Ethan Straky will play ice hockey for the national team for two years. After his high school graduation, he'll play for Notre Dame.
Ice hockey players are few and far between in Florida. Growing up in Palm Coast and Ormond Beach, Ethan Straky was often the only kids in his grade who played the sport.
“Florida is not looked upon as one of those elite hockey states,” said Straky, who turned 16 in March. “But it’s on the rise for sure. I think it’s growing.”
His family moved from California to Palm Coast in 2006. They moved to Ormond Beach a few years later, where Straky attended St. James Episcopal school from kindergarten to fifth grade and St. Brendan’s Catholic School through seventh grade.
“We’re just so proud of him. We never pushed him to do it. It’s something he’s always wanted to do — to be on the ice as much as he could.”
CRAIG STRAKY, Ethan’s father
His parents, however, grew up in Ontario, right across the border from Detroit. Straky remembers turning on the TV as a little kid to watch his favorite NHL team: the Detroit Red Wings.
It was these moments where he first fell in love with the game.
“It just kind of took off from there,” he said. “I developed an extreme passion for it.”
He started practicing hockey at the Daytona Ice Arena, and he participated in recreation hockey leagues and a Travel A league, the starter level for youth ice hockey.
“I kind of just threw myself into it,” he said. “I loved it ever since I stepped on the ice.”
He rose through the ranks of travel hockey in the state, advancing to AA, then AAA with a Florida Alliance team for a short time. Before the start of the eighth grade, he visited Detroit, which is considered one of the best regions in the country for AAA hockey, to try out for Little Caesars’ AAA travel team, which is an affiliate of the Red Wings.
He made the team as a defenseman with a knack for playing both ways, and the family decided to move to the Motor City.
“We miss living in Florida on a daily basis, but it’s worth it for Ethan to pursue his dream,” his father, Craig Straky, said. “It’s been a change of life for my wife and I, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
That move was three years ago, and Ethan Straky hasn’t looked back.
He verbally committed to play ice hockey for Notre Dame, one of the top teams in the country, on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018. In addition, he’ll be playing for the U.S. National Under-17 Team next year.
“It’s been my goal for a while to play on the national team,” he said. “It’s just a tremendous honor to be able to represent my country.”
He’ll be on the team for the next two years. After that, it’s on to South Bend, Indiana, to represent the Fighting Irish.
His goal of one day playing in the NHL, a dream he’s had since first stepping onto the ice all those years ago, is betting ever so close to being realized.
“I’m starting to realize that there might be a chance,” Ethan said. “And that just makes me want it even more.”