In Canada, lacrosse might be the national sport, but hockey will always remain the sport that put the county on the map.
On March 9, 1987, U2 released their studio album, “The Joshua Tree” and in Toronto, Alex Petizian entered the world to start his journey.
In 1988, the Petizian family moved to Montreal, where the majority of his family was already located, and in 1992, Petizian, age 5, was on the ice, playing hockey as a forward.
“I always enjoyed the game, ever since I was young. My father and I would watch the games on TV. Being in Montreal, we were Montreal Canadiens fans. My father also coached a local youth team and I would be the mascot, running around, being part of the game from a far. I have been around hockey for as long as I can remember. I wanted to win the Stanley Cup, like Patrick Roy did in 1993,” said Petizian to the Armenian Weekly.
The opportunity for Petizian to play goalie, like his idol Roy, presented itself when he was 8 years old and his team’s goaltender decided to quit.
“The team had a dilemma on its hand. I had always been fascinated by the position and wanted to give it a try. So, I put on the pads and went into the net,” he said.
Petizian’s first game in between the pipes—playing the goaltender position—was not a memorable one. “We lost the game, 7-2. I remember it because it was a big learning experience for me. Yes, I lost the game, but I didn’t give up. I knew I could be a good goaltender.”
His switch from forward to goalie, however, was met with some disagreement.
“My father, even though he was supportive of my choice, always believed that the goalie should be the best skater on the team and he didn’t think I was, at that time, evolved fully as a skater. But he always just wanted me to have fun,” said Petizian.
As he grew in age, he also grew in his ability. His skating got better, his agility, awareness, and all the intricacies that make a good goalie a great goalie took form.
“I took power skating classes after school, plus hockey practice. And I skated, not only during the season, but in the summertime as well. My skating improved, as well as all the other skills that I needed to improve,” he said.
As his skills sharpened, so did his options. He enjoyed playing in Canada, but for him to be on the road to the NHL, he needed to make a choice: either go play juniors or stay in school, but be in a prep school, which would be the stepping stone to college hockey.
“My parents did not want me to leave school. They and I decided it would be best to remain in school, and not to get out of the school rhyme,” said Petizian.
After two years at his local high school, he made his way, down the 49-parrel, to Gates Mills, Ohio to attend the Gilmour Academy.
“I was 16 when I left for Gilmour. I would play everyday, after school and on the weekends. There were road trips to play other schools and in all we played around 60 games, more games than I would have played in my local high school,” he said.
From Gilmour, he went to Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., for a post-graduate year. It was while playing at Northwood that his play was noticed.
“St. Lawrence’s hockey scouts came to see me play and offered me a scholarship, and I took it,” he said.
Usually, a team will only offer a player a scholarship after some time, 10-15 looks, but with Petizian, it did not take that many looks.
“At Northwood, I had a teacher and coach, Mark Morris [now head coach of the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL], who is good friends with the head coach at St. Lawrence. He really helped me out,” said Petizian.
It was the right time and the right place for Petizian who, heading into his senior year as a St. Lawrence Saint is looking to improve on last season’s results.
“As a team, I think we can win the ECAC [St. Lawrence’s college league] and we can make it and win the NCAA tournament. On a personal level, if I play well this year, I will have a better chance at signing with an NHL team,” he said.
Petizian is considered a free agent, not having been drafted into the NHL in his draft year. He is able to sign a contract with any team after his senior year.
In order to get prepared for the upcoming season, Petizian is already skating and working in the net.
“I must get prepared now, during the summer, because that is the time to get stronger and work out all the kinks,” he said.
He is working with Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi to help his all-around game and technique.
“It is great to be able to work with him. He has trained some of the best goalies in the world: Dominik Hasek, Martin Biron, and now Ryan Miller. I know he already has made me better. I move in the net quicker, I have faster reflexes, as well. I have improved tremendously under his guidance,” said Petizian.
With all this on-the-ice preparation, one might think that his life away from the ice would take a hit. But Petizian is handling both his lives—on and off the ice—extremely well.
“Life away from the ice is working out well. Obviously, I have to pick and choose the times I go out. I have to think about when to let loose and when I have to step away. The hockey is great, but it takes up the large bulk of my time. I go out more during the off-season, but I am smart in how long to stay out and what to do,” he said.
His hockey life also took a large toll on his Armenian social life.
“I have been to some church events, but because of hockey I wasn’t able to go to Armenian school like my other cousins in Canada. I haven’t been to any youth events like Sports Weekend or Armenian Olympics, but I do know my history and can understand a bit of the language. My family is basically Armenian, we eat Armenian food, go to church for Christmas and Easter, so it is good,” he said.
Petizian wants his future to be in hockey, but if, for some reason it doesn’t work out, he is prepared.
“At St. Lawrence, I am an economics major with a math minor. I have a GPA over 3.0. I want to continue playing hockey, but I am ready if I need to do something else… I would love to open my own restaurant, actually. I don’t see myself as the 9-5 type of guy, but I love food and it would be great to have my own place,” he said.
Alex Petizian is looking forward, not only to the upcoming Saints’ season, but showing the hockey world what he is made of. Make it or not, Petizian is another example of what Armenians are capable of.