Goalie Aaron Randazzo, like most hockey players, was on the ice by the age of three.
Unlike most hockey players, he wasn’t on an actual hockey team until age 15.
“I played one year of house league when I was nine-years-old, but that was it,” said the now 19-year-old Randazzo. “It definitely wasn’t a traditional hockey upbringing.”
The hiatus of team-play didn’t mean Randazzo wasn’t still on the ice. In fact, he managed to work on his skills in all 50 states at his father’s Christian hockey camps, FCA.
The St. Cloud State University commit recounts what he learned that helped lead him to junior hockey, including a stop at both the United States Hockey League and currently in the North American Hockey League.
USA Hockey: Hockey in 50 different states, that’s pretty awesome.
Aaron Randazzo: Yeah, it was a five-year trip where we moved every month. It was different, but pretty cool.
USA Hockey: Did you start between the pipes or play out at first?
Randazzo: I kind of grew up as a forward at first. But it was around 11 or so that I started to look at goalie. I was working at one of my dad’s camps and this guy, Jack O’Halloran, told me to try goaltending and see if I liked it.
My dad was against it at first and tried to keep me out—I think most parents do that to goalies—but I stepped in net, gave it a shot and I loved it. I love the feeling where you can make or break the game. You make an amazing save and help the team win, and I like the pressure and the end of the day where it all falls on your shoulders. I just love that feeling.
I told my dad that’s where I wanted to play. It’s worked out pretty good so far.
USA Hockey: Team play came into action at 15, what was that transition like? How did you hockey career start to take shape around then?
Randazzo: The whole camp journey ended when we relocated to Utah for a couple of years. There I took part in the USA Hockey Development Camps at 14 and 15 levels. The next year, when I was 15/16, we moved to Minnesota where I played a year of high school in Alexandria.
High school was great, but Alexandria is a smaller school, and at high school hockey, you’re not playing as many games. I wanted to look for different options and for something that was a better fit for me. I played a year of prep in Saskatchewan, then to the Dubuque Fighting Saints when I was 17. After one year in Dubuque I decided again to look at a better fit and ended up in Odessa, Texas with the NAHL.
USA Hockey: Having not much team experience, what were those development camps like?
Randazzo: I went my 15 and 17 year as a goalie. That was a really cool experience. I learned a lot from Kevin Ritter, a lot of different drills and really expanded on my game. Just to play against the top players in my age group was really special.
Having not been on a team, I really didn’t know how good or bad I was. I had no idea where I fell against the top players in my age group. It was a big confidence boost, and was great experience to be with other goalies around the country.
USA Hockey: You’re committed to St. Cloud State University, how has junior hockey helped you prepare for that next step? Do you think that comes next year or will there be another year of juniors in store?
Randazzo: Junior hockey has helped me a lot. And next year, is next year. For me, the interesting part of not playing a ton of actual games as a kid is really unique. Switching from high school hockey to junior hockey, from Dubuque to Odessa, it has just really given me that much-needed game experience more than anything. It’s proven to me how good I can be playing, so I’m just working on getting as much experience as I can. I’m always learning and always getting better, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Image courtesy of Danne' Braden Photography