By Isabella Apple
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The first time junior forward Connor Preston laced up the skates, he barely knew how to walk. For the past 16 years, Preston has been playing organized hockey, but he fell in love with the sport even earlier than that.
Preston’s home town of Lake Placid, New York -- nicknamed “The Olympic Village” for its deep-rooted winter sports history -- tends to breed hockey players. Preston recalls that it was tough for anyone living in Upstate New York to not play hockey, that it was just part of the culture.
Trish Preston, Connor’s mother, didn’t blink when putting her only son into such a physical sport at such a young age.
“He grew up in a community where hockey was a big deal and everyone played, so I was not nervous [to let him play],” said Mrs. Preston. “Having his father as his coach also made it easy.”
The Prestons are known as a tight-knit hockey family around Tennity Ice Pavilion. Preston can be seen talking to his parents before every game they can make it to, and when they can’t be there, it’s known they are tuning into the live-stream to support the Orange.
“[My mom] loves watching me play and I can’t thank her enough for all the time and effort she’s put in for me to get where I am in both hockey and life. She certainly gets very nervous and I always hear it from her if I get any type of injury,” Connor confessed before admitting he wouldn’t trade her for the world. “She’s the best hockey mom out there.”
Unlike others, Connor was exposed to hockey greatness early and often in his hometown. His home ice growing up was the Olympic Center, where the “Miracle on Ice” took place in the 1980 Olympic Games - one of the most famous moments in USA Hockey History.
“My first [hockey] memory was probably when I met Mike Eruzione who was the captain on the 1980 USA Hockey team and I got to skate with him,” he said.
Hockey was not just an after school activity for Preston, who played multiple sports growing up. It has created lasting friendships with kids from his youth teams all the way through high school.
“We have a hockey game every Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with a bunch of friends I grew up playing with as well as older guys who used to play in college. It’s a pretty serious game and is always a good time and a fun holiday tradition,” the forward recalled.
As he has gotten older and more career-driven, Preston has found playing hockey in college is an important way to keep the game he has grown with in his life. He's added a unique spark to the Syracuse offense, earning a total of 31 points over his three seasons with the Orange. He vividly remembers the feeling of winning the ESCHL Championship with the team last season. As nine seniors graduated, the Orange found themselves in need of new leadership to start their championship-defending season.
“Acknowledging our leadership roles and bringing the team together has been the most crucial aspect of our season,” said the junior. “We are definitely a very close group because of the way guys stepped up and filled roles and showed the ropes to the younger core.”
Over the summer, Preston still sets some time aside for training. Strength and conditioning training at the gym, as well as getting together with friends to play baseball, soccer, golf, or even just to toss around a football help keep him sharp come hockey season.
But Preston’s college summers have been spent more often at internships than at the gym. A Policy Studies major specializing in Government and Business and minoring in Business, his dream job has to do with his other passion: baseball. Preston has interned for two years in Lowell, Massachusetts, working with Shawn Smith, a Newhouse Alumni and the General Manager for the Lowell Spinners -- a single-A short-season affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
“I definitely miss playing baseball more than anything and I’m just as big of a baseball player as I am a fan of the game,” Preston said. “I grew up loving both [hockey and baseball], and I still do, but I think MLB GM will always be [my dream career].”
When Preston eventually hangs up the skates to make it big at the ballpark, he will always be able to trace his roots back to the rink.
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