Just before departing the United States Hockey League Fall Classic, I caught up with Charlie Taft, Muskegon Lumberjacks alumnus and current freshman at Colorado College.
After catching up for a bit, I had to let Charlie go, lest the bus should leave me in Sioux City.
But before he hung up, Charlie had just one request – to tell his old coaches he says “Hi.”
Taft is a busy buy, but when he gets a few minutes, he keeps tabs on his former club, texting his former fellow Jacks, poring over box scores. He reflects on how different things were just a year ago, when he was taking part in the Classic with the Jacks.
“It was kind of crazy seeing all those scouts and there was a lot of pressure to perform,” Charlie says. “It was a great experience and gets players a lot of exposure.”
While his performance at the Classic might have prodded CC’s courtship of Charlie, the Tigers’ staff has had the fleet-footed sniper on its radar since he was in cutting his chops at Edina High School.
Taft’s original plan was to attend college in the fall of 2012, but his exceptional play during his rookie USHL season forced the Tigers to up the ante. Charlie jumped all over their offer and an opportunity to start college this fall.
Because of the change of plan, Charlie says it’s still setting in that he’s a college hockey player. Despite carrying a full slate of classes, rising and shining at or before 8 a.m. every day, enduring a demanding workout regimen and attending late-night captain’s practices nearly every night, reality still hasn’t quite taken hold.
How demanding is that program? Well, aside from the regular routine, the team also takes part in events that are one-part team building and one-part training. This morning, he and his fellow Tigers undertook “The Incline,” which is nearly two miles of nearly vertical stairs.
“It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Charlie says. “I’d take running the dunes any day.”
On the subject of flashbacks, Charlie – never one to bask in his personal achievements – hadn’t consciously thought about his history five-point, +5 game against Cedar Rapids on St. Patty’s Day last season until I brought it up in the interview.
“I’ve just been so busy, even though it’s probably the greatest game of my career, it really hasn’t crossed my mind,” Charlie says.
Things are about to get much busier, as coaches will soon be allowed to conduct practices, and the Tigers are mere weeks away from opening up their season.
“I’m very excited. Counting down the days until games begin,” Taft says.