Dallas Ice Jets defenseman Bryan Siersma has one goal for the upcoming 2013-2014 season: to win the Thorne Cup.
"Everyone wants to win it," says Siersma. "Winning it, and hopefully going for a national championship after that."
Siersma has come close the past two seasons and this year hopes to go all the way.
It has been a long journey for the 20-year-old Huntsville, Alabama, native who prides himself on good skating and solid defense.
Siersma first started playing hockey at the young age of three after going to a local hockey game with his parents to cheer on a family friend. It was seeing the mites skating during intermission that caught his attention. His parents later signed him up to start playing, and he's been playing every since.
With all the positions to choose from Siersma says he was lumped into playing defense.
"I never really wanted to play goalie," he says. "I just never really left the defensive zone."
Former Ice Jets assistant coach Tom Kelly is a big part of why Siersma decided to play in Dallas. Siersma says Kelly had his eye on him from the start at a player development tryout, and was very adamant about getting Siersma to come play.
"He was really the main reason I came here," Siersma says. "He made it very clear the way they develop players and how many players go on from this program, and that was very important to me."
After a chat with Kelly, Siersma's apprehensive parents decided to let him move to Dallas to play for the Ice Jets U18 AAA team. He had just spent two years driving to Nashville for U16 two to three times a week, so a move was inevitable for the teen defenseman.
"My parents realized I was going to have to move somewhere, because there was no place to play in Huntsville," Siersma recalls. "They never held me back. They just knew it had to happen."
"One big family"
Siersma says his favorite thing about the Ice Jets program is the leadership of head coach Paul Taylor.
"PT is one of the best coaches I've ever had, if not the best," Siersma says, noting Taylor's intense coaching style and his advanced knowledge of the sport.
"He's in your face, he's intense, you know what you're going to get. He doesn't appreciate losing; he doesn't expect you to lose," Siersma says. "In games, he'll make adjustments to help everybody out. If you're not playing well, you're going to sit. And there's really nothing you can do about it, you just have to show up to play and give your best. That's all he asks for."
The Junior team practices five days a week, for four hours a day, and has games, usually in a three-game series, on weekends. There is not much downtime for the players, but Siersma says he would not have it any other way.
"It's one big family," he says, "You care about them because they are your teammates, but at the same time you're all there for the same reasons. You learn to set aside differences for the good of your team."
Siersma says he enjoys playing on the road most, especially at the Sierra Providence Events Center against the El Paso Rhinos.
"It's just a good rivalry. Good hockey. They know what we have and we know what they have. And we know how to beat them and they know how to beat us," Siersma says. "You never know what can happen. It can go either way, and it's just a good environment with the fans."
"The best decision"
During his last two seasons with the Ice Jets, Siersma has played 52 regular season games and picked up 20 points, in addition to his 12 playoff games and 3 points. "I'm not really an offensive guy so I don't really think about how many goals or assists," Siersma says. "It will come if it comes, if it doesn't oh well. I'm going to just block shots, kill penalties, and get the puck in the forwards' hands and let them do what they do best."
When Siersma reflects on the program, what he says he will take away most is the overall teamwork aspect.
"It's about working together with others, especially when you're all in the same place for the same reason. Overcoming adversity and just giving it everything you have and knowing that no matter what happens, it will all work out somehow."
With his final year approaching Siersma looks at his hockey career with realistic aspirations.
"I just want to play in college. When I started out I wanted to be a professional hockey player. But you have to realize that's not as easy as everybody makes it out to be."
He hopes to be accepted at a school that allows him to play hockey while working toward an engineering degree.
No matter where college bond Siersma ends up he will always remember his time playing Juniors as a good decision for him. If there were one piece of advice the defenseman could give to a future Junior hockey player, it would be to find a coach who focuses on player development.
"Go somewhere you know you're going to get better. Don't just go somewhere because of what they have done in the past. Go somewhere that will be the best for you."
Advice Siersma will consider himself as he takes his next step to a future that has been made brighter just by doing what he loves.
Photo by Mark Mauno.
Njeri Sims is a video editor, writer, and fashion designer living in Dallas.
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