• Ryan Nelson

Heating Up the Ice: Alex Aguirre

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

By Ryan Nelson

When you think about the greatest hockey players of all time, one’s mind might think about the great Canadians, Swedes, and Minnesotans to play the game. The only snag is that sometimes, the best things come from unexpected places.

Alex Aguirre was born in the heat of an Arizona summer. The senior forward on the Syracuse Men’s Club Hockey team knows he had a unique path to the snowiest city in the country.

“It was one of those things that, I had obviously seen snow, just traveling so much for hockey across the country, but it’s one of those things where at the end of the day [...] it's a transition for sure,” said Aguirre.

The forward started his love affair with hockey following a game between his favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, and the hometown Phoenix Coyotes.

“All I remember from that [game] is one of the Red Wings’ players had literally picked up one of the guys and tossed him into the bench, and I was like, yep, this is it, this is my game,” said the Arizona-native through a laugh.

That immediate infatuation with the game led Aguirre to get on the ice, learn to skate, and continue to play the sport throughout middle school and high school. That initial spark also influenced the style of game that he loves to play. He prides himself on being the physical force out on the ice and putting his body on the line for the betterment of the team. 

After finishing high school, Alex left the sun for the snow and travelled up to Albany to play a year of postgraduate hockey there, where he would first be introduced to Syracuse.

“Coach Wolinski, one of the recruiters for Syracuse, found me there [...] He had one of those opportunities just to bring me to campus and show me around and I was just so sold on everything,” said Aguirre.

During his first season at Syracuse, the then-freshman experienced what he considers to be one of his favorite hockey memories. The team took a weekend trip to Buffalo for a tournament where he was able to play an outdoor game of hockey.

Growing up in Arizona, Aguirre never dreamt about playing the game he loved outside, but he laced up his skates, applied his eye black, and flew out onto the ice. It also helped that Syracuse would go on to destroy the opposing team, finishing off what was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Alex.

Beyond hockey, Aguirre fell in love with another thing at Syracuse, neurosurgery.

The career path he chose led the forward to drop his stick and pick up his scalpel. He took the entirety of his sophomore and junior years off before returning this semester to close out his hockey career.

“That was easily the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life. It was at that point that I really needed to make a choice in my life. Was I going to be able to play hockey for these next few years and prioritize that or prioritize getting into medical school?”

Aguirre chose the latter and eventually was accepted to medical school. He has yet to make any final decision on which school he will attend next, but knows that this is the road he will continue down.

With his dual major in Biochemistry and Neuroscience, as well as a minor in Psychology, Alex has kept himself busy, even while not on the ice. Neuroscience piqued his interest, and his love for the field grew over the last two years.

“The simple statement that, ‘In my lifetime, we will never know everything about the brain,’ so there will always be a question to pursue and something to answer in the realm of neuroscience. I was drawn to that.”

He went on to describe the moment when he knew that he was following the right route.

“I had the opportunity to go into the operating room and see brain surgery. Once you see an open brain, I don’t think you can spend your life doing anything else. It’s one of those experiences where it felt like home.”

Coming back to hockey was never in the picture for Alex, who thought his career had ended three years ago at Syracuse. After taking that time off to then return to his childhood love, Aguirre reflected on what he would miss most from his 18 years on the ice.

“I’ve done everything and anything you can at Syracuse, but nothing ever was equivalent to the relationships that you develop on a team. It’s one of the things that I definitely will miss the most because the guys have always meant more than anything.”

Alex Aguirre’s time at Syracuse might be reaching its final horn, but his schooling and medical career to follow is only the beginning for the Arizona kid who came to Syracuse to play the sport he couldn’t live without.

Contact Me:

By Email: rtnelson@syr.edu

On Twitter: r_nelson18

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