Chris Westlund is no stranger on the ice
Arizona forward Christopher Westlund during the UA-CU game on Nov. 2 at Tucson Convention Center. Westlund is a second year player who hails from Calgary, Alberta.
“That kid’s just a horse. That kid every single night, does everything right. He’s an absolute leader, an unbelievable kid,” head coach Chad Berman said.
That kid is Arizona hockey sophomore Christopher Westlund. Westlund is a second year player who hails from Calgary, Alberta, and is no stranger to the sport of hockey.
Westlund was born into a hockey family as his father played to the university level and was even given a chance to play with the Calgary Flames of the NHL, but he never pursued it.
“He’s definitely my role model on the ice, and [I] definitely want to do what he did growing up,” Westlund said.
Because of his father’s love for hockey, it comes as no surprise that it was him who laced up his son’s skates and taught him to ice skate. Westlund doesn’t recall the first time he skated because he was so young.
But his father wasn’t just a hockey player, he was one of Chris’ biggest fans. Both is mom and dad were, as Chris described them, diehards; they were at every early morning practice and late-night games. His sister, who didn’t play hockey, also went to his games and cheered on Westlund while he was on the ice.
Outside of his family, Westlund had lots of support and opportunities to play.
For years he played in tournaments with a team made up of kids from the same neighborhood. It was mainly the same group of kids every year and he always had fun playing with them..
One of the biggest bonuses Westlund had growing up in Calgary was rink availability, especially outdoor ones, even if the ice is a little choppy and not Zambonied every so often.
“There’s something authentic about it, you know, go out with your friends and just have a good time and it’s always just relaxed,” Westlund said.
While Westlund spent a good amount of his time playing hockey, there was always time to watch his hometown Flames. Some of his best memories are going to Flames games when he was younger. In 2004, the team improved and made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost in seven games. Before that the Flames battled the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals and won – and Westlund got to see that in person.
His main idol on the Flames was, and still is, hockey legend Jarome Iginla.
“He played the game right and, you know, off the ice too he was the best guy if he came to see you. He was always great,” Westlund said.
Like Iginla, Westlund dove into junior hockey at a young age and played two providence’s away in Manitoba for the Selkirk Steelers of the MJHL.
In his time in Selkirk, Westlund continued to learn on the ice, especially how to play a long season. Junior seasons are over twice as long as college, so Westlund’s endurance was high enough to last the whole season in Tucson, Ariz.
Overall, his time there helped him make the move from the coldest place in Canada to one of the hottest in the United States.
Welcome to Tucson
It’s been a year since Westlund moved to the desert and suited up as an Arizona Wildcat, and now he’s settled right in and rooms with teammates Orion Olsen and Griffin Dyne and is enjoying every minute.
“It’s a lot of fun just being able to live with some of your best friends... we all get along so well, that’s what makes it the best,” Westlund said.
The team keeps things playful and easy off the ice during the season including the weekend before Halloween. The Wildcats showed up to a game against Oklahoma dressed in their costumes instead of their suits. Head coach Chad Berman, as well as his teammates, found Westlund’s particularly amusing.
“My roommate Orion Olsen, he gave me his old costume,” Westlund said, “which is just a big box of crayons so I thought that one was pretty funny – almost won the contest too.”
As Westlund described it, the team just tries and relax and not push themselves too hard when they’re not on the ice. Another way the team keeps things light is by establishing close bonds.
“A lot of us like to get together the night before a game we’ll have a big meal together just to kind of get some team bonding going,” Westlund said.
At the rink, Westlund is a hard worker, but he knows all work and no play isn’t how you succeed.
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