Sports

Federal Way teenager among the country's elite hockey players

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Federal Way isn’t known as a hot bed for talented hockey players. The sport is a lot better known in the colder climates around North America. Places like Minnesota, New York and the entire country of Canada are reserved for pucks, icing and cross-checking.

But the city of Federal Way does feature one of the best youth players in the state, if not the nation, in 14-year-old T.C. Cratsenberg. That fact was rammed home last month when Cratsenberg was as one of the top-20 players in a five-state region. The honor earned him a spot at the 2006 USA Hockey Select Player Development Camp July 15-21 in Rochester, N.Y. The camp will include the best 14-year-old hockey players from across the country.

“My parents took me to a Seattle Thunderbirds game when I was 2 and I fell in love with hockey,” Cratsenberg said. “I play all year round.”

The development camp will feature a total of 12 teams, each of which will play a total of five games in five days. Scouts and coaches from across the country will be in attendance. Cratsenberg was the only player from Washington to be invited to the elite camp from the Pacific region, which includes Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Of the 20 players picked from the region, California leads the way with 11 and Alaska has the other eight invitees.

Cratsenberg plays left wing, which basically an offensive and hitting position on the ice. The 6-foot, 165-pounder fits in perfect as a prototypical left-winger. Cratsenberg is a solid skater with passing skills and can put a hit on an opposing player if the situation calls for it. But he can also put the puck into the back of the net. He has 25 goals during the current season for his select team.

Cratsenberg currently plays for the Seattle Junior Thunderbirds out of the SnoKing Ice Center in North Seattle. He travels the the rink two to three times a week and also plays on a select team out of Canada that mostly competes in tournaments on weekends.

“My parents love to watch hockey,” Cratsenberg said. “They are big fans.”

There’s no disputing that. His parents spend hours and hours on the road driving T.C. to hockey tournaments and practices all over the Western United States and Canada. T.C. also can’t get enough of the sport.

“I love how hockey is fast-paced and keeps me in shape and out of trouble.”

Cratsenberg’s goal is to continuing player junior hockey and enter the bantam draft next year as a 15-year-old. The bantam draft feeds teams like the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League and is basically the minor league system of professional hockey.

Another option would be for Cratsenberg to move away from Federal Way to attend one of the numerous prep schools that litter the east coast. There he would attend high school while concentrating on playing hockey against some of the best competition in the United States.

“They have a lot better off ice training,” he said. “That would be a nice goal, but I think I want to stay here until I’m 16 and continue to play with the Junior Thunderbirds.”

During his hockey career, Cratsenberg has been pretty lucky, in terms of injuries. The worst thing to happen was when he split his chin open after his tooth went through his lip. The injury required six stitches and, like any hockey player, Cratsenberg was immediately back on the ice.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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