AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Brady Tomlak has deep hockey roots. His dad played in the NHL, his grandfather and uncles played in college, and he is a senior for the Air Force Academy Division I program.
He even attended perhaps the most memorable outdoor game the NHL has staged.
But he can't imagine just how spectacular the 2020 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings at Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; NBC, SN360, TVAS2, AFN|sports2) will be.
Not only will he be in the stands for the NHL game, he will be on the ice two days later when Air Force plays its city rival Colorado College in the back half of a home-and-home series.
"I think it's going to be incredible," Tomlak said. "I mean, it's an awesome touch on my senior season and my career here to be able to go out there in front of an awesome crowd and in a big-time game and play outside in the football stadium. That will be pretty sweet."
He thought sitting in a crowd of over 105,000 fans during a driving snowstorm for the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was the greatest hockey moment he might experience, a game he said that is "something I will never forget."
But this weekend will be a high point of a hockey journey for the Tomlak family, a journey that has stretched across several generations and visited many exotic -- and some not so exotic -- locations.
Brady's grandfather played at Michigan State University. A pair of uncles played at Dartmouth College. His father, Mike, played 141 games for the Hartford Whalers from 1990-1994. He also played in the International Hockey League and American Hockey League before finishing his career with one season in the Slovenia pro league with Olimpija Ljubjana in 1998-99.
"By the time I was walking, I was basically on skates and it's always been a big part of my family life," Brady said.
It is a bit surprising where hockey has taken him and the route he traveled to this point, months away from being commissioned as an Air Force officer.
Brady played hockey in and around his home in Oakland, Michigan, including stints with Compuware and Victory Honda programs until he graduated high school. He secured a spot with Springfield in the North American Hockey League. While playing at a NAHL Showcase tournament in Minnesota, he caught the eye of the Air Force Academy.
"I didn't know they had hockey program," Brady said. "Not coming from military background, I didn't really know what to expect, but just the opportunities that are available here and kind of how it sets you up for not only your athletic life, but you know post-athletics and as you transition to the working world. It's pretty cool the opportunities you are able to get here."
Brady has taken full advantage of the opportunities. He has played four seasons of Division 1 hockey, trained to become a pilot -- which is one of his post-graduation goals -- and made the Dean's List while pursuing his management major. He has gone to survival school and worked an internship with a start-up company in Austin, Texas.
That said, it was not an easy decision when it was made.
"When you first hear it, it's like, what's going on here," said Mike, who grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario in Canada and settled in Michigan after his hockey career ended. "But the coach that was recruiting him flew in to talk to my wife and I, as they do with every recruit, because they know you're going to have a lot of questions as far as the military.
"You know, when it came down to it, there was you know, there's only [so many] Division I hockey teams or whatever, and Colorado Springs is a great spot. When Brady looked at all the options as far as education and hockey and being able to be part of the military, he said, 'You know, I have to go this route.' If you're interested in [the military], it's kind of hard to beat what they offer."