EVERETT — Most junior hockey players see their careers end either due to injury, moving on to the professional ranks or aging out of the league.
Few take the path that Brian King has chosen. A forward for the Everett Silvertips the past two seasons, King is choosing to retire from the WHL to accept a full-ride scholarship from the University of Alabama where he will study mechanical engineering and German.
“It’s going to be tough leaving the game and leaving the high competitive level and that aspect of the game,” King said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’ll miss it a ton, but going forward I’m going to look forward and enjoy what is ahead of me.”
King was the valedictorian at Everett High School this past year during a hockey season in which he was named the Tips’ Unsung Hero. He was courted by a number of schools and decided the opportunity from UA was enough to prematurely end his hockey career.
The specialized program at UA works in partnership with a Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant 20 miles from the Tuscaloosa campus, and with Hochschule Esslingen in Stuttgart, Germany, as part of an exchange program. During King’s junior year he will spend a semester at Esslingen and then have an internship at Mercedes-Benz in Germany the following summer.
“You can’t really redshirt and put it off another year and still have all the (scholarship) money they were giving me and all the opportunities,” King said. “I kind of looked of that and had to weigh my options, and it was definitely a really difficult decision, but it was one or the other at that point. It wasn’t like I could put it off and see how things went the next couple years and still have it.”
In preparation King has taken what amounts to two years of college-level German online through Brigham Young University in the past two months. The classes at Esslingen are entirely in German.
“It was an opportunity for him to go to school and get in the next chapter of his life,” said Zoran Rajcic, the the chief operating officer of the CSH International, the group that owns the Silvertips. “He was an ambassador for the city of Everett and the Everett Silvertips and now he’s going to go on to maybe someday do some fantastic things in his private life.”
King was named WHL Scholastic Player of the Year at the annual awards luncheon in May in Calgary. He finished his high school career at Everett High with a 4.0 grade-point average and scored 1490 on the SAT.
“(The Silvertips) have been really supportive,” King said. “Obviously they’re trying to create great hockey players, but they’re trying to build great people as well. So I think they’re happy to see I can still take lessons from what I’ve learned as a Silvertip and bring that over into the academic world. So much of it transitions over so I think they have been really supportive and I’m thankful they’ve helped me the whole way.”