You may have heard that Nic Dowd is a star hockey player for St. Cloud State University, the highly-ranked team that comes to town this weekend. You may have also heard that Dowd is from Huntsville. Dowd, like the Geoffrion brothers before him, attended Culver Military Academy before playing junior hockey. Dowd isn’t alone in Southern players leaving for northern climes to hone their game: notably, Jared Ross moved to Detroit to play for Detroit Catholic Central before coming back to Huntsville to play.
We asked Nic to talk to us about playing hockey in Huntsville, his move to St. Cloud, and what it will mean for him to play in front of friends and family this weekend. My thanks go out to Nic, Tom Nelson at SCSU sports information, and my partner Michael for transcribing the audio.
At his roots, Nic is a Huntsville hockey kid. “I grew up playing in the Huntsville Amateur Hockey Association with the Huntsville Chargers all the way up until my freshman year of high school,” said Dowd, “and then I played AAA hockey for the TPH Thunder in their first year of existence. They’ve been developing kids throughout the Southeast in a great way.”
We asked Dowd what it would take to keep players in the South during their developmental years, and he said that “it’s going to be pretty difficult. There are a lot of advantages to going to prep school. Realistically, I don’t know if there’s a high need for hockey-oriented prep schools in the South.”
But as a good alumnus should, Dowd has a lot of faith in his old organization. “I think the Thunder are doing a great job, and I think the amateur hockey associations in Huntsville have done a great job for providing kids with an opportunity to play. I know that TPH and Alabama-Huntsville join up throughout the year and the summers to produce summer camps to allow kids to play, so I think that’s a great start.”
Did Nic want to play at UAH? “Definitely growing up I wanted to play for Huntsville. That was the goal for a lot of kids growing up and still is in Huntsville.” When asked if he had a favorite Charger, Dowd replied, “One player I watched a lot was Jared Ross. Obviously, he was kind of the stud on Huntsville back in the day. I was pretty fortunate to get to know him personally, and we keep in touch when I come home over the summers. He guided me in the right direction and let me skate with him over the summers and worked out together.”
Dowd is among the many voices in the community that believe that UAH’s presence is vital to the area’s hockey development. “Without the Chargers being there, I’d say a lot of kids would not even realized college hockey existed,” said Dowd. “That was my first exposure to be able to watch great hockey.”
We asked Dowd about how he came to St. Cloud. “In juniors, I only had a couple of schools that were talking to me at the time. Coach [Bob] Motzko came all the way out to Wenatchee, Washington, which was the team I was playing for in the North American League.”
Dowd was clearly impressed with Motzko’s interest. “For a coach to come all the way out there and take time away from his family and his friends and his current hockey team, it meant a lot to me and showed me that he was invested in me as a player. I felt very comfortable investing myself in St. Cloud State.”
If you ask Dowd about St. Cloud’s organization, his pride in it clearly shows through. “I’ve been extremely privileged to be part of this organization and this university,” Dowd said, “starting from our athletics directors, both past and current, all the way down to our coaching staff and the professors here at the university. I could not have asked for a better experience in my four years and wish I could go back and do it all over again and really soak up my freshman year all the way up to my senior year.
UAH visited St. Cloud in 2012-13, games that the Huskies won in an 8-3, 4-0 series where Dowd scored the first goal in each game. When asked about the experience, Dowd termed it “interesting”, but he’s clearly looking forward to playing at the VBC. “To play down there is going to be a lot different than playing up here,” Dowd said. “I’m not playing kids who are from Huntsville — they’re from all over the country and the world.”
Dowd is clear on who he represents. “As a visiting team, I look at St. Cloud State as the university I represent,” Dowd said, “and it’s my team. Although Alabama-Huntsville was my team growing up, St. Cloud State is going to be my alma mater when I graduate.
Dowd is ready for tomorrow night. “It’s really come full circle to be able to play at a great university and represent St. Cloud and to be able to play my hometown university is definitely something special.”