GARDEN – From a young age, Garden native Bobby Bodette had an upbringing immersed in the game of hockey.
Bodette, 22, is a member of USA’s hockey team at the World University Games in Trentino, Italy. His path to get that point was one of hard work and sacrifice.
At the age of three, his father Leo, a crane operator at the time, moved the family to Metro Detroit when work slowed.
“He got into sports down there,” Leo said in a phone interview, Wednesday. “He started skating at age three and by age four he was on a Mini Mites team.”
Bodette progressed through the age divisions of junior hockey before getting his first big break when he met a coach from the Trenton area.
“His name was Ross Smith and he was the deputy chief of police in the area,” Leo said. “He hand picked Bobby for a 12U team, the Michigan Devils.”
That team went on to win a national championship, but Bodette’s hockey success was just beginning. Soon afterward, Bodette’s team qualified to play in the International Silver Stick, which features the top eight teams from the United States and the top eight from Canada. Bodette’s team won that tournament as well.
A few years later Bodette would meet the coach that would set him on his current path.
“When Bobby was 15, we went to a AAA tryout, a midget-major team. While we were there, a coach of a junior team, the Michigan Ice Dogs asked if Bobby wanted to play juniors,” Leo said.
That coach was current Adrian College head coach Dan Phelps.
“I was concerned about Bobby playing with 20 year olds, but the coach said he could do it. Dan Phelps really helped him,” Leo said.
Bodette was later drafted by the now-defunct Marquette Rangers NAHL team and played for them for one season before the team was sold to Flint and became the Michigan Warriors. He then played for Flint before moving on to Adrian College.
“Bobby took a scholarship at Adrian. Phelps recruited Bobby. Stevens Point wanted him too, but Adrian was Bobby’s decision because Phelps was there,” Leo said.
Adrian was ranked No. 1 in the American College Hockey Association (ACHA) at the end of the season, and Bodette compiled 48 points, scoring 26 goals with 22 assists.
For his efforts, he received a call to tryout for Team USA for the World University Games, which draws from ACHA schools.
“About a month ago, Bobby called me up and informed me that he made the 30-man roster for Team USA. It’s an honor just to make the 30-man roster, but a week later he said he made the 24-man; 22 players make the final team,” said Leo. “He made the final cut and then we had to scramble because he didn’t have a passport. We had to get it expedited.”
Naturally, all of these opportunities were not just given to Bodette. He was often not the most talented player on his respective teams but was certainly among the hardest working and put in a lot of extra time to work on his game. He missed out on a lot of things that normal high school students get to experience, such as prom or hanging out with friends after school, Leo said.
Team USA sent a bevy of hockey equipment leading up to the World University Games, such as ski jackets, hats, shirts, snowpants and the like. The team flew out from O’Hare airport in Chicago last Friday.
Leo said Bodette was nervous his first game out on the ice Tuesday against Sweden, a 2-0 victory for USA. Bodette got his opportunities though, including a breakaway chance. He scored USA’s insurance goal, an empty netter with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
Being on Team USA presents even more opportunities and open doors for Bodette but for now he’s rooted in the moment and focused on bringing a medal back to Delta County.
“I told him, every time you’re on the ice, it’s a tryout,” said Leo.