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Circling the states

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Timothy Galaz and Timothy Galaz | The Daily Wildcat Timothy Galaz / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona Icecats' goaltender David Herman has redefined the term road warrior.


Imagine playing Triple-A hockey at age 12, leaving home at 16, attending six high schools in five states over a four-year span and living in nine states from ages 16 to 21.

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While this life is chaotic enough to think about, Island Park, Ill., native David Herman actually lived it.


""I just wanted to play hockey and wherever that took me was where I wanted to go,"" the freshman said.


Herman was determined to go as far as hockey would take him; little did he know that would be around the country and back.


He was traveling around the country before he could even see a PG-13 movie.


With a great amount of hockey experience under his belt, Herman worked his way to becoming the No. 1 high school goalie in Illinois his freshman year.


He chose to take his game to the next level at age 15 when he tried out for the Chicago Steel, considered one of the most prestigious junior leagues in the country, and a member of the United States Hockey League — a big jump from the Illinois high school ranks.


Forty-four goaltenders were vying for one spot. Herman made the final cut of eight but failed to make the roster.


While Herman's unsuccessful tryout closed one door, it opened a host of others.


The Chicago Steel's head coach made some calls and found Herman a spot on a Triple-A team in Colorado. ""The coach told me that I needed to be playing somewhere other than high school so that I developed quicker and developed better,"" Herman said.


David wanted to leave home to pursue his dream and his parents supported his hockey passion, but they still had a tough decision to make.


""It was very difficult,"" said David's mother, Lindsay Herman. ""We had to make some choices as parents that either let him pursue his dream and give it his best shot, or have to live with the fact that we didn't let him go after it.""


Peter and Lindsay Herman let their son pursue his dream, a decision that didn't exactly develop how they expected.


After a season in Colorado, Herman chose not to return to the team because of some issues with players that were beyond his control.


Soon after the season's end, Herman left for Florida for the second stop of his hockey expedition. His junior team in Florida was highly talented, making it to nationals in Herman's first season with the squad.


Although his team lost, Herman gained exposure from his trip to nationals. He received offers from some junior teams back east, one of which he ultimately accepted.


After playing for a junior team in Boston, Herman still couldn't find the right fit. He left Boston to play in Syracuse and continued moving on to Colorado, Canada, Oregon, Michigan and Montana over the next few years.


""I was trying to find the right team where I liked the coach and I thought that they had connections to move me on,"" Herman said. ""It was just a bunch of unfortunate events that led to all of the jumping around.""


Herman's junior hockey career came to an end last season in Billings, Mont., with the Billings Bulls of the Northern Pacific Hockey League. He gained experience, but on his six-year adventure, he learned more than how to stop flying pucks.


He lived with host families in each city while he was too young to live on his own. Herman did have a roof over his head and a bed to sleep in, but he was virtually on his own.


""He had to deal with everything that adults had to deal with,"" Lindsay Herman said. ""If you don't have anyone to guide you it makes it a little more difficult, but he managed to get through it.""


Herman's journey had its ups and downs, but he is adamant that he wouldn't do anything differently.  He met a host of people all over the country and had experiences that a 16-year-old kid could never dream of.


There were times when David's parents wanted him to end all of the state-hopping, but he was too driven to make a name for himself in the hockey world.


""He has always been highly motivated,"" Lindsay Herman said. ""There are a lot of cases where it is the parents pushing the child, in our case it was the exact opposite.""


David's motivation was unquestioned, but it became clear that his 5-foot-8 stature would prevent him from Division I stardom. As most Division I goalies are expected to be at least 6 feet tall, Herman's college options dwindled.


He had the chance to walk on and ride the bench at Boston University and Miami University (Ohio), but David ultimately chose Arizona.


David couldn't be more excited about the opportunity to play at Arizona in front of five-to-eight thousand fans per game.


""I just can't wait,"" Herman said. ""I can't wait to hear the chants against the opposing goalie. It's going to be an experience that I'm going to love for the next four years.""


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Updated September 21, 2021