For the past 16 years, Dusti Henning has had a singular career goal - finding a way to make money playing the game he loves.
On July 10, the 2002 Steamboat Springs High School graduate received the fax that sealed the deal. The Wooster Warriors (Wooster, Ohio) signed Hen-ning to a one-year contract. The Warriors will compete in the inaugural 2007-08 season of the six-team Mid-Atlantic Hockey League.
"What did you want to be when you were 7?" Henning asked. "It took a while to set in, and it's pretty surreal, but I made it. It's not the NHL, but I'll get paid to play hockey - there's probably one in 10,000 kids that are lucky enough to get to do that. It's a dream come true."
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound defenseman plays an offensive brand of defense that he describes as that of "a utility man." Henning, 23, has certainly gone to work, criss-crossing the country as he paid his dues and worked his way up the junior division and NCAA ranks.
Henning started his hockey career among a talented pool of Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association skaters. After high school, Henning played two years in the Interstate Junior Hockey League for the Connecticut Junior Whalers, a year of NCAA Division III hockey at Nichols College (Dudley, Mass.) and a semester of Division I club hockey at Eastern Michigan University before returning to Steamboat this spring.
At the end of June, Henning headed to a select agent's tryout in Columbus, Ohio, that stoked his confidence to try out for the expansion MAHL.
Now on board with the Warriors, Henning understands the tremendous opportunity of playing in a start-up league affiliated with higher-level, NHL-feeding leagues such as the Central and East Coast hockey leagues.
"There's definitely room to go up," said Henning, who plans to work and train in Steamboat for the rest of the summer before heading to Ohio in October.
"The ball's in my court now, where I can get out of the opportunity what I put in," Henning said. "There's a chance I'll get out there and maybe pro hockey's not for me, but at least I won't look back and wonder."
- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org