Gabe Guentzel was attracted to playing hockey at the college level because of the inherent tight-knit community and his love for the sport. While his initial dream was just to play college hockey, moments during Guentzel’s career opened his eyes to opportunities beyond CC.
For many past and current CC Tigers, a career beyond college hockey is feasible, as there are a number of professional major and minor leagues where players can play and work towards a career in the NHL.
After four impactful years at Colorado College, Guentzel has taken advantage of an opportunity to play in the American Hockey League, only a tier below the NHL.
Guentzel was a team leader and a defensive anchor for the Tigers. As a versatile player who skated in every game of his junior season, he made his presence known during his time at Colorado College.
Upon reflection, Guentzel stated that some of the most memorable moments were the games against Denver and winning the gold pan, as well as playing in the NCAA tournament at the end of the 2010-2011 season. Some of the most positive aspects of Guentzel’s career were owed to his teammates and the community at Colorado College.
“Playing at the college level presents the challenge that the roster is changing every year, but the program at CC constantly brought in good guys and teammates,” he said.
Guentzel first realized that there was an opportunity to play hockey beyond the collegiate level after he was the recipient of Colorado College’s annual Bob Johnson Award as Freshman of the Year.
“After my freshman season, I was contacted by a few scouts and invited to a summer camp with the Chicago BlackHawks.” Guentzel said. “The camp was very beneficial. Having eye time from various NHL coaches, competing, and training against high-draft picks and quality players was very helpful to me.”
The following seasons proved to be equally as successful for Guentzel.
“Organizations and people would contact me to see what my plans were and if I was planning on staying in school or not,” he said.
It was during these years that he felt as though something might happen, but his dedication to his education and the collegiate team led Guentzel to stay in school and graduate with his class.
“Going into my senior year, I knew it was a possibility, but I couldn’t think about it during the season, but I had it in my mind that there was a definite possibility.”
Within a week of his senior season ending, Guentzel had signed with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, which has now moved to Norfolk, Va., as the Norfolk Admirals.
“I ended up getting an agent right after my season,” Guentzel said. “He made a number of phone calls and spoke with the people who were interested in me joining their programs. I had three or four teams that made offers, my agent helped me figure out my best options, and ultimately the decision was on me.”
Guentzel chose to sign with Syracuse/Norfolk because he felt as though it was the place where he would best excel and develop as a player.
“Playing with the Admirals is very different, the age level ranges from 18-30, everyone lives in different areas of the city, and the lifestyle is a change from college, with the primary commitment as practice in the morning,” he said.
The style of play is different from the college game. The rink is smaller, and the pace of the game is much quicker. Guentzel’s goal now is to continue to get stronger, adjust to the program, and be able to handle the bigger players on the ice.
Despite these differences, he has found his niche and is enjoying developing as a player.
Looking to the future, Guentzel hopes to get picked up by an NHL team, but knows that he has work to do in order to make that happen.
“This is the second-best league in the world, and the NHL put their draft picks in this league.” Guentzel said. “It is used as a stepping stone towards the NHL and I hope that it will be the case for me.”
While working towards his future goals, Guentzel is currently enjoying a quality level of hockey and the fact that he is still able to play the game he loves.