BY JEFF FALK
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHICAGO STEEL
Why would a teenager move hundreds of miles away, leave his parents, family and friends far behind and live on his own in an unfamiliar environment? To pursue a dream.
It is the high cost of becoming the first professional hockey player that Lebanon County has ever produced. But one that Jordan Seyfert seems willing to pay.
Currently, Seyfert, a 17-year-old senior from Annville, is living his dream as a member of the Chicago Steel, one of 17 franchises in the United States Hockey League, the top developmental hockey league in the country, for 15-20 year-olds. But like most dreams this one is more about hard work and determination than fantasies and story books.
“No. Nobody that I know of,” said Seyfert, when asked if he was aware of any local peers who have attempted what he is attempting. “I don’t think anyone from Lebanon County has ever made it as far as I have. I don’t think people realize how hard it is to make it as far as I have. I have a chance to play in the National Hockey League.
“I’ve definitely improved the most in my career, going from midgets to the USHL and playing against the best juniors in the country, every single day,” continued Seyfert. “Hockey is your life. You have a work-out everyday. You have a skate everyday. This league is a business. You have grown men making a living managing it. It’s not a joke. It’s very serious.”
Over the years, Lebanon County natives have advanced to the highest levels in the major sports of football, basketball and baseball. But never has a local kid made it to the NHL.
If one was unaware of his drive, spirit and determination, he or she might think the odds would be against Seyfert making it too. But by reaching the level of play he has, Seyfert has already blazed a trail for other Lebanon County hockey players to follow.
“I’ve lived with multiple (host) families since I was 15,” said Seyfert, who attends Annville-Cleona High School on-line. “I don’t know who they are. I’m trusting them. It’s helped me grow up. I’ve had to become independent. Basically, I’m doing everything on my own. I’ve grown up so fast because of that. I’m more mature. I’m ready for bigger and better things in life. Moving away from my parents when I was 15 was not easy. It’s one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
“I’d like to thank my parents for everything,” Seyfert continued. “If it wasn’t for them letting me move away – the time, the money – I wouldn’t be where I am today. They wanted me to succeed.”
Seyfert grew up playing hockey. He’s been skating for as almost as long as he’s been able to walk – since he was three years old.
But he did it on the top traveling teams in the area/region. From ‘the puddle’ at Twin Ponds East in Harrisburg to the Hershey Junior Bears by age nine. From the Philadelphia Junior Flyers to the Connecticut Wolfpack and the New Jersey Avalanche as a teenager.
Seyfert’s natural progression as a player has delivered him to the USHL and the Chicago Steel, where he is in the middle of his first 60-game season there.
“In New Jersey, I was having a good year,” said Seyfert. “It came around for awhile. And I was with the United States development team for three weeks. I’m out here (Chicago) for good. And the team has been doing well.
“For me personally, I think things have been going well,” added Seyfert. “It’s been quite the roller coaster ride. But it’s all worth it. It’s a good developmental stage for me.”
In 2016, Seyfert was drafted by Chicago in the third round of the USHL’s player entry draft, the 44th overall pick.
“My expectations for myself are to stay on the NHL central scouting list and hopefully get drafted,” said Seyfert. “I had an injury earlier this season and it did set me back a little bit. But playing in this league gave me confidence.
“The competition is definitely top-notch,” Seyfert added. “It’s guys who are older, bigger, stronger and faster. It’s a challenge to be one of the younger guys. The guys in this league are from all over the country, from Canada, from all over the world. There’s guys in the league right now who have already been drafted by the NHL. Every guy and every team is just top-notch.”
In 16 games with the Steel this winter, the 5-9, 170-pound Seyfert has registered a goal, three assists, 17 shots on goal and eight penalty minutes.
“My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL one day,” said Seyfert. “I’ve had multiple NHL interests this year. I want to play pro hockey. It would be cool to be from a small town like Annville and make it to the NHL. Something that needs to happen for me is a big off-season. I’ve got to get bigger and stronger. It’s tough going up against guys 6-3, 200 pounds. I’ve got to have a big end-of-the-year this year, or a big year next year.
“It’s all on me,” added Seyfert. “I determine my own future. It’s hard work and dedication and making sacrifices. I probably won’t be living in Annville this season. I think I’m going to train here. Me moving away from home when I was 15 wasn’t easy. It was a tough decision.”
Seyfert is expected to graduate from Annville-Cleona High School in May. A month later, the 2017 NHL Draft will be conducted at the United Center in Chicago.
“If I don’t get drafted this year, I’ll go to college in 2018,” said Seyfert. “I will be playing in the USHL next year. And I’m definitely going to college before anything.
“I’m still going to high school, on-line school through Annville-Cleona,” Seyfert continued. “I’ll graduate with my class from Annville-Cleona. The season ends in mid May and I’ll be home right before graduation. I’m looking forward to it, very much so.”