Hobey Baker Award winner skates at Dobson
VAIL – There have not exactly been your average summer-skating sessions this week at Dobson Arena.
Then again, Hobey Baker winner Peter Sejna and some of his Colorado College teammates, who have been drafted by NHL teams, don’t drop by the local sheet everyday.
This week, ending today with sessions at 9 a.m. and 1:45 p.m., the Tigers alums, local hockey players and Vail Junior Hockey director Jade Kersey have been lacing them up to prepare for their respective seasons.
For the NHL draftees, it’s an opportunity to get in some high-altitude training in anticipation of training camp, which opens next month. And, for the locals, it’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to train with some of the up-and-coming stars of the sport.
On hand from Colorado Colorado College were Noah Clark (bound for the Los Angeles Kings), Tom Priessing (San Jose Sharks), Curtis McElhinney (Calgary Flames, Mark Stuart (Boston Bruins) and, of course, Sejna.
“They’re here picking up the tempo and we’re very thankful to have them here to work with us,” Kersey said. “To bring something like this is a big deal, especially for some local prospects like J.P. Testwuide and Michael Testwuide and even some of our younger players.”
VHJA alum Schuyler Hoversten was between the pipes while current Vail players Alex Biegler, Howdy Tuthill and Casey Keisinger all saw ice time.
“It’s fun, but they’re pretty good,” said an understandably-winded Biegler after Thursday’s afternoon’s skate. “But. it just makes me better. playing with better players. You just learn from them, watching how they play. It’s a lot faster. You just try to keep your head up.”
That’s generally a good idea when Sejna’s on the ice. In three seasons at CC, he racked up 91 goals and 99 assists. Last year, the left winger from Slovakia piled up a whopping 82 points in 42 games, earning him the Hobey Baker, college hockey’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
“It’s kind of a nice satisfaction after the season, but not too big of a deal. I played the season to try to win a national championship,” Sejna said. “We were doing pretty well as a team and almost got to the Frozen Four, but just ended up short – again, three years in a row. The Hobey Baker, it was nice to get it for the school and for the program.”
After the 2002-03 college season, Sejna signed with the St. Louis Blues and got a chance to suit up for the regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche. It was a memorable game for Sejna. He scored his first NHL goal off some guy named Patrick Roy.
“It was a great feeling, playing there with those guys (Pavol) Demitra, (Keith) Tkachuk and (Chris) Pronger and Dougie Weight and those guys,” Sejna said. “It was was kind of overwhelming for the day. It happened pretty quick. I really didn’t realize until a couple of days after what really happened. It was a great experience.”
The puck is stowed safely in his home in his native Slovakia. In the meantime, Sejna is getting ready to report to Rookies Camp in Detroit on Sept. 3, followed by Blues in St. Louis on Sept. 12.
Sejna will be competing for a job with the big club, a difficult task, given how deep the Blues are at forward. If he doesn’t make the team, he’ll likely be sent to the Worcester (Mass.) IceCats of the American Hockey League.
“All I’m worrying about right now is being 100 percent ready for camp and everything else just falls (into place),” Sejna said. “I’m not assuming they’re going to give me a spot on the NHL club or they’re going to send me down. I have to make sure I’m a 100 percent ready.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext 614 or via firstname.lastname@example.org