For a program like the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), bringing in hometown talent is a great way to bring a connection to the community as they continue to establish themselves in the Western Collegiate Athletic Conference (WCHA). In the case of Josh Kestner, coming home to Huntsville for his collegiate career kicked in memories of childhood.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Kestner. “I grew up watching this team and went to a lot of games. Now being able to thrown on the jersey is kinda nice.”
Kestner has had a successful hockey career so far. Before coming UAH as a freshman this year, he spent two seasons with the Sarnia Legionnaires of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). In his two seasons with the Legionnaires, Kestner racked up 113 points (59G-54A) in just 91 games. To begin his junior career, Kestner played a year with the Flint Jr. Generals (now of La Crosse, WI)of the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL), where 50 points (20G-30A) in 44 games. Needless to say, there was a difference in the types of junior hockey.
“I played junior hockey in Michigan and it’s a lot different than Canada,” said Kestner. “It’s a different type of game, but all in all it was still a good experience. I grew up in Michigan for part of my life as well, so it was good to play in a familiar area.”
Throughout his career so far, Kestner has had an ability to produce. Based on his point totals alone, Kestner is a player that can score goals as well as distribute the puck.
“I’m just going play my role as a forward that tries to produce,” said Kestner. “I’ll get to the corners, battle hard, not make it easy on the other team. I like to be a play-maker and dish the puck off and get it to a couple guys that have more experience than me. Overall, I’m looking forward to the season.”
By coming to a team in the WCHA, Kestner will have the ability to travel all over the country to play the sport he loves. One state, in particular, stands out to him when it comes to areas he’ll be able to visit.
“Any team in Michigan is exciting because my dad is from there,” said Kestner. “It’s good to go back there and visit family. It’s going to be a great experience with every team we play. It’s going to be fun.”
Kestner is like many hockey playing/loving folk in the south. He also has roots in Michigan from his family. By having a connection to both “traditional” and “non-traditional” hockey communities, he’s been able to see the tremendous growth of the sport in the south.
“It’s growing in the right direction, that’s for sure,” said Kestner. “Growing up as a kid, there weren’t a lot of teams that were here. Now, we have a couple junior teams in the south as well. A lot of junior teams are coming out of the south, which is great for the kids here.”
Kestner is right. Not only are there the Point Mallard Ducks out of Decatur, Alabama, there are now the Nashville Jr. Predators in the NA3HL. The continued rebirth of the program at UAH, along with junior hockey and the NHL only means that we’ll continue to see more hometown products playing in their respective cities in the south.