IHOC : Freshman Hirsch shares bond with father through hockey

first_imgIn the driveway of his Minnesota home, Tom Hirsch fired one-time passes to his daughter. Casey Hirsch learned to ‘shoot on the fly’ by slamming those 10-mph passes into the back of the net.‘In the driveway we had a shooting tarp, and he would make me shoot pucks,’ Casey, a freshman forward for Syracuse, said. ‘And he would be like, ‘No, snap your wrists more.”Casey attributes much of her current success to her father. Tom played collegiate hockey at Minnesota before he was selected to play for the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars in the second round of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft. Tom’s professional experiences helped Casey learn the fundamentals and nuances of hockey and also strengthened the father-daughter relationship between them. Her current position as a Syracuse forward is a direct result of her father’s attention to detail on the ice.While starring for Minnesota, Tom’s progression was closely monitored by scouts, who liked how he combined an offensive touch with his big, rugged frame of 6 feet 4 inches and 210 pounds. After finishing school, Tom joined Team USA and played with the national team for the entire 1983-84 season. Because of his temporary absence from the NHL, anticipation began building for his rookie season with the North Stars.But persistent shoulder injuries sidelined him for two NHL seasons. After Tom dislocated his arm several times, doctors gave him the choice of playing hockey again, but warned that his arm could become limp if another injury occurred, Casey said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThough Casey and her older brother weren’t born yet, Tom was conscious of his future. He wanted to be able to play hockey and toss the ball around the backyard with his kids.Facing loss of function in his shoulder, Tom decided to walk away from the game of hockey, retiring at age 25.‘I could tell it was a tough decision for him,’ Casey said. ‘And when he tells the story at home, it’s sad.’His retirement in 1988 offered a renaissance of sorts. When his two children were born in the early 1990s, they cultivated a similar passion and love for hockey.Tom said he benefited as a player from having a list of impressive coaches to look up to — former Team USA coaches Herb Brooks and Bob Johnson — and wanted to give Casey that same advantage.‘These people have given me a real good background in hockey and taught me the game so well that it is able to rub off (on Casey),’ Tom said. ‘I’ve learned all those lessons and passed it on to the next generation.’Tom became the youth hockey coach and administrator in the Osseo Maple Grove Hockey Association in Maple Grove, Minn. Casey wanted her father to be her coach, so she played on the boys team he taught.Casey originally played as a defender, partially because her father was a former NHL defenseman who knew the tricks of the trade. Casey said her father was very helpful in teaching her that aspect of the game, from the advantages of cycling in the corners to the precision of angling passes and the importance of using her physical strength.SU head coach Paul Flanagan said he and his coaching staff noticed Casey’s strength and athleticism right away they recruited her.‘I liked the way she was a strong, physical skater and offensively had a real good reach. You look at those things when you’re recruiting because those are things you really can’t teach,’ Flanagan said. ‘She’s open about learning and getting better, and that’s a skill in itself.’Casey also picked up on Tom’s offensive flair — thanks to plenty of Sunday practice sessions — and incorporated it into her game when she played the forward position in high school. During her senior season at Maple Grove, Casey served as team captain and broke out as the team’s star player, tallying 30 goals and 20 assists.Being a girl, Casey was naturally very close with her mother. But playing hockey strengthened the bond she shared with her father.‘Hockey really connects my dad and I. If I have a good game, you can tell how proud he is,’ Casey said. ‘It leads us to talk way more.’Now a freshman at SU, Casey is far away from where she first learned the game under her father’s tutelage. But the No. 22 she sports is a symbol of her roots, the same number Tom wore during his professional career.‘Ever since I was little, my dad would stand behind the net on the opposing end,’ Casey said. ‘Whenever we had a face-off, he would give me a little smirk or smile.‘It’s hard not having him here, it really is, but it means so much more now.’[email protected] Published on November 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img