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A product of the pond

02/01/2019, 10:00am CST
By Bryan Zollman, Let's Play Hockey

St. Cloud State’s Spencer Meier got his start in hockey in his backyard


St. Cloud State freshman defenseman Spencer Meier has totals of 1-5--6 in 23 games this season for the top-ranked Huskies.

When Spencer Meier was a toddler, his father, Kevin, would take him to St. Cloud State hockey games. It didn’t take long for Spencer to fall in love with the game, prompting his dad to dig a pond in the family’s backyard and flood it every winter.

Spencer was just four years old when he first started skating on the backyard rink and his love for the game grew with every stride.

“I knew he loved the game at an early age so I thought to myself … we need a pond,” said Kevin. “I knew he loved to play, so I just wanted to create that environment for him.”

Today, Meier is living out his dream playing Division I hockey for his favorite team – the No. 1-ranked Huskies who enter this weekend with an 18-4-2 record.

Meier grew up in Sartell, Minn. His father was a standout baseball player at SCSU, so he had the bloodlines to be a good athlete. But it was on the pond where he learned how to skate, stickhandle and shoot. In fact, he didn’t play organized hockey until he was eight years old.

“Ever since I went to my first Husky game I would always ask my dad, ‘Can we go skate?’” Meier said. “He’d say yeah, let’s go. And I loved every second of it.”

Those first four years on the pond didn’t come with high-end instruction from association coaches or power skating schools. It came from constant repetition and just enjoying the game in its primal conditions.

“I was always running around on that pond,” Meier said.

Kevin would make sure the pond was flooded and shoveled so Spencer could skate whenever he wanted. Soon, friends started to show up and hockey games would break out. Some parents would stop by with their kids and run drills for the boys on the pond. But mostly it was unsupervised.

“My dad was a teacher in hard work. He would shovel the ice to make sure everything was good to go and then he’d be out there with me passing me one-timers,” Spencer said. “My mom and dad are a big reason why I am where I am.”

When Meier joined Sartell’s association as an 8-year-old, he was immediately an “A” level player. He started as a forward, but during his first year of Bantams, he was moved to defense. The next year, he made the varsity team as a freshman. That season, he didn’t score a goal but had an impressive 19 assists. By the time he was a senior, he was 6-4, 200-pound prospect whose ability to defend and create offense was drawing the attention of college and junior coaches. He finished that season with 15 goals and 27 assists, impressive marks for a blueliner playing in one of the top sections in Class A hockey.

“I think my biggest strength was my ability to see the ice,” Spencer said. “I think that is what St. Cloud coaches saw in me.”

After graduation, Meier signed with the Fargo Force of the USHL and helped lead them to the Clark Cup.

“I went to their summer camp and was fortunate to make the team,” Meier recalled. “The coach said he didn’t know if I would play much and I was scratched the first game. But I was in the lineup after that and had an incredible experience.”

Meanwhile, then-St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko had his eye on Meier and offered him a chance to play for his hometown Huskies. Motzko eventually took the head job at the University of Minnesota, but Brett Larson, a former UMD assistant, took over for Motzko and called Meier right away to make sure he was staying.

“I wanted to be a Husky since I was four years old,” Meier said. “That was my dream, so going somewhere else to play was not an option.”

Meier’s experience with the Huskies has been nothing short of amazing. He will never forget running out of the tunnel for his first game wearing a SCSU sweater.

“It’s been surreal,” he said of the season so far. “There’s a reason we are No. 1. It isn’t because we are the most skilled. It’s because we are a close-knit group and we like to get better every day. It’s been fun every day at the rink.”

Meier said he enjoys playing for coach Larson, calling him a great coach and even a better person. Getting regular minutes as an incoming freshman on a team loaded with talented veterans is a testament of Meier’s abilities. His goal is to one day play in the NHL.

He’s come a long way from that little toddler racing around on the backyard pond. It was those formative years that helped shape him, not into just the type of player he is, but also the person he is.

“I don’t know many guys who work harder than Spencer,” said his dad. “He has put in the work and is seeing the rewards. He’s done all the right things.”

From those cold winter days skating on the backyard pond, to skating under the bright lights of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center, Meier is living the life he had always envisioned. His script is still unfinished. But one thing is for certain: Spencer Meier was born to play hockey. And he is a true product of the pond.

“Without hockey I don’t know where I’d be,” he said. “Whenever something bad was going on, I always had the pond to go out and play on. Hockey would always cheer me up. I can’t imagine my life without it.”

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