Life a Junior Hockey player is ever evolving and has many twists and turns. When you reach the Jr level, you are making a serious commitment to your craft and future. The serious players end up playing Junior hockey. At times, they follow the same path and never meet.
Richie Hill played for the Junior Penguins U16AAA team four seasons ago. He never played high school hockey. He moved to Tampa Bay because of his mother’s job. He tried out and played Junior hockey in Tampa for two seasons before being drafted by the Jr A Penguins in the NA3HL. Richie came back home to Pittsburgh and lived with his grandmother and became Captain of the Penguin JR A team.
Tyler Stepke played his amateur hockey for the Pittsburgh Viper Stars AAA team. He was a standout goalie for his local high school team, the Mars Planets and won a few Pennsylvania State titles along the way. Tyler finished up his midget eligibility and decided it was time to take his game to the next level and went on to play Juniors. He moved to Soo, Michigan in hopes of doing just that.
Tyler started the season in the NOJHL for the Soo Eagles, an American team in a Canadian league. He was living with a billet family and finding his bearings away from home. At the same time, Richie started the season as a captain for his hometown Jr Penguin team in the NA3HL while living in the comforts of grandma’s home. Due to the returning status of one of the Soo’s goaltenders, Tyler was traded to the North Iowa Bulls of the NA3HL where he began getting more playing time.
At Christmas, both North Iowa and Pittsburgh were looking to add pieces to their teams to make a run at the playoffs. In order to take the next step, teams needed to make tough decisions, but ones that made sense. With that premise, a good hockey trade was made.
Pittsburgh sent its Captain and team leader Richie Hill to North Iowa for Tyler Stepke and young prospect Reed Gregory. The trade benefited both teams as they began to climb the league standings and continue to gain victories along the way. However, Richie Hill’s journey was not complete. After a brief stint in North Iowa, Richie is now playing for the Soo Eagles in the NOJHL. In an ironic twist, he is staying in the same billet house and sleeping in the same bed that Tyler Stepke started in when he was with the Soo. Who would have thought that?
TWO local players, taking different paths, never meeting in between and ending where each other started.