Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 30
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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DUST OFF: Dustin Sproat ’06 looks for the puck in action for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. Sproat, a former Princeton University men’s hockey star, recently retired from professional hockey after making stops in the ECHL, AHL, and EIHL over the last three seasons. The gritty two-way center ended his pro career on a high note, scoring 42 points in 56 games this past winter for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL and earning the league’s inaugural Community Service Award for his work with HP4K (Hockey Players for Kids) organization.

Former PU Hockey Star Sproat Retires From Pros, Earning Service Award on the Way to Grad School

Ed Benkin

Dustin Sproat ’06 has walked away from hockey once before.

The gritty two-way center, who scored 57 points in three seasons for the Princeton University men’s hockey team, played 16 games for the Reading Royals of the ECHL in 2006 before hanging up his skates to work as a chemical engineer for a company in Calgary.

After visiting former Princeton teammates Pat Neundorfer and Max Cousins in Germany in 2008, Sproat decided to get back into the game. The 6’0, 195-pound Sproat played for the Fresno Falcons and Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL during the 2008-09 season.

Sproat bounced between the ECHL, AHL, and EIHL over the next two seasons before deciding to make his second and final exit from the game.

“I retired once,” said Sproat, who ended his career with a third stint with the Cyclones where he scored 42 points in 56 games this past winter while battling a knee injury.

“I kind of take the word retirement with a grain of salt. I’m not concerned about my knee. It’s going to be 100 percent. I turned 30 this year and I know my prospects of making the NHL are not great and at some point, I had to move on to other things.”

Sproat’s next thing will be heading to graduate school at the University of British Columbia to study for a Masters in Business Administration.

“It sort of seems like yesterday in a lot of ways,” said Sproat, a native of Red Deer in Alberta, Canada who graduated from Princeton in 2006 with a degree in chemical engineering. “I think it’s something I’ll be able to pick up pretty quickly.”

In addition to picking up where he left off on the ice when he arrived in Fresno, Sproat found a way to give back to the community as he built on volunteer work he had done while on his hiatus from the game.

“I decided to go back and give hockey a shot,” said Sproat. “We’re out in Fresno and I wanted to give volunteering another shot. They made a big deal that a pro hockey player wanted to spend time with kids on his own. That was the premise on how HP4K (Hockey Players for Kids) got going.”

HP4K is an organization dedicated to promote goodwill through hockey. A host of professional players such as Sproat have been involved with the organization and he was able to get several other players with ties to Princeton to participate.

When the Fresno franchise folded, the players split up and moved to five different cities and continued to be involved with HP4K. The network continued to grow as players kept the program running in several different locations.

“We decided to form this network so we could share resources and finances and ideas,” added Sproat. “It’s been growing ever since. We’re up to 100 pro members playing in seven countries in every level of hockey. It’s pretty awesome.”

The ECHL took notice of Sproat’s dedication to HP4K as he received the league’s inaugural Community Service Award. Each ECHL team was given the opportunity to nominate one player for their efforts in the community and charitable causes during the 2010-11 season. The winners were voted on by members of the ECHL office.

While Sproat wasn’t part of a winner at Princeton, he played on Guy Gadowsky’s first team and got in on the ground floor of a rebuilding process that resulted in the 2008 ECACH championship.

“Things changed in that first year,” says Sproat. “We didn’t win a ton of games, but you could just tell the whole atmosphere was changing. I left there knowing something awesome was going to take place at Princeton with Guy Gadowsky around.”

As Sproat looks forward to the changes coming in his life, he will miss being on the ice but won’t have any problem doing without the days of long bus trips and grueling schedules that come with minor league hockey.

“It drags on guys mentally during the year,” said Sproat. “If guys have girlfriends or wives then that comes into play. I was lucky the company I worked with gave me summer jobs and gave me the opportunity to go back there whenever I’m done.”

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