Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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April 14, 2012

Cool as ice

Cross Roads senior helps team win national hockey title

CROSS ROADS — When Jon Baker moved from New Hampshire to Texas, he wondered if the Lone Star State — hotter than a two-dollar pistol and known for its three favorite sports (football, football and football) — would have anywhere he could play his beloved hockey.

Lucky for him, there was. Ironically, Texas is where Baker became a hockey champion.

Baker, a member of the Dallas Oilers, recently helped his team win a USA Hockey Tier II-AAA 18-and-Under national championship.

The Oilers, for which Baker plays left wing, claimed the crown with a 2-1 triple overtime victory over the Sylvania (Ohio) Maple Leafs. The national tournament was held in East Lansing, Mich., from March 27 through April 1.

“That championship was probably the most exciting thing and made me feel the most accomplished about what I’ve worked for,” said Baker, a senior at Cross Roads High School. “It was such a gratifying moment.”

Baker, who also catches for the varsity baseball team at Cross Roads, said he came to Texas about seven years ago. He said it didn’t take him long to understand he had moved to a place where football was king.

It’s a sentiment he understands. Where he grew up, it was hockey that dominated the hearts and the minds of all the kids he knew.

“That’s the exact comparison that I would give — that hockey up there is like football down here,” Baker said. “Up there, if you’re not any good in hockey, it’s like (how people feel) when you don’t have a good football team.”

Youth hockey in Texas has continued to grow in the shadow of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, who moved from Minnesota to Texas in 1993 and won a Stanley Cup championship in 1999. Select hockey, much like select baseball, basketball and volleyball, has found a welcoming home in larger metropolitan areas.

Baker found his Texas hockey niche in the Metroplex, having played on several teams including the Dallas Stars Selects. The Oilers, he said, have experienced more than their fair share of success, finishing second place in a tournament in Detroit, Mich., in January and second in another tournament in Chicago in February.

The Oilers also won the North Texas Hockey League this season and claimed the championship for the entire state of Texas, as well.

“The harder the opponents got, the better we played,” Baker said. “This really was a good group of guys.”

Baker’s accomplishments reach much farther than the ice. He ranks No. 1 academically in his senior class, and he’s already got his immediate future mapped out. Baker said he plans to attend the University of North Texas in Denton next fall, where he will major in hospitality management. After that, he hopes to attend business school and work in the hotel industry.

And when he’s not hitting the books, he says he plans to hit the ice and play a little intramural hockey, as well.

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