always want to do,” says Hayes, who has already committed to play for the
Boston College Eagles next season.
The next logical step on Hayes’ career path was the NTDP, which has been developing many of the nation’s top players for 11 years.
Hayes earned three points in five games on his first outing with the U.S. Under-17 Team in 2005. His first international hockey experience ended up a gold-medal conquest as Team USA swept the 2005 Four Nations Challenge.
“It was my first time playing international hockey for my country. It was such a thrill. Then we ended up taking gold, so it was pretty fun,” he says.
After deferring his offer to join the U.S. Under-18 Team in 2005 due to a family situation, Hayes jumped at the opportunity to again join the team for the 2006-07 season. In 56 games he recorded 45 points.
As his second and final season with the U.S. Under-18 Team gets under way, the 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pounder is ready to take his game to the next level. While he is too old to compete in international tournaments with his Under-18 squad, Hayes skated on the U.S. Junior Select Team that competed at the 2007 World Junior A Challenge in November.
Still, while hockey has taken Hayes far from home, he will always be a Boston boy at heart. Each summer, Hayes returns home to Dorchester, Mass., to play in a baseball league with his buddies.
“It’s more fun than anything,” says Hayes of his summertime break from the rink, adding with a laugh that he usually plays first base or pitches, “you know, when the good pitchers get tired.”
Youth Star: Cody Czyzewski
Hometown: Flemington, N.J.
Cody started playing at the age of 3. He is a first-year Bantam playing with the New Jersey Renegades. His coaches Cliff Graziano, Sr., and son, Cliff, Jr., are impressed with Cody’s raw talent and natural skill for the game. Cody is a natural leader and unselfish playmaker who comes up big in the biggest games.