Kevin McCloskey buys the Toronto Globe and Mail every Monday morning to check the University of Maryland basketball results. When the Calgary Centennials traveled to Portland for a recent two-game series, defenseman McCloskey was chagrined on arrival to learn he was 12 hours too late to watch the Washington Bullets play the Trial Blazers.
To report that McCloskey is not the typical Canadian junior hockey player is an understatement. For McCloskey is a native of Washington, D.C. - a product of the Capitol Boys Hockey Club who went to Canada to pursue a hockey career.
After seven years with Capitol Boys teams, McCloskey, at age 14, sought tougher competition in Baltimore. A year later, he took a much bigger step, moving in with a friend's family in Totonto and joining the midget program there.
This is his fifth year of Canadian competition.
"My parents told me it was my decision," McCloskey said, "But they told me whatever I did, to go full force, not to go halfway and quit. They've encouraged me a lot. Now that my Dad's retired, they've moved up to Orillia (Ontario), where we used to have a cottage."
McCloskey, who grew up in Rockville, says that many of his Canadian friends chose college hockey. He took the junior route, however, because "you play 80 games and the traveling is more pro style. You devote all your time to hockey with no school to worry about. It gives you a better chance to make it."
McCloskey will be 20 on May 13, which makes him eligible for the pro draft. While he is a competent defenseman, he has been overshadowed in a league that includes such touted back-liners as Kevin McCarthy of Winnipeg and Barry Beck and Brad Maxwell of New Westminster.
I'm looking forward to the NHL draft." McCloskey said. "I'd love to be drafted. But it's not the end of the world if I'm not. I'll just dig in a little harder and try to work my way up from the minors. Not many guys jump right from junior to the pros, anyway."
McCloskey took up figure-skating at age 6, then "a guy in my Dad's office was interested in hockey and he told my Dad about it and suggested I give it a try. I loved it right from the start."
At 12 McCloskey attended a hockey sehapl in Bracebridge. Ontario, run by corrent Capital Roger Crozier and partner Ron Igram. Since then, he has worked each summer at the Bobby Orr-Mike Walton school in Orillia, two miles from his parent's present home.
McCloskey, a center in his Capitol Boys days, was switched to defense in Tornoto.
"Just moving up was quite a change," he said, "and it was that much more difficult when they moved me back to defense. I'm tall and I've got fair size (6-1, 180), so I guess they thought I'd be better off. It's worked out pretty well. I've still got a lot to learn, but I figure I'm learning something every game."
McCloskey played for the Toronto Nationals, a tier two junior team, and last year for the St. Catharines Black Hawks in the Ontario major junior league.
"St. Catharines moved to Niagara Falls this year and things didn't work out." McCloskey said. "I was home when the Cents called me and I was playing here four days later."
The Centennials are struggling in last place in the WCHL's Central Division and following Sunday's 8-2 loss here to third-place Lethbridge, their play off hopes are not bright.
"I've never played on a team that missed the playoffs," McCloskey said. "We've got a lot of home games coming up and I think we can still make it."
If the Centennials don't, McCloskey can still look back on extracurricular activity of note. He was a member of the United States team that competed in the World Junior Championships in Czechosolovakia during the holidays.
"We didn't do very well, because college players weren't available and most of our guys were from the Midwest Junior League, which is tier two," McCloskey said. "But it was a fantastic experience. I met a lot of people, most of whom I'll probably never see again, and I made a lot of friends. There was a lot of traveling, and lot of hockey, the food was terrible and there wasn't much Christmas. But I'd certainly do it again."