When Patrick White was growing up, he never had to worry about finding a sheet of ice in the hockey-crazed state of Minnesota. Having tailed his dad Mark to the rink as he coached hockey at the community college in Grand Rapids, White was a rink rat well before he could even comprehend the game. His dad bought him his first pair of skates as early as he could use them, and at dad’s lead, he spent most of his time on the outdoor rinks. Once White got into organized hockey in Grand Rapids, it was all systems go. He continued to grow and develop through the local ranks.
“By the time I was in peewee, I was trying to be the best kid in my town and try to be as good as some of the best kids in the area,” White recalled. “I kept developing and getting better.”
He went on to skip his last year in bantam and played for the local high school team starting in ninth grade. That’s when his game started to take off. Not only were people becoming aware of the forward, but the chatter started to stretch beyond the city limits.
He was shocked how fast he turned into a local star, but understood that since the stakes were getting steeper, it was time to turn it on.
“I was like, ‘whoa,’ to be honest,” White said. “I realized that in order to be as good as the rest of the kids around me, I had to set my goals higher.”
People kept talking about White as he progressed and the picture became a bit clearer. He finally got a sense that hockey was definitely going to be in his future. Before he knew it, he was skating on the US U17 Select Team at the U17 Five nations Tournament in Huttwil, Switzerland.
Then in the spring of 2004 and he was taking a call from the Seattle Thunderbirds organization of the WHL. They were inquiring about his interest in possibly playing out west in the development league.
White and his parents tried to play catch-up by getting some info on the league. As it turned out, they didn’t feel like the ideal fit because they were eyeing the college route.
“I had really no idea about the league or the bantam draft to be honest,” he said. Seattle would go on to draft White late, but the interest was still not present from his end.
“Looking at the bigger picture in relation to where and what I wanted to do, it didn’t appear to be the best fit for me,” he said. “I didn’t think I was up to the level of play at that moment and it was too much of a chance. Regardless, it made me feel good that there was interest out there.”
That wouldn’t change his approach. He kept his be happy-go-lucky attitude and kept on showing up to practice and kept playing hard every day.
“Around my sophomore and junior year in high school, I really started to realize what my opportunities were,” he recalled. “I was having success and getting recognized. To be honest, I just went out there and played without worrying who was up in the stands.”
New summer, new decisions
In the summer of 2005, this time the USHL came calling. The Tri-City Storm drafted White in the later rounds and a both sides were talking about him joining the team. He would sit down again and work over his options. He wanted to progress, he wanted to be challenged, but he remained conflicted.
“I contemplated leaving for my junior year to play full time for them,” he said. “I looked everything over, but made the decision that I wanted to stay in high school. I wanted to have all those memories of being with my friends.”
Having stayed on at Grand Rapids as a junior, he helped his squad get into the post season and into the state championships.
“No one really knew about us as a high school team in Grand Rapids because we hadn’t been to state since 1991,” he said. “We ended up doing pretty well but had a disappointing loss in the finals.”
Then came last summer of 2006. Once again, White sat down and thought about the opportunity of leaving Grand Rapids for his senior year in order to lace it up with Tri-Cities.
“It is a very hard process,” he said about milling over the decision to leave. “You think about it a lot and it was good because you had to work through all the scenarios. I thought a lot about missing home, yet putting it all behind and moving on.”
In the end, the decision to stay at home remained. This time it wasn’t just about wanting to be around to his close-knit circle, but he had some unfinished business to take care of.
On the heels of success as a junior, he was confident that his stock would continue to rise. This gave him the chance to focus on the state championship. Then, White struck a deal with the Storm to play both before and after his high school season.
Grand Rapids got back into the playoffs and White led the way. They beat Duluth-East in overtime to get to the section final, and then beat top-seeded Cloquet 3-1 for the 7AA Section Championship.
“For the second straight year it seemed that with the guidance from our coaching staff, we were able to play our best hockey when it mattered most,” White said. “We weren’t the most skilled team but we stuck to our systems and it worked out."
White would go on to finish the season with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 24 games played. He was also named the 2007 Associated Press Minnesota High School Hockey Player of the Year, Associated Press First Team All-State, a Minnesota Mr. Hockey Finalist and earned St. Paul Pioneer Press First Team All State honors.
After the playoffs, White returned to playing for the Storm. He finished the season with nine points (8 goals, 1 assist) in 12 regular season games. Mind you, he only played on weekends and got maybe one practice with team before hitting the ice for games.
“It was a great experience,” he said about playing in the USHL. “It was a bit of a wake-up call playing at that level, but the speed, the pace and the scoring chances made that whole experience a blast.”
After the regular season ended, White still had the momentum in his favor. He was selected to the U.S. U18 squad that was set to take the ice in Finland. The scene was familiar because he had played in international tournaments before. However, this time it was against some of the best talent in his age bracket just months before the draft with tons of scouts looking on.
“Playing against the top talent in the world is very exciting,” he said. “You sit there and see the other kids who are so skilled and talented. You can almost improve your game just by watching them.”
He held his own on an offensive hungry squad headlined by James vanRiemsdyk, Colin Wilson, and Jordan Schroeder. In a total of seven games, he scored five points (3 goals, 2 assists) and tied for second with a plus-5. The team captured silver after a loss to Russia in the finals.
Time to step it up
It’s been quite a ride for White over the last few seasons. Throughout all decisions as to where to play, the sleepless nights sitting there wondering if he was making the right choices, he is today without any regrets.
“We looked at the fact that sometimes the top draft picks aren’t always or don’t always turn out to be the best players in the long run,” he explained. “I knew in my heart that I had to keep working and looking for ways to improve, so I could get to where I want to.”
Columbus is not the only stop marked on his calendar this summer. White will start preparing for a trip to Lake Placid, New York in August. He is among 45 players who are set to attend the 2007 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. It’s going to be an exciting, yet a big challenge or him, but he’s ready.
“I really didn’t expect being named to that tryout camp,” he said. “I can’t say much more than it is a great honor at this point. I’m going to work as hard as I can to get a spot on that team. It’s going to be fun to be trying out with all those top players in America.”
It’s going to be fun, but it’s also going to be about business. He’s not worried about the talent that has littered the preliminary roster. White actually relishes the chance to skate alongside some of the finer talent there is to offer.
“I’m looking forward to the camp,” he explained. “I love playing up because every time I step out on the ice with them, not only do they make me better just by playing on the same sheet as them, but also you can learn things from them.”
White doesn’t lack the motivation; he finds himself constantly assessing his skill set, looking for ways improve.
“For instance, you see one guy working hard and that makes you want to work hard every shift,” he continued. “If your linemates are flying and making all these beautiful plays you’re willing to do the same for them.”
He won’t lie. He wants to make the team, but he keeps everything balanced and in perspective. He’s ready to deal with it either way because he knows regardless, he still has to show up to the University of Minnesota this fall.
“It’s going to take a lot of hard work to make a name for myself in that program,” he said about playing for the Golden Gophers. “Hopefully, I can get a chance and do well when they come. You have to make sure you’re playing hard enough so they got to keep you out on the ice. That’s what I got to do.”
Even though the draft looms, it’s no secret the last few months have been a litter quieter for White. He’s been doing some of normal things teenagers would be taking care of this time of year, but he’s aware of what hangs in the balance.
“It’s going to be exciting when someone calls my name,” he explained. “I’m going to be happy for whoever it is because they’re happy to have me. Otherwise, as soon as the draft is over, it’s back to reality.”
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.