There's a lot of work involved in creating a life in hockey and getting a chance to pursue a career with the Ottawa Senators should not be considered an easy feat. Sens prospect Shane Prince credits his success to his family for setting him on the right path.
“I'm thankful my dad put me on skates,” said Prince. “I remember skating around on the ice with him trying to learn.”
When Prince turned 12 years old, he was faced with a choice between hockey and soccer as he reached a high level in both but only could continue in one. To him, the decision was an easy one to make.
While growing up in Spencerport, NY., Prince's time in minor hockey included some long days. After school, he and his father would drive the almost 200-mile round-trip to Syracuse to practice with the city's team, the Syracuse Stars.
“I would do my homework in the car and sleep on the way back,” said Prince. “Obviously, some days were harder than others, and some days you wouldn't want to miss your time at the rink. Overall, it was a great experience.”
His career with the Syracuse Stars includes some of Prince's favourite hockey moments including an undefeated state championship season.
“We ended up playing our rival Rochester in the finals. I think they were up 3 to 1 on us with a few minutes left,” he said. “We came back to tie it and win, which was pretty incredible.”
A similar scenario unfolded a couple years later. The Stars, deemed a favourite, were losing in the semifinal, but came back to win the game and came from behind once again to nab the final as well. The Syracuse Stars took three State Championships during Prince's stint with the team.
“Those were pretty crazy moments. I would like to be able to watch them again, if I could. I'll never forget it.”
Prince was also a hockey fan and there would be favourites to keep an eye on in the NHL.
“I grew up watching the Buffalo Sabres a lot, just because it was close to home,” Prince said. He notes his favourite player was Daniel Brière. “I admire his style.”
After Syracuse, the move to the Ontario Hockey League and seasons with the Kitchener Rangers and Ottawa 67's were steps in his work and development.
“It was different at first, but kind of necessary to improve my hockey game.”
Prince, now playing in his second season with the Binghamton Senators, was selected 61st overall by the Senators in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In his rookie season in Binghamton, Prince missed the first seven contests because of an injury, but eventually returned and recorded 18 goals and 17 assists over 65 games.
Binghamton game days are routine now, even down to the food. Once the morning at the rink is over, whether he goes home or eats out, chicken is involved; anything from chicken parmesan to chicken and rice is part of the daily grind.
After a meal and a couple hours for a nap, it's a return to the rink. Prince ranks Rochester as one of his favourite opponents because it's located near his hometown, “It's another team I always watched growing up, just because they were nearby. Hopefully, when I do get to the NHL I can look forward to playing against the Sabres.”
“It's not an average life,” said Prince. “You always have something to be excited about. Every game is a reason to get excited. It's an opportunity a lot of people don't get in life, to be able to play a pro sport and get out there and play something they love, in front of a lot of fans. It's a pretty incredible life to live.”
Prince shares living space with three team members and they simply try to have fun on their off-days from hockey. Some days may be event-filled, like a shopping trip to Syracuse with another player; otherwise, days are laid back, filled with movies and being a fan of other sports. He lists the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and MLB’s Boston Red Sox as two of his favourite teams to follow.
When summertime rolls around, Prince has taken up cycling along with his dad. “I really got into it last summer as a hobby. Most people wouldn't know I do that.”
What sets him apart from many other hockey players, however, isn’t necessarily the sport he has taken up so much as the one he doesn’t think highly of.
“I'm actually not a big fan of golf,” he said. “I'm not very good at it and I find it very frustrating.”
For Prince, looking back on those long days in minor hockey to playing in the OHL to being drafted by the Senators all add up to today. “A lot of people ask me, 'Isn't it amazing that you are here?'” said Prince. “I think when you look back, when you are going through life, it's a bunch of little stuff leading up. It's not like one day I woke up and I was here. It's taken a lot of work. It's nice to see all that work pay off.”
It all began with a dad, putting skates on the feet of his son.
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