Gophers hockey captains Nate Condon and Kyle Rau envision careers beyond the ice. The newly minted captains take on a leadership role both on the rink and in the classroom. The student athletes strive to be the kind of teammates others can rely on, whether in the final minutes of a game or in the home stretch of a group project.
"Leadership is a key skill we've had to learn," says Condon. "We have 25 guys on our team and it's our responsibility to keep them motivated."
Finance and accounting senior Condon and marketing junior Rau were named captains earlier this year, as determined by Coach Don Lucia and the votes of their fellow teammates. Condon, who makes his final stand as a Gopher this season, is the team's most experienced player, having played 118 games. Forward Rau is the team's leading returner -- he scored 15 goals and 25 assists, and tied for first in the nation with seven game winning goals last season. He was unanimously selected as a Big Ten Preseason Player to Watch in September.
"I'm excited for both Nate and Kyle to serve as captains this season," says Coach Lucia. "They're both deserving of this honor, and they are both the kind of player you want in this role. They're good students, they're hard workers on and off the ice, and they are great representatives of our hockey program and the University of Minnesota."
This season, the captains' top priority for the team is getting freshmen players up to speed while navigating the gaps left by former teammates that were drafted this year.
"Acclimating freshmen to the team is a challenge, because we have guys coming in that need to play minutes right away. So our goal now is to get them ready to go for the season," says Condon.
Although both players are gearing up to play in the NHL following their careers with the Gophers, they're confident their Carlson School education will set them up for success beyond the rink. Condon envisions a career as a financial advisor or analyst, while Rau hopes to someday work in real estate.
"We both know we're one injury away from never playing hockey again," says Rau. "But Carlson is a great school that can set up your life after athletics."
When managing several hours of practice each day, along with the demands of their courses, Condon and Rau cite time management and a willingness to collaborate as the most important factors of their leadership strategy.
"Sometimes you have to work on teams you'd rather not be a part of," says Condon. "As captains, we're learning the things that go into having a successful atmosphere and how to move forward as a team, whether we get along or not."
Both players hope to lead the Gophers to victory this season. They say, looking back, they will most remember playing in the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla. in 2011.
"It wasn't exactly the ideal atmosphere for hockey, but the facilities were great, and spending that time with the guys was something I'll never forget," says Condon.