For Erie native Hays, first-year NA3HL Tradesmen proving to be perfect fit for final junior season
Devin Hays started the 2020-21 playing for the same NA3HL team he did last season, the Rochester Grizzlies, and was traded to the Oregon Tradesmen about a month into the new season.
The fresh start in Wisconsin has done wonders for the 2000-born Erie native.
“The team atmosphere in Oregon is tremendous, as well as the work ethic,” Hays said. “As a team, we’ve been fairly successful thus far this season. There is always room for improvement, and I am excited to see where our team improves in the coming months. On a more personal level, the opportunities in Oregon are great. The Tradesmen organization promotes all kinds of extra ice and gym time.”
Hays added that he was drawn to Oregon even before the early-season move.
“The team appealed to me for several reasons before my trade,” said Hays. “Among these, being that it is a first-year program, it is fulfilling to be one of the many men of this class building the future and traditions of this organization. The team can also skate with any team in the league, which is another huge factor that makes the Tradesmen appealing. I was beyond excited to leave home this fall to play junior hockey. I feel lucky every day I’m allowed to as it is my last season of eligibility.”
Going to the Tradesmen didn’t mean that he was going in with no connections on the team, though.
“I had known two of the players on the Tradesmen prior to joining the team, both of whom I went to high school with my junior and senior year, as well as playing lacrosse with them,” Hays said. “Although I knew a couple of players, I still saw the move to Oregon as a fresh start. So far, it has been great for me in both character and player development.”
As is sometimes the case with hockey players, the game of hockey wasn’t Hays’ first foray onto the ice.
“I started playing hockey at a very young age, but I first started in figure skating lessons and then transitioned into youth hockey,” explained Hays. “I started playing hockey because I was fortunate enough to have Avalanche season ticket holders as parents. Even though they had never played, as my love for the game grew, so did their support in helping me pursue it.”
In Colorado, Hays played for the Hyland Hills Jaguars for seven seasons, then four more for the Boulder Hockey Club before then playing his 15U and 16U AAA seasons for the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders and 18U AAA in Michigan for the Meijer Hockey Club. He also saw action in two NAHL games a season ago for the Chippewa Steel.
“I have been blessed with several great coaches in my development as a player, with several standing out,” Hays said. “As a young player, Doug Smail helped me build great foundations in my skating ability. Along with Smail, Boyd and Brian Sutton also had huge influences in my development as a player. After my transition to Boulder, Brent Cullaton helped inspire my development on and away from the ice. Another Boulder coach who ended up being my 15U RoughRiders coach, Jamie O’Leary, was instrumental in helping me pursue elite hockey.”
As the first half of the NA3HL season nears completion, Hays has begun to look ahead, both on and off the ice.
“Short- and long-term goals are essential for the development of anything,” said Hays. “My short-term goals with the Oregon Tradesmen are broken into two with team and personal goals. My team goals are to win a title and help create a team with a strong identity moving forward. As for personal goals, I want to continue to develop and earn a college commitment. After this season, I aim to play college hockey and study sports management and business.
“My long-term goal is to continue my involvement with the sport, as well as opening and managing my own facility and program.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Dec. 11, 2020)