After four years at Miami University in Ohio, Golden native Curtis McKenzie is beginning his first year in the pros as a member of the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League. According to McKenzie, the adjustment to the pros is going well but he has certainly noticed some differences in the level of play when compared to college hockey.
“It’s definitely a lot faster and one thing is that everyone is so much stronger out there. In college you’d kind of push guys off the back, but in the pros they are right back on you,” McKenzie said.
Texas is the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars and McKenzie was able to get into one NHL pre-season game this year against the Florida Panthers.
“It was a great opportunity to be out there and see what level of hockey those guys play,” he said remembering the experience. “To be going against NHL players and have them out there with you as well, it was a pretty cool experience for sure. It was good to know that I can be out there and play against them.”
The 6’2” 210 pound forward says his game is based more on grit and effort than pure skill.
“I try to be a hard nosed player. I got to make a lot of stuff happen, stuff doesn’t just come easy to me. I got to go out there and work for it,” he said.
McKenzie also isn’t afraid to drop the gloves once in a while when he feels his team needs a spark. College hockey rules, however, don’t allow for fighting to be a part of the game, so McKenzie’s first fight at the AHL level was his first in several years.
“The first [fight] I kind of forgot what I was doing, luckily I didn’t get clocked too many times in the face but I had to shake off some rust there for sure.”
As far as adjusting to life in Texas, McKenzie says he has enjoyed the experience a lot so far and that the people have been really friendly.
“I love Texas, it’s a little warmer than Golden for sure. Austin (where the Stars play) is a great city,” he said.
McKenzie was able to play a few games for the Texas Stars late last season after his college career came to a close. He has scored a goal and is a +4 after two games this year.