2002 Steamboat Springs High School graduate Dusti Henning says the past couple of years playing professional hockey have been the best years of his life.

Photo by Matt Stensland

2002 Steamboat Springs High School graduate Dusti Henning says the past couple of years playing professional hockey have been the best years of his life.

Henning loving pro hockey

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In his short professional hockey career, 2002 Steamboat Springs High School graduate Dusti Henning has experienced a lot.

He's certainly seen the business side of hockey. He was traded just days into training camp after inking a one-year contract in 2007 with the Wooster Warriors. The trade landed him in Indiana, Pa., with the Indiana Ice Miners. There he helped the team set a professional hockey record with 26 consecutive wins, but the financial crunch became too much, and the team folded.

But maybe more important to Henning, however, is the other side of hockey he's been able to experience.

Fresh off an Eastern Professional Hockey League championship with the Jersey Rockhoppers, Henning said Wednesday that he's as happy as he's ever been.

That he gets to play hockey for a living - potentially in front of family this upcoming year - means life isn't just good, it's phenomenal.

"It's been the best couple years of my life, for sure," Henning said. "It's the best job I've ever had. I never woke up once this year and said I didn't want to go to work. I'm doing what I love and getting paid for it."

Henning played hockey for the Steamboat Springs Youth Hockey Association before spending two years in the Interstate Junior Hockey League with the Connecticut Junior Whalers. He spent a year at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., and a semester of Division I club hockey at Eastern Michigan University before inking his first professional contract.

Set to go to the Wooster Warriors, Henning was traded just days into training camp.

Still, during the past two years, he has served as a captain for the Indiana Ice Miners and the Jersey Rockhoppers.

Although he hasn't lit up the score sheet as a defenseman, his plus-minus has kept him on the ice nearly every game.

"Those are the guys that win us championships," Rockhoppers coach Brian Gratz said. "It's always good to have the guy that's going to score 50, 60 or 70 points. But if you don't have the meat and potatoes, you don't make it to the playoffs. Dusti is one of the key contributors for us making playoffs and winning a championship.

"I pride myself on only bringing in players that are tremendous individuals. Guys that want to be there and deserve to be there. He's a tremendous human being. Above and beyond hockey, I'd do anything for him."

Henning, 24, currently is in Steamboat resting his body after the season. He's also trying to figure out what's next. He said there always is the chance of returning to the Jersey Rockhoppers, but he's trying to catch on overseas or with the Central Hockey League.

In the Central Hockey League, he'd be able to play with or against the Colorado Eagles or Rocky Mountain Rage.

This would allow him to play in front of his mother, Brenda Schmidt, as well as other family and friends who have helped him get to where he is at.

"I can't even express it. It would be crazy," he said. "But it's not just my mom, but the rest of my family and close friends. Where I'm at, I owe that to a lot of people."

Henning said he should know by August where he'll play next.

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