Tampa Native Connor Eckhardt Takes Big Step To Play Hockey In Canada
Tampa native Connor Eckhardt is living out every kid’s hockey dream one day at a time at the age of 17 as a member of the Lefroy Wave of the Greater Metro Hockey League.
It all started when he was three years old, the age when he first became interested in hockey.
“I first became interested in hockey when I was really little,” Eckhardt said. “My dad would put hockey games on the television and the sport really caught my eye. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings were the teams I loved to watch.”
However, Eckhardt’s hockey-playing days didn’t necessarily start as soon as he would have liked.
Eckhardt said he and his twin brother Caleb Eckhardt had to beg their mother to let them start playing hockey.
“My mom did not let me and my brother play hockey until we were nine years old because she was scared we would get hurt, but we finally convinced her to let us play and that is when my hockey career started.”
Eckhardt started playing roller hockey with his mother’s permission at age nine in Lakeland and played competitively for the Lakeland Stars, Tampa Arsenal and the Central Florida Synergy. While with the Synergy, Eckhardt and his teamed competed at the National Roller Hockey Championships.
Soon after beginning roller hockey, Eckhardt left it behind and began to get involved in ice hockey. He received lessons at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, where the Lightning frequently practice, to help him transition from roller to ice hockey. As a teenager, he played in many Florida ice hockey leagues including the Lightning Conference where he played for three seasons as a member of the George Jenkins Eagles. Eckhardt was on the top line for the Eagles as a freshman.
When Eckhardt was 11 he began traveling to the World Hockey Centre every summer in Shelburne, Ontario to receive more advanced on-ice training. Eckhardt believes the training he received at the World Hockey Centre has really helped get to where he is today as a player for the Wave.
Eckhardt knows that he got to where he is with hard work and determination and he realizes it’s going to take even more of that to continue his hockey career further. Eckhardt, whose favorite NHL player of all-time is Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman, acknowledges the fact that NHL players all paid their dues and put in their time to get where they are today.
“Connor has a great work ethic and is definitely willing to learn. I feel he has a chance to play in the NCAA one day, provided he keeps his grades up,” said Joe Friel, head coach of the Wave.
Eckhardt agreed playing in the NCAA is a huge dream of his.
“Maybe this opportunity I have with the Wave will help me get recognized by some colleges,” Eckhardt said.
The Wave have opened the season with a slow start, going 0-4. Eckhardt stated the key to turning their season around is that, “we have to score more goals,” a task he himself is helping solve, as he has notched an assist though the first four games.