By Michael Krieg
The Daily Advertiser
November 5, 2003
LAFAYETTE, La. – Kevin Holdridge’s hockey career was off to a blazing start.
The current Louisiana IceGators’ defenseman began playing in the Ontario Hockey League in 1996 and quickly caught the eye of NHL scouts. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the teams Holdridge impressed.
So much so that the Hurricanes drafted Holdridge in the third round (No. 70 overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.
The Hurricanes offered then 19-year-old Holdridge a contract, but he declined the offer and went to training camp with the New York Rangers.
“They didn’t offer me a quality contract,” Holdridge said. “They offered me a three-way contract. I pretty much would’ve been playing in Florida (ECHL) as a 19-year-old and I don’t think I would’ve grown as a player or a person down there at that time.
“They offered me a decent signing bonus. It’s good money at the time, but you look at it down the road and say, ‘what am I going to be doing in five or six years without a university education?’”
So, Holdridge spent three more seasons in the OHL before deciding to go to college.
“I thought about it and talked with my parents and decided the best decision for me was to go to the university,” Holdridge said. “I needed to mature a lot as an individual. I wasn’t where I should have been. After I got done with school my maturity level and my understanding has gone up tenfold.”
And 3 1/2 years later he earned an English degree from the University of Michigan and a second shot at professional hockey with the IceGators.
“I don’t mind reading and writing, but if you put science or math in front of me it’s going to get ugly,” Holdridge joked. “People say you can’t trade a college experience for anything. I would give youngsters a tip to absolutely go to the universities and play hockey there because it’s unbelievable the memories you carry for the rest of your life. It was an unbelievable time for me.”
Holdridge, a Syracuse, N.Y. native, almost ended up at Michigan when he graduated from high school, but opted for Junior hockey instead. Since he played in Juniors he was prohibited from playing for the Wolverines due to NCAA regulations.
That was the toughest part for Holdridge.
“When I decided to come back to school I spoke with the coaches there and they said I could help the team out,” Holdridge said. “I interacted with the players and I was friends with them before hand.
“It was still pretty tough because I wanted to play there and I knew I could play there. It was tough, but I enjoyed it.”
But, Holdridge knew that wouldn’t be the end of his hockey career.
“I always went to school and had the notion inside that I would be able to play again,” he said. “What you miss the most is the interaction with the guys in the locker room and the bus. The camaraderie with the guys on the team.
“I always knew when I was in school I’d be able to play again. I just wanted to get my education out of the way. I like playing the game. I like having fun. I pretty much knew the whole time I was going to comeback and play.”
When Holdridge finished school he got that opportunity. He tried out for the Cincinnati Cyclones this past summer, but was released just before the end of camp. However, Louisiana was short on defensemen and Louisiana coach Dave Farrish scooped him up just days before the start of the ECHL season.
It also was nearly four years since Holdridge played hockey competitively.
“He was a high-draft choice, so you know he’s got some ability,” Farrish said. “We thought it’d be worthwhile taking a chance on him to see what he can do, because he certainly brings good size (6-2, 200) out there. He’s got a good shot and it will be interesting to see how he develops as the season moves along.”
So far, Holdridge has 0 points and 2 penalty minutes with a -2 in five games. He’s still adjusting to the game competitively and it hasn’t helped that Louisiana has played just five games since the season opener on Oct. 17.
“It’s a tough situation coming back and having been off that long from professional hockey,” Farrish said. “He’s a good athlete, there’s no question there. He has the ability to comeback and make that transition.
“It’s just that you can see the rust on him from not being in a competitive environment for the last few years. It’s going to take some games to get that back. Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of games early in the season.”
The IceGators play their first three-in-three this weekend and it will give Holdridge the ice time he needs to work on his zone coverage and what he calls “trying to get back in good habits.”
“That’s a major thing (lack of games),” Holdridge said. “You can’t really practice the little things that I need to work on, because games are so much more different. There a lot quicker and the intensity is a lot higher.”
©The Lafayette Daily Advertiser