Nerve-racking. Scary. That’s how defenseman John Spetz described the experience of making his United States Hockey League debut as a 16-year-old in the Chicago Steel’s penultimate game of the 2015-16 campaign.
“I was really young,” Spetz, now 19, recalled. “I threw on a visor. I didn’t play much; it was more of a feeling-out process. I had a few good shifts and the team won. It was good to see how much the guys care about each other in juniors. Everyone has things going on, whether it’s pro stuff or college stuff, but at the end of the day they are hockey players and they care about each other. It was really cool to see and good for me to take in.”
The Oak Ridge, N.J., native had another one-contest cameo with Chicago in 2016-17, except this time he took on a larger role and played regular shifts.
“I did really well,” he remembered, “and the coaching staff was really happy with me. I realized that I could play in the USHL.”