Alternate captain Zipkin hopes senior year ends with 2nd national title
Kevin Zipkin is an alternate captain and senior forward for the Florida Gulf Coast University ice hockey team. Zipkin came to FGCU for his rookie season with the team in 2011, the year that the club won the National Championship. Zipkin is a leader for the young team that came in this season, and a friend to his teammates.
Zipkin was born and raised in New City, New York. He began playing hockey when he was six years old. His parents helped him and his older brother get involved in as many sports as possible. His father had played hockey growing up, and when Zipkin got involved with the game, hockey became the sport he was most passionate about. He played hockey throughout his childhood and then continued playing on his middle school and high school hockey team.
After Zipkin graduated from high school, his family moved to Florida where he began his college career at Palm Beach Community College. After six months in Florida, his family decided to move back to New York. He transferred to SUNY Plattsbugh for college, and after a short period of time, he realized that he wasn’t happy because he wasn’t playing hockey.
“I called my dad, basically crying, and said I wanted to play hockey again because I can’t just quit,” Zipkin said. “I’ve been playing my whole life. So he said, ‘Let’s play juniors then see where we can go for college.’”
Zipkin spent two years playing for the Walpole Express Juniors in Walpole, Mass. His team made it to the championship once but never won. During juniors, Zipkin lived in a dorm right outside the arena that the team played in. The dorm was built to house 50 hockey players, and all he did for two years was live hockey six days a week. Zipkin said some of his most memorable moments in hockey came from playing juniors. He talked about those moments and his love for the sport with a sparkle in his eyes that you only see in the most dedicated of players.
“The rookie parties in juniors were a lot of fun. It was also where you get to know the guys the best because that’s when everybody opens up,” Zipkin said. “It’s everybody’s official welcome to the team. At the end of the night, you’re a family; it does a lot for camaraderie. You have to have that initiation party to become a family.”
After juniors, he looked into a few different colleges, including Arizona State University, Niagara and FGCU. He decided against going to ASU because of the distance and he thought he wouldn’t be able to keep his focus on school and hockey. He shot down Niagara because of the small size of the university.
“I’m pretty outgoing and didn’t want to be in the same classes with the same people all the time,” Zipkin said. “Sometimes I bother people, so if I got on one kid’s nerves, I didn’t want to be stuck with him for the next four years. I wanted to go to a school where I wasn’t going to know everybody and could meet a new face every day. I chose to come to FGCU, and it was the best decision I ever made.”
He came to FGCU in 2011. He had looked into the hockey program and immediately joined the team. During his first year playing for the FGCU hockey club, he was selected for the First Team All-American, alongside Mike Lendino. Lendino is now the assistant coach of the FGCU D2 hockey team. That year the Eagles won the National Championship title.
“The National Championship team was probably the most talented team I’ve ever played with,” Zipkin said. “By game five we were all dead tired because it’s five games in five days. But we pulled it together because we had to. There was a national championship on the line.”
That year was the final year for the 14 veterans on the team. The season of 2012- 2013 became a rebuilding year for the club. They had a rough season that year. However, Zipkin was chosen for the All-Star Team along with his teammates from FGCU, Anthony Yezek and Dan Echeverri. “We went to Marlborough, Mass. for the All-Star Tournament,” Zipkin said. “We were the ‘Sunshine Line.’ We had the most points for our team as a line. We had three goals in one shift. We were pretty unstoppable as a line.”
This season Zipkin is an alternate captain for the team, and he considers himself one of the more vocal captains. He does his best as a leader for his teammates and is everybody’s best friend. Things have changed for the team this year. One of the changes that the club has seen this season is the addition of the new locker room built at Germain Arena for the Eagles.
“Being the first ones in the locker room is like making FGCU history. My stall will forever be my stall,” Zipkin said. “The team is so much closer because of the locker room. We tell stories and get to spend more time together. Being secluded in our own locker room helps us to focus on the game more. FGCU has one of the best set ups, not just because of the locker room but also because of the staff.”
Zipkin is a criminal justice major and was supposed to graduate this semester. He was put on the wait list for the senior capstone class he needs to graduate, but did not get into it. He is unsure if the class will be available for the summer semester or if he’ll have to stay through the fall semester. He currently interns with the Collier County State Attorney’s Office. He hopes to attend law school and become a prosecution attorney.
After college, Zipkin wants to play pro hockey in Europe. His former teammate and roommate, Otto Jaasko, is playing pro hockey in Finland now. Zipkin said that he’s only young once and will play pro if he gets the chance. He can worry about law school and his future after that.
For now, playing hockey at FGCU is one of the most exciting things for Zipkin. “I love everything about the game— being the locker room with the guys, the lasting friendships you make, how tightknit the hockey community is,” Zipkin said. “The hockey world is so small. The feeling is amazing, especially in college. College is stressful but hockey is like a drug. If you’re having a bad day, knowing that you have practice or a game that night makes everything better. Even if it’s only for a short period of time while you’re on the ice before reality sinks in again, it’s addicting.” Zipkin is enjoying this year in hockey. The team is playing well with a record of 18-1-1. He hopes to end his college hockey career on a high note this season. “My faith in this team is unreal. The year we won the championship, I looked up to the veterans,” Zipkin said. “I know that a lot of the young guys on our team look up to those of us who are veterans now. I, personally, look up to the younger guys and admire them. I feel like I’m passing the torch to these guys who are going to continue to build the program.”
Zipkin let us in on some secrets about his hockey life. He always puts his parents’ initials on his hockey sticks.
“Where would I be without them? Hockey is an expensive sport,” Zipkin said. “They’ve spent a multitude of money on my hockey career. Between equipment, traveling with me and other expenses, they must have spent easily over $100 grand on me playing hockey over the last 17 years.” He also considers himself to be very superstitious.
“I always tie my left skate before my right. I put my left shin pad on before my right,” Zipkin said. “I have the same shoulder pads since what you would think is 1970. They’re falling apart and duct-taped back together, but I won’t get rid of them.” The Eagles have a road trip ahead of them this weekend. Zipkin loves road trips. He claimed that traveling with the team is one of the best bonding experiences, and it helps the team to grow closer. He said that camaraderie in hockey is an important aspect, and road trips bring a team closer together. After the Eagles return from the road, they have only a few weeks left in the season. Zipkin believes strongly in his teammates and the Eagles’ shot at the National Championship this season. He’s a huge role player, contributor to the team and role model for his friends. He lives by a motto in hockey that was drilled into him playing for juniors.
“I was left with words of wisdom from my coach in juniors, and I’ll pass them on now,” Zipkin said. “If we were having a bad game, refs were making bad calls and things weren’t going our way, he always said, ‘Control the control-ables.’ He tattooed that on our minds, and I still live that way. I use that term often with our team now.”