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Southmoreland's King relishes all-star experience

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Back in the early days of the National Hockey League, most of the players in the league were Canadians. Our neighbors north of the border seemingly controlled every roster in the league.

Slowly, some American prospects made their way into the league, and things began to change.

Then, the league expanded, and with expansion many European players made their way to the NHL. Following the 1980 Olympic games, even the Soviet Union became a feeding ground for NHL general managers looking to put their teams in the news and fans in the seats.

As the National Hockey League grew, so did the size of the players. Suddenly, the game was filled with players who were big, fast, and extremely physical.

Those physical attributes transformed from the offensive zone back to the blue line. Defensemen were expected to be aggressive players that could clear the front of the net, giving the goalies more room to see shots and plays developing in front of them.

Then the Edmonton Oilers turned the NHL on its ear by changing that defensive philosophy. They brought in slick-skating, puck-handling defensemen that could move the puck up the ice and carry the play into the offensive zone.

One of their best players was a young defenseman named Paul Coffey. Coffey helped the Oilers become one of the most dominating teams of the early 80's, and later played with Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup winning teams of the early 90's.

Southmoreland in-line hockey player Brady King reminds a lot of people of the smooth-skating, hard-shooting Coffey when they watch him on the rink for the Scotties.

The Southmoreland junior has worked very hard on his skating and puck-handling skills since he took up the game of in-line hockey in the eighth grade, and his efforts have been rewarded in several ways recently.

King was chosen for the Pennsylvania All-Star team in a tournament held in St. Louis over the summer for players 18 and younger.

The team wound up finishing third in the tournament, falling to a squad from Ohio 5-3 in the semifinals.

King scored two big goals for the Pennsylvania team in that game and calls the experience he got during that St. Louis tournament “unbelievable.”

“I was so nervous the first couple games of that tournament that my whole game was off a little. My passes were off the mark and a little sloppy, but after I started to settle down I began to play better and realized that I could play with these guys,” said King. “The amount of talent at that tournament was incredible, and I was so lucky to be there playing in that environment.”

The Pennsylvania team went 2-2-1 in the round-robin portion of the tournament, and King had four goals and two assists in the five games used to determine seeding positions for the tournament.

As the confidence grew in King, so did his offensive numbers and minutes that he was entrusted to on the rink.

King added six goals and nine assists, helping his team to win five consecutive games during the tournament.

Last season, King helped the Southmoreland in-line hockey team capture its first Pennsylvania In-line Roller Hockey League championship as a defenseman.

This season, King has been moved to the forward position to help the Scotties' offense, which suffered the loss of its two leading scorers from last season.

When asked the biggest difference between the two positions, King explained that while on defense, he was expected to “play in position and to work on puck retrieval and clearing the zone. Now, I have to try and get into open space and either get the puck or look for a pass. There is a lot more skating on offense, but I'm adjusting to it. Playing offense is fun.”

King, who also played outside linebacker for the Southmoreland football team, hopes that he has a future in ice hockey.

He began ice skating a couple of years ago and will begin suiting up for Serra Catholic soon.

“I hope that hockey can take me to college and, hopefully beyond,” said King. “The one thing that I learned the most from my St. Louis experience is that if you have the heart and the desire to do well, you can accomplish whatever you want to. Just to get that experience is amazing, and it gives you an indescribable feeling.”

King is working hard to be just like his favorite pro athlete ... no, not Paul Coffey, but similar, current Penguin defenseman Kris Letang.

“I'm just going to do my best, and we will see what happens,” said King.

His best has already taken him to St. Louis once, and King hopes to return there again next season and help team Pennsylvania bring home the title.

Mark King is a freelance writer.