Throughout any junior hockey season there are stories left untold. This is one that needed to be told.
Taylor Ceccarelli came the Missoula Bruins from Anchorage, AK after having played four years for East Anchorage H.S. and two seasons in the Alaska Wolves program. Having players from Alaska is nothing new to the Bruins, each year the team has brought multiple Alaskans to town. Ceccarelli’s story wound up being more than a little different, however.
Following his final season of 18U hockey in Alaska, Ceccarelli was resigned to the idea that his competitive hockey career was over. That was until he was contacted by Bruins Head Coach Cliff Cook, offering him a chance to play one more season and see where it may lead him in the future.
What Coach Cook didn’t know at the time is Ceccarelli had already begun the process of finding out the steps needed to join the United States Army. But, Ceccarelli decided to give hockey one more shot and arrived in Missoula with the rest of the team in August ready for training camp.
It was clear early on that Ceccarelli had the talent to be an important part of the Bruins defense corps. In just his third junior game, Ceccarelli not only picked up his first junior goal, he finished the game with three points, including a second goal. Injuries began to take a toll, however. A series of shoulder injuries kept Ceccarelli out of the lineup multiple games and the idea that his hockey career may be coming to an end began to creep back in his head.
But he wasn’t worried, he had a plan.
Prior to the Bruins heading to Blaine, MN for the NA3HL Annual Showcase, Ceccarelli had visited with the local Missoula Army recruitment office to, once again, find out the steps needed to join up. And, just weeks before the team headed to Minnesota, he let Coach Cook know the decision had been made, he was leaving the team to head home to Alaska for a bit to see family before heading to U.S. Army Boot Camp in Fort Benning, GA.
“Taylor is the kind of player and leader every team at every level of hockey wants in their locker room,” said Coach Cook. “From a team standpoint, losing him on the ice and in the locker room left a big void, but it was no surprise to any of us that he had a greater cause in mind. From a personal standpoint, and as an organization, we are so proud of the decision he’s made to serve our country and we should all be proud that young men like Taylor make the sacrifice to serve. He represents the best in all of us.”
Before heading home however, Ceccarelli traveled with the team to Blaine to compete in his final competitive hockey games and even collected an assist in the Bruins first win of the showcase against the Cape Code Islanders. In 19 games with the Bruins, Ceccarelli collected two goals and three assists.
“My time in Missoula was great,” said Ceccarelli. “I met some great people and had a really good experience. I’m really happy I made the choice to come here and finish out my career. Serving my country is something I wanted to do since I was young. I’ve always wanted to help people and I feel joining the Army is the best way I can do that.”
On April 26, 2019, Taylor Ceccarelli graduated U.S. Army Boot Camp and prepared for the next step in his Army career, heading off to Army Airborne School.
Congratulations Chicky and good luck as you move into the next part of your Army career. The entire Missoula Bruins organization is very proud to call you a Bruin for life.
**UPDATE – Just minutes after posting this story Taylor messaged Coach Cook and quote, “I made it through Airborne School and I’m now a Paratrooper.” So proud!**