USA Hockey Magazine

November 2015

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NOVEMBER. 2015 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM PHOTOS COURTESY OF NASA; Don Egdorf T he fact that Michael Hopkins didn't grow up a hockey play- er should not come as a big surprise. The rural Missouri town he called home might as well have been a million miles away from the nearest rink. Football was the sport of choice in the small town of Richland, and he thrived at it, earning a scholarship to play defensive back at the University of Illinois. But the path he took in his post-collegiate career — joining the Air Force, becoming a test pilot engineer and ultimately serving as a Space Shuttle astronaut — would eventu- ally lead him to the game he never dreamed of playing and now can't imagine giving up. "I was in my early 30s and stationed in Cold Lake, Alberta as part of an officer exchange program and I started playing hockey because they had adult leagues there," said Hopkins, an Air Force colonel who now lives in Houston. "I absolutely loved it." Of course, it took time to develop the skills necessary to be a decent player on the ice. "I had a lot of trouble staying up and ran into the [boards] a lot. It took a lot of falling before I got the hang of it," he admitted. "I worked out a lot on my own and eventu- ally worked my way up to the higher-level adult league." His interest never faded, especially when his sons started playing a decade ago at the ages of 4 and 6. He became a registered hock- ey coach in Houston and has been involved with his sons' hockey teams at the various levels ever since. "I spent a lot of time on the ice with them and have been on the bench as a coach for their youth teams," Hopkins said. "But I found as they have gotten older, they have gotten beyond my skill set. I can't teach them about the game the way I could when they were younger." The demands of his career with NASA also made it difficult to stay involved. Hopkins spent two years training for a six- Space Shuttle Astronaut's Passion For The Game Is Over The Moon // By BRIAN LESTER Outta THIS WORLD 26

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