Whitehorse’s Adam Henderson has learned a lot at university, and not just in the classroom.
On a full, four-year scholarship for hockey at Michigan State University, Henderson has had to figure out the transition to major university team play from the junior A ranks.
“It was up and down,” said the left-winger on the Michigan State Spartans.
“It’s tough being a freshman, but I definitely improved a lot of things for the following year and I hope I’ll do better next year.
“I’ve learned a lot of little things on the ice. The higher level you play at, the more the little things will cost you if you don’t do them right. Like chipping pucks out, keeping pucks in—just making the right play and not turning the puck over.”
Playing alongside five hotshots picked up in the NHL draft, the level of play was not the only element of university hockey to get used to.
Henderson had to get accustomed to the attention paid to hockey and other sports at the large school.
“It’s been unreal,” said Henderson. “The university here has more people than all the Yukon territory … The big-time atmosphere down here, playing in front of thousands of people—it’s pretty surreal.
“You can’t top that.”
Henderson played hockey in Whitehorse from novice to bantam on various rep and house league teams, including a year on the Whitehorse Bantam Mustangs.
“I got cut my peewee year,” said Henderson with a chuckle.
At 15, Henderson moved to Fort Saint John to play midget AAA for two years before playing in junior A in Alberta for another two years on the Spruce Grove Saints, where he was recruited by Michigan.
The Spartans’ season ended two weeks ago after being eliminated by the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the first round of the playoffs.
“There’s, like, five Michigan teams,” said Henderson. “It’s confusing.
“We lost in two, so it kind of sucked.”
It was a tough year for the Spartans—some players were injured, others graduated.
“It was sort of a rebuilding year for the organization,” said Henderson. “They’ve lost a lot of key guys in the last couple of years.
“We got the injury bug pretty bad this year. I hurt my shoulder at the end of the season, so I was out for a bit.”
Of the many games he’s played this season, Henderson has the fondest memories of the ones against the Spartans’ archrival, the University of Michigan Wolverines.
“One point in the game, you couldn’t even talk to the guy next to you on the bench because it was so loud,” said Henderson. “Packed stands—it doesn’t get much better than that.”
The Spartans faced off against the Wolverines six times this season, but failed to take a win against them.
However, Henderson did score a goal in a close 4-3 loss against the rivals in January.
“It was the closest game we had against them all year,” said Henderson. “The offense wasn’t the best attribute to the team this year.”
Henderson hasn’t pinned down what he’s going to study at the university, but he’s toying with the idea of business.
“I’m not really sure what I want to take,” said the undeclared freshman. “Most likely I’ll try to get into business because they have a really good business program here.
“Hopefully I’ll do well enough next year to get into that.
“It was a pretty tough year. I’m doing pretty well academically—school first kind of thing—but hockey’s tough. It’s definitely a jump from junior (hockey). I’m playing against older, bigger and faster guys.”
As a member of the school’s hockey team, Henderson gets free tickets to other sports events at the school.
Just like with hockey, he’s blown away by the support given to sports by his school’s students.
“Michigan State is in the Sweet 16 right now (in the NCAA basketball championships) and it’s crazy around here right now,” said Henderson.
“Football games are also really crazy around here—the stadium fits, like, 75,000 people … It’s a pretty big athletic school.
“It’s a lot different here (than in the Yukon). The fans love their school—there’s a lot of school spirit. At the games there’s a student band playing and I’ve never really seen that growing up in Canada. They take their college sports very seriously.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com