WESTMONT – Brett Callahan will be among elite company this weekend.
The Westmont resident and Downers Grove North freshman will be one of just 52 players from around the country at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program camp March 21 to 25 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I’m pretty excited,” Callahan said. “It’s an honor just to make the tryouts. They only take 52 kids. It’s an honor and I’m looking forward to it.”
The camp, which will help select the 2014-15 U.S. U17 National Team, is for players born in 1998.
While participating in the development camp will be a new experience, Callahan won’t have to go it alone.
He will be one of four players from the Chicago Mission Youth Hockey Club at the camp, and Christian Fischer, a former Mission player currently playing for USA Hockey’s U17 National Team, also gave him a heads up.
“He’s been through the camp and he’s one of my friends, and he texted me and told me what to expect and what to be ready for,” Callahan said. “He just said not to overthink things and not to panic.”
One of only six Illinois players invited to the camp, Callahan has definitely earned his spot. The 15-year old plays for the Mission’s Midget Major team. The squad features several players born in 1995 and 1996, a few born in 1997, and just one born in 1998 – Callahan.
“I’m 15 and I play U18, and I’ve done pretty well up there,” Callahan said. “I’m a pretty good skater, and I think playing up and playing well with them helped me.”
While playing against older, bigger, more experienced players has posed challenges, it has also helped Callahan develop into the player he is today.
“It definitely was an adjustment,” Callahan said. “The kids are a lot bigger and stronger than I was used to, but we have a really good team and they are good teammates and they tell me what to look out for.
“It took me three weeks or a month to get adjusted to the speed of the game and the size of the kids, and after that I was right there with them.”
Callahan also played baseball when he was younger, but skating and playing hockey has always been the ultimate for him, and a few years ago he put away his baseball glove for good.
“Pretty much my whole life, it’s been my favorite sport,” Callahan said.
He got his start on skates, on Rollerblades specifically, at the Darien Sportsplex when he was young, which helped spark his interest in ice skating and playing hockey.
“I had went to a Rollerblading class that my parents signed me up for, and the ice rink was right across the hall,” Callahan said. “When I was done Rollerblading I’d go across the hall and watch the ice skaters and I told my parents I just wanted to try that.”
Ever since he began his hockey career, which started with house leagues, Callahan has been a defenseman. Even though forwards tend to get more recognition because of their offensive stats and goalies are lauded for their spectacular saves, there is no place Callahan would rather be than along the blue line.
“I’m glad I play defense,” he said. “I think it takes a lot of smarts to play defense. You have to be able to read the play quickly, and especially at the older level you have to do it quickly and you have to have speed and skill to do it.”