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Meet Nic - Rookie Dowd Adjusting to Life in LA

26-year-old has made big impact on the ice, but the journey to the NHL has been anything but ordinary for the Alabama-born center

by Deborah Lew @by_DeborahLew /

Two-thousand miles away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, and his future National Hockey League home, Nic Dowd was born and raised in the town of Huntsville, Alabama.

The 26-year-old, who is embarking on his first full season in the NHL with the LA Kings, was born the youngest of three boys to parents Alan and Liz, who immigrated to the United States from England. He began skating around the age of two and started playing hockey just a couple years later. In the backyard with mini sticks, his older brothers, Matt and Josh, along with his dad playing goalie, is how Dowd remembers his first hockey-playing days.

Although he admits to not having a hockey idol or a favorite team to cheer for as a kid, he did watch the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, and the family would attend a couple of Nashville Predators games each year just because of their proximity.

Dowd played travel hockey with the Huntsville Amateur Hockey Association, where he was able to stay all the way up until the midget level. Dowd made the roster for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League just after high school, and played with the club for about one month of their preseason, which included a couple of games, before he was cut.

"It was a big deal at the time because, after high school, everyone that I knew went on to play in the USHL. I was one of the few guys who got cut. I headed down to St. Louis of the North American Hockey League and got traded from there," shares the 6-foot 2-inch center. "It was a pretty low point in my career and I almost thought about quitting just because at that time as a young kid it was easy to have a negative attitude on it."

After playing only three games with the St. Louis Bandits, Dowd was traded to the Wenatchee Wild in Washington State - a move that he refers to as a blessing.

"It ended up being a great fit, I had a great billet family, and I ended up having a successful season," Dowd remembers.

The motivating force behind Dowd's decision to stick with hockey was the people who surrounded him.

"I think it was being around successful people and people that wanted me to be successful. My billet family was awesome, my parents were great, and right away I was able to fit in instantly with the group of guys and the coaching staff, and they pushed me in the right direction," says Dowd, who still keeps in touch with those influential people.

After his season in Wenatchee, Dowd made it back to the USHL, where he spent one season with the Indiana Ice before going on to play four years at St. Cloud State in Minnesota.

During his senior year at St. Cloud, Dowd was selected to the inaugural All-NCHC (National Collegiate Hockey Conference) First Team, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top NCAA men's ice hockey player of the year.

It was at St. Cloud where Dowd met his fiancé, Paige, through a mutual friend. The two are set to marry this August in Minneapolis, Paige's hometown, where the couple spends most of their summers.

Currently, Dowd and Arlo, his 1 ½ year-old Golden Retriever, live in Hermosa Beach with Kings defenseman, Derek Forbort.

Dowd knew very little about Los Angeles prior to playing with the Kings, but has plenty to explore during his down time. Last month, he and teammates Tom Gilbert and Devin Setoguchi, along with their significant others, tried their luck at a local escape room.

When he's not busy solving puzzles to escape man-made mazes, Dowd settles in with a good television series. His current watch list includes "Westworld," "Billions," "Shameless," and "Narcos." He also enjoys country music - Thomas Rhett is a favorite - as well as Tom Petty, Imagine Dragons, and Coldplay, whom he will see in concert for the first time this summer. Dowd claims the best concert he's been to was a collection of country artists, including Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line, among others, at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

Dowd has come a long way, not only from his hometown - which he visits for a week every summer - but also from the time he was first cut from the USHL. It's safe to say at this point that Dowd's motto of "no matter what happens, just keep going" has paid off, and from his own experience, he has some pretty sound advice to give to anyone in a situation similar to his.

"Doesn't matter where you come from or how long it takes you to get there, if you work hard enough and you're good enough to get there, they'll find you," Dowd shares.

The LA Kings found Dowd, and he was selected in the seventh round, 198th overall, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Now, even as a 26-year-old rookie, Dowd is relishing in his role with the Kings and learning about professional hockey from the best.

"I get to sit by [Jeff Carter] every day - not that I say a whole lot to him, but I listen to him," says Dowd about his teammate who will play in the All-Star Game for the second time of his career later this month. "There are so many older guys in here with so much experience."

With any luck, he'll be able to put himself in that category sooner rather than later.

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