His father grew up in Pennsylvania, but didn’t start playing hockey until he was in his twenties.
Drew himself is born and raised in Arizona; he’s not a displaced northerner, and he doesn’t have a family with a storied tradition of getting their first stick before they can walk.
Drew developed his love for the game, instead, from a dad playing rec league and a new team in the desert; the Scottsdale, Arizona native still remembers seeing his first Coyotes games live when he was just five or six.
“I remember being like five or six and being able to watch Coyotes games. That’s how I fell in love with the sport – watching good hockey. There’s a big difference between watching on TV and watching in person; it’ll draw more kids to see where they could be in 15, 20 years instead of thinking of it as maybe a fantasy world.”
He worked his way up through the Arizona youth programs – first playing Bantam AAA with the Firebirds, then heading to the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes to play both U16 AAA and U18 AAA as a part of the program’s tier I elite rosters – before playing for the USHL’s Indiana Ice.
Although playing USHL outside of the desert was always the dream, the blue liner didn’t downplay the rapid development of Arizona’s own programs. Youth hockey has become totally different, just in the handful of years from when Newmeyer started to play to now.
As a product of Arizona’s youth hockey system, Newmeyer – who became a part of ASU’s first Division I NCAA hockey program in the 2015-16 season – has watched as the environment surrounding the game has grown from year to year.
In his opinion, seeing the team go NCAA DI will only help that.
“My decision making process to play at ASU was a little unique,” he said. “I still had two years of junior eligibility where I could have played, but I was ready to go to school.”
To him, ASU was the best of both worlds, with a great hockey program – then club, but already a club program that had rumors circulating about the feasibility of it going NCAA – and good academics. After a few years of living with a billet family in Indiana, he wanted to head back home and play hockey.
So he did, and now he’s a part of history.
For those already in the hockey community, Newmeyer said that ASU’s reputation as a strong club program was already known. Now, even those on the outside looking in are learning that there’s a culture to hockey in the desert.
“We always had a pretty strong fan base for a club team, but more and more students came out to games with more marketing – which was really cool.”
Newmeyer said that the marketing of the DI program helped those outside of the hockey community learn about the program, which will only make it bigger.
The jump wasn’t easy, of course. The players who stuck around from the ASU ACHA program, Newmeyer included, saw a drastic change from the club level – even as one of the most competitive clubs in recent years – to the NCAA level.
“Club hockey is… club hockey,” laughed Newmeyer.
“Once you make that jump, everything is under a microscope – even everything you do away from the rink. You go from maybe an hour, an hour and a half of hockey at practice to four or five hours a day of doing hockey stuff, on top of school – which is a big change.”
There’s a change in competition, too. In club hockey, the top five or six programs are very good – but then there’s a drop-off. In the NCAA, that’s not the case; ASU no longer had any easy games.
It’s all about growing the game, though.
First, Henrik Samuelsson went in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft as a former youth hockey player from Arizona. Now, Auston Matthews – who, unlike Samuelsson and more like Newmeyer, doesn’t come from a hockey family – is expected to go first overall in the draft this summer in Buffalo. Lyndsey Fry won a silver medal with the US Women’s Olympic team as an Arizona native; now, Chandler local Kaliya Johnson is making history as an undrafted player signed by the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale, the first women’s paid pro hockey league in the United States.
To Newmeyer, we’ll see more of that with the draw of ASU hockey.
The location is unique for NCAA hockey; few other college hockey programs offer players sunny weather and mild winter temperatures along with a Division I program.
“The opportunity that ASU offers to student athletes – especially in a sport like hockey – there’s no other program in the country that offers this kind of experience. That’s a huge advantage; players want to come here.”
With an amalgamation of ACHA players and incoming NCAA players from other programs and juniors, fans may expect that most of ASU’s players last year were local talents. There was a healthy mix of skaters from across North America, though, and the players from up north were as grateful for the program as guys like Newmeyer.
There’s an NHL team in the city with a great arena (and potentially a new one in the future), an AHL team coming in just an hour down the road, and kids with a tangible dream to play for their hometown university in the future.
“ASU, our program… the sky’s the limit,” said Newmeyer.
“Coach Powers says it all the time: we’re gonna be good. There’s no way around it.”
“Over the next few years, if you keep watching… I think you’re going to see something really great here. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Newmeyer is a local boy living the dream – and that’s playing DI college hockey in the desert. That, in itself, is pretty great already.