TAMPA — The history of high school ice hockey in Tampa really hasn’t been written — yet.
Jesuit goaltender Sam Coleman plans to change that. Coleman, a goalie for the Tigers, was invited to the U.S. Hockey Select Camp in New York this summer and was one of the top players in camp. He didn’t make it to the national team, but he put a stamp on hockey in the state of Florida.
“It was a great experience,” Coleman said. “I felt like I fit with them. I feel like I can play with a Division I school.”
But Division I college hockey scouts don’t flock to the Tampa area. Coleman plays in Ellenton for the Tampa Bay juniors program. Hockey has a different system than most other sports. Instead of being drafted out of high school or college, hockey players tend to play for junior programs that are somewhat the equivalent of a college program. At Jesuit, he is in a league with 15 other teams that play in the Lightning Conference, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He was the only Floridian to head to the Select Camp and, although he didn’t make the team, he finished sixth out of 20 goalies.
“I have wanted to play hockey my entire life,” Coleman said. “I’m not talking to colleges yet, but I want to play hockey somewhere. My father played in the goal and I am following him.”
Next year, Coleman plans on going to juniors, which is a sort of minor league for hockey. Players get paid and can spend time before going off to college or the major professional ranks.
Coleman said he isn’t thinking too far into the future. He’s a Florida goalie trying to do something no one else has, and that is making it to the National Hockey League.
“For me, the fact that people are talking to my coaches and my team is really a big deal,” Coleman said. “I have to stay focused but I think it would be really great to make it. It’s very special and I love that I can have people that are paying attention to me. We’ll see what happens.”