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Murray Journal

MHS graduate Dillon Hale’s dream of playing professional hockey takes big step forward

Jul 31, 2018 03:26PM ● By Carl Fauver

Just two months after graduating from Murray High School, Dillon Hale (55) is moving to Iowa to begin what he hopes will be a career in professional hockey. (Tim Hale)

By Carl Fauver | carlf@mycityjournals.com

“I’m the only head coach the North Iowa Bulls have ever had and we have never had a Utah kid in our program. But Dillon has shown us some skills and raw talent that make me think he might really be able to help us.”

That high praise for 2018 Murray High School graduate Dillon Hale comes from a man who has guided his junior hockey team to four league championships in the past six years, coach Todd Sanden. And although Dillon has not yet made the final 25-man Bulls roster, the coach is confident he will, through a couple of final tryouts this month.

“We have to replace nearly our entire roster this year,” Sanden continued. “All but three of our players have moved up to the next level of hockey. We now have 40 players trying out for 25 positions on the team. If Dillon continues to show us what he has so far — the improvement we’ve seen, so far — I think he will be our first-ever player from Utah.” 

The 40 North Iowa hopefuls will tryout August 3-5 in Minneapolis. They can’t hold tryouts in their own community, because they play in a multipurpose arena. Iowans love their hockey in the winter, but right now the ice has been replaced by dirt and straw, for summer horse shows. 

This week’s tryout will trim 40 players to 30, with the Bulls final tryout coming at the end of the month. In between, Dillon expects to attend a two-week hockey training camp in Minneapolis, something coach Sanden advised him to do. 

All this excitement for his son Dillon is giving Tim Hale a severe case of déjà vu. Dillon’s father – and head coach of his Murray High School club hockey team – went through exactly what his son is doing only 30 years ago. 

“These junior hockey teams are pretty unfamiliar out here (in Utah), but they are a way of life in the Midwest,” Tim Hale said. “Back in 1986 to ‘88, I also played in Mason City. The teams arrange volunteer families to host the players. You become part of those families. It was a great experience for me and I think Dillon will enjoy it too.” 

The hockey world can be a small one. Tim said one of the north Iowa assistant coaches is a man he played against back in the day.  And another of his former opponents is the father of another young player trying to make the Bulls’ roster this year, along with Dillon.  In fact, Dillon will stay with that family during his two-week, mid-August hockey camp, because they live in the Minneapolis area. 

For his part, Dillon said his initial two-day tryout with the Bulls, in mid-May, was challenging at first. But he felt confident by the time it ended.

“I had never played hockey at that speed before and it was kind of intimidating at the beginning,” Dillon said. “But I ended up scoring a couple of goals and getting some assists in the scrimmage games. That tryout involved new players and returners. When they selected the all-star team, I might have been the only player to make it who had never played in the league before. So that felt pretty good.” 

The goal of most junior league players is to spend a year or two in the system, to prove themselves worthy of earning a scholarship to compete in a prestigious college hockey program. That, of course, could then lead to earning a living playing the sport they love. 

“(Dillon) is still a bit of a raw player,” Sanden concluded. “But he had some very impressive (goal and assist) numbers (while playing for his Murray club team). And he made adjustments quickly as we worked with him during our first tryout. It’s fair to say (I and my coaching staff) are all surprised we found such a quality player from Utah.” 

“I think Dillon was the only player from west of the Mississippi River invited to the Bulls initial tryout,” his father added. “Now he’ll have to prove himself again. I think his making the team will be based on his attitude. If he shows them he’s coachable and willing to work hard I think he will do well."

“I’d like to play one or two years at this (junior hockey) level, and then hopefully earn a scholarship to play for a school like North Dakota, Denver University or Minnesota-Duluth,” Dillon concluded. “Going back there for tryouts will be a little intimidating. I’m going all by myself. But there’s nothing else I want to be doing now, so I know it will all be worth it.”