It’s been roughly 20 years since Cam Fowler laced up his first pair of skates. Grabbing his parents hands and stepping onto the ice in Farmington Hills, Mich., the now 22-year-old hasn’t looked back since.
“It was a long time ago, but I still remember just instantly loving it,” recalled Fowler, a member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. “I just remember the first couple of times I was out on the ice, how much I enjoyed just being with my friends and playing together.
“I have made some of my closest and best friends to this day from when I played when I was younger. Hockey is all about those lifelong friendships.”
Currently a mainstay on the Anaheim Ducks blue line, Fowler said growing up, the NHL and Olympics were always a dream, but remained an afterthought in the grand scheme of learning the game.
“It really wasn’t about trying to be the best,” he said. “It was about meeting lots of different teammates and learning to love the game. I think that’s everything when you first learn to play hockey – keeping it easy and making friends.”
Like any kid, Fowler said he’d watch NHL games with his teammates and parents, wide-eyed and full of dreams. He watched a couple of games in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, and his interest in international play only grew after heading to Ann Arbor, Mich., to join USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Since then he has enjoyed winning gold at the IIHF Men’s Under-18 World Championship in 2009 and at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2010. He’s also been a part of U.S. Men’s National Teams in 2011 and 2012.
But Fowler’s dreams became reality when his name was called in January for this year’s Olympic squad. And while the outcome wasn’t what the U.S. had hoped for, the experience and honor of being a part of Team USA wasn’t lost on him.
“It was such an unbelievable experience for me and one I was thrilled to share with my family who came over (to Sochi) with me,” said Fowler. “It wasn’t the result we were looking for as a group, but experiencing my first Olympics at a young age, I was just very humbled to play and participate.
“Hopefully I will have more to come in future years.”
Tallying 33 points so far this NHL season, it’s not hard to imagine that Fowler will be competing with Team USA again in the future.
But even through all the NHL and international successes, Fowler said the one thing that still keeps him in the sport of hockey is the fun with teammates and friends – the same fun that he has had since he was young.
“You have to enjoy it and have fun, especially when you’re six, seven or eight years old,” he said. “When you’re young and just learning to play, those are the times where you should have no worries in the world except to go out and play and have fun with your friends. The NHL, Olympics and all sorts competitive hockey will come later if you work hard – and I know that sounds cliché – but you shouldn’t be hung up on that when you’re little.”
Fowler’s advice is simple: “Be a kid and have fun.”