Hockey brings Hart big opportunities: Junior talks playing in Russia and creating lifelong friendships

Nick Hart competes in ACHA Hockey Tournament in Barnaul, Russia.

Megan Julian, Sports Editor

At the age of three, he started rollerblading out in Torrance, California. At 5 years old, he moved to Grafton, Massachusetts, where he began ice skating and playing hockey. 

Junior Nicholas Hart competes on the RWU Men’s Ice Hockey team. He has been playing hockey for as long as he can remember.

“My dad was the one who got me into hockey. He and his brothers played their entire lives. So, it was only fate for me to become interested,” Hart said.

Hart has been playing on the RWU team since freshman year. The team is usually on the ice at least five days a week. 

“We are off on Mondays. We practice from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” Hart said. “We typically have two games a weekend, usually on Fridays and Saturdays.” 

The hockey players have a long season, beginning right after Labor Day in September and continuing until the end of February. Depending on whether the team makes playoffs or not, the season could go into the beginning of March. 

The team competes in Men’s Division Two of the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA).

Hart said he came to RWU because it offered the level of hockey he wanted to play and it was the only school that offered both of his majors for credit. He is a computer science and cyber security and networking double major. 

“It was everything I wanted in a school and it’s beautiful,” Hart said.

Another amazing opportunity Hart received was being able to play hockey in Russia for 10 days. 

Hart was the only hockey player in attendance from RWU. The ACHA invited him to participate in the tournament, which took place in Barnaul, Russia. 22 players from all over the country were asked to play on this team. They competed in five games and their record ended 2-3. 

“I am glad to be back in America, but it was a trip of a lifetime,” Hart said.

Hart noticed a difference between how hockey is played in the U.S. and how it is played in Russia.

“The rinks are bigger there, so they played faster skill-based games,” Hart said. “It was a lot less physical play because you have a lot more room to skate.”  

Hart also described playing against the Russian teams as more of possession game, since they skated side to side on the rink rather than up and down. 

“It was so cool playing out there, but it was hard to get used to,” Hart said.

He said the team was treated as if they were famous when they walked about Barnaul. People wanted their pictures and autographs.

“[In] Barnaul, Russia, they don’t see Americans very often. It isn’t much of a tourist town,” Hart said. “In our first game we played, over 5,000 fans showed up to watch. We were playing in a huge stadium against their hometown team. Every seat was full.”

The games were streamed live on YouTube, so Hart’s family was able to watch him compete. 

During Hart’s last few years with the RWU Hockey Team, he has had a lot of great opportunities, such as meeting new people and creating what he believes are lifelong friendships. He believes this is the best part about hockey. 

“You can go all around the world playing the sport and making new friends,” Hart said. “When my uncle first moved to California, he knew nobody. He ended up joining the local hockey league and automatically made 30 friends.” 

Hart has made 22 new friends from playing on the national team. He also said he met some pretty cool people in Russia, but nothing will top the friendships he has with his teammates here at RWU. 

“You meet so many people playing the sport and everyone gets along very well, especially on this hockey team,” Hart said. “I know that these guys will be my lifelong friends forever. We are a family.”