Interview with a champion

While this is certainly a Seattle Thunderbirds-focused blog, we also want to highlight talented players from around the area who play the game. Noah Henry, a 20-year old defenseman who just finished a very successful freshman season with Union College in Schenectady, New York, is one of those players. Henry was part of the Dutchmen hockey team that won its first NCAA championship. In fact, it was the school’s first national title in any sport.

We talked to him this past weekend about growing up in Seattle, playing hockey, and what it’s like to win at a small school.

TT: Growing up in Seattle, was hockey your first choice as far as sports? Was your family into hockey?

NH: I actually didn’t start playing hockey until about age nine. My parents were into hockey and they tried to get me to play when I was like 4 or 5, but I quit because I didn’t like it. Then one day I just decided I wanted to try it again and I never stopped. I played for SJHA (Seattle Junior Hockey Association) in Lynnwood (Wash.) up until Bantams.

[Shattuck St. Mary’s (SSM) is a boarding school in Faribault, Minnesota and has a nationally recognized hockey program. The list of NHL players who have attended SSM is impressive. It includes Sidney Crosby, Jack Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews and many more. Henry attended from 2009-12.]

TT: When and how did you decide that you wanted to go to Shattuck St. Mary’s in order to further your career? Was that decision difficult for you and/or your family?

NH: I had heard that a local Seattle player that was a few years older than me had left to play prep school hockey. As I started to get older I realized that if I really wanted to pursue a career in hockey, leaving Seattle might be my best option. It was a bit difficult at first because I was only 13, but my whole family fell in love with the school right away. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

[After three years at SSM, Henry moved on to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees for the 2012-13 season. One of his teammates at SSM, Zach Stepan, committed to the Vees at the same time. During that season, Henry also played for the Powell River Kings of the BCHL.]

TT: Was the decision to go to the Vees easier with one of your teammates going with you? How did you feel about the BCHL experience?

NH: It definitely helped going through that whole process with another teammate. I am also very good friends with Mikey Reilly and he played there the season before, so I think that helped as well. Playing in the BCHL was a great experience for me. I played for two great organizations (Penticton and Powell River) and I had unbelievable billet parents in both towns.

[Up until a couple of years ago, no one thought of Union as a premier hockey college. The Dutchmen didn’t join the NCAA’s top hockey division until 1991 as members of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) and it was another 20 years before they won their first ECAC regular season title. Since that 2011 season, though, Union has won two more regular season titles and three ECAC tournament titles. After the 2012 season, Union made an unexpected appearance in the Frozen Four, their first time in the college hockey equivalent of basketball’s Final Four.]

TT: After playing in the BCHL in Penticton and Powell River, you decided to go to Union to continue playing. What factors went into deciding on Union? Was their surprising run to the Frozen Four in 11-12 part of your decision?

NH: I honestly didn’t know a whole lot about Union until that first Frozen Four appearance, but the success they were having definitely caught my eye and they were a fun team to watch. I think the coaching staff was a huge part of my decision. They have helped develop some great players over the years, especially defensemen like Mat Bodie and Shayne Gostisbehere.

TT: What’s it like playing at a small school with a good run of recent success?

NH: Playing at a school like Union is such a cool experience. I think being at a small school like this makes it so much more special when you get the opportunity to win a championship. Just seeing how many people in Schenectady showed up to our parade and how proud of us everyone was had to be the best part of it all.

TT You went to Shattuck St. Mary’s with Miles Koules (a forward for the Medicine Hat Tigers), who has taken a bit of a different path since then. Have you two compared experiences with him taking the US Development Program/WHL route and you the BCHL/NCAA route?

NH: Miles and I are still great friends to this day and we both are constantly checking up on each other. When we were younger we both had dreams of playing college hockey, but obviously things change and we ended up taking different routes. I know he’s very happy with his decision to go to the WHL and its fun to see him having success in his career.

TT: For those who haven’t seen you play, is there an NHL player whose style you think is similar to yours?

NH: I don’t usually like to compare myself to other players, but I just try to be the best two-way defenseman that I can be. I think this year was huge for the defensive aspect of my game. The coaching staff stresses every little detail and we pride ourselves on being a very strong defensive team.

TT: Growing up in Seattle, were you a fan of either of the WHL teams (the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips) in the area?

NH: I was a fan of both Seattle and Everett growing up. I loved going to both teams games, but I probably went to more Silvertips games because we used to sell raffle tickets there for our minor hockey team.

TT: Finally, there has been a lot of talk about an NHL team in Seattle. Do you have a favorite NHL team? Would it be fulfilling a dream to be able to play in an NHL game in your hometown?

NH: I have never really had a favorite NHL team, I guess I’ve just been waiting for Seattle to get one. If I ever had the chance to play professionally in Seattle that would definitely be a dream come true.

Noah Henry’s hockey future is bright and we look forward to following his career.