Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 30
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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FIGHTING CHANCE: Kyle Hagel heads up the ice last winter for the Rockford Ice Hogs of the American Hockey League (AHL). The former Princeton University standout scored 13 points and amassed 245 penalty minutes in 77 games as he fights his way for a shot in the NHL. The hard-nosed forward recently signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Blues organization and will be headed to training camp with the club later this summer.

Hagel Heading to St. Louis Blues Organization As PU Hockey Alum Fights for Spot in NHL

Ed Benkin

Kyle Hagel is fighting for a spot in the National Hockey League — literally.

After establishing a reputation as a hard-nosed forward during his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team from 2004-08, Hagel has taken his rugged style to another level as a professional, dropping the gloves when needed as he piled up 245 penalty minutes in 77 games last winter for the Rockford Ice Hogs of the American Hockey League (AHL).

“It’s one of the things you can do as a fourth line player to make yourself more valuable to a team,” said the 6’0, 205-pound Hagel, reflecting on his willingness to use his fists when necessary.

“In terms of the actual hockey, I play the same role more or less. The fighting is something that can help turn heads. Gritty role players are the ones the scouts see from the stands and put a big red circle around.”

Later this summer, Hagel, 26, will be looking to turn heads at the training camp of the St. Louis Blues after recently signing a one-year deal with the organization.

“I’m really looking forward to training camp,” said Hagel, who scored 13 points on eight goals and five assists to go with his penalty minutes. “I want to go there and hopefully make an impression and get as much time with the big club as possible.”

Last winter, Hagel made quite an impression off the ice as he was named the Rockford winner of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award, an honor given to the player who makes outstanding contributions to the community.

His greatest impact in the Rockford community came from running the “Stick to Reading” program in a local elementary school. The program encouraged students at the fourth and fifth grade levels to improve their reading habits and mirrored a program that Hagel was involved with at Princeton.

“It’s a reading incentive program,” explained Hagel. “You set up a competition for the kids. The kids who do the best get to play in a big ball hockey game in the end. It was just a huge success in Rockford.”

Hagel experienced success at Princeton as he came in on the ground floor of the Guy Gadowsky regime. Arriving as a freshman when Gadowsky took the reins of the Tiger program, Hagel helped the Tigers go from the ECAC Hockey cellar to league champions.

“It was unbelievable,” said Hagel, a native of Hamilton, Ontario who scored 24 points during his Tiger career with 80 penalty minutes in 117 games. “Guy was absolutely outstanding. His charisma, his grit and his determination to win was just outstanding. We started together since we had the same freshman year. He never doubted us and he never doubted himself.”

After graduation, Hagel moved on to play in Fresno and Reading of the ECHL. At the end of the 2008-09 season, he got his first taste of AHL action in Rochester. Hagel was back in the ECHL with Las Vegas at the beginning of the following season before moving up to Rockford. After a full season with the Ice Hogs last year, Hagel is hoping to finally break into the NHL this winter.

One of Hagel’s biggest adjustments to playing professionally was adjusting to life without the challenges of Princeton academics.

“You do your best to try and keep yourself busy,” said Hagel. “Being a hockey player at Princeton is different. Hockey is at least 30 hours a week and school is like that, too. When you’re a pro, you have a lot more time on your hands. You can spend more time working on your game. You didn’t have the luxury to do that at Princeton.”

As Hagel joins the Blues, he is aiming to take his game to a higher level.

“The people that I talked to said there is the opportunity for a lot of upward mobility within their franchise,” said Hagel.

“Last year, they had a lot of guys they called up. They were hampered by a number of injuries, but they tried out a bunch of different guys in a bunch of different roles.”

If Hagel makes the Blues, he will join the growing ranks of Princeton players who are making an impact in the NHL. Hagel is hoping to one day see the likes of George Parros (Anaheim Ducks), Jeff Halpern (Montreal Canadiens), Darroll Powe (Minnesota Wild), and Kevin Westgarth (Los Angeles Kings) on a regular basis.

“It’s pretty cool to see all of those guys floating around the leagues,” said Hagel. “I hope I get the chance to play against a couple of those guys in the NHL. It would be really fun and special.”

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