January 2012: Torrey Mitchell '04
Torrey Mitchell ’04 plays professional ice hockey for the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks.
A native of Montreal, Mitchell was raised in a small suburb south of the city. His family emphasized education and athletics -- both parents played college sports, graduated from McGill, and chose careers in teaching athletics at the high school level. They also encouraged their boys to skate. “When I was little, my father built a skating rink for us in the backyard. I played on that rink for almost 15 years. We played before school, at lunch time, and after school. When my parents came home from work, they would take us to hockey practice, and when we got home, it was back to the ice in the back yard. We were the most popular kids in the neighborhood.”
Mitchell and his parents decided that it would be beneficial to have him go to prep school. “I had an idea of the type of school I was looking for. It came down to Deerfield and Hotchkiss, and I chose Hotchkiss. The high school hockey season is relatively short and that worked for me. I am self-motivated, so I trained hard in the spring and the fall and also in the summer at home in Montreal.” As a Bearcat, Mitchell immediately became a leader on the ice. Senior year, he was a co-captain and the recipient of the Edward F. Swift III ’41 and Phelps H. Swift ’44 Award, presented to the boy who by loyalty, leadership, and fine spirit makes the greatest contribution to the hockey team.
Though the San Jose Sharks drafted the rights to Mitchell in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL draft with the 126th selection overall, he decided to enroll at the University of Vermont. “I am not that big, and I was smaller in high school. Sometimes you see 18-year-olds go right to the NHL, but I wasn’t ready.” Hotchkiss hockey had prepared Mitchell well. “By the time I got to UVM, the transition to hockey was smooth. I stepped right onto the first line.” During his three years as a Catamount, Mitchell made the Eastern College Athletic Conference All-Rookie Team as a freshman, was named an Honorable Mention Hockey East All-Star for two seasons, and was a co-captain junior year. For his 35 total points, Mitchell ranked 14th best in Hockey East, and he ranked seventh best in assists. Mitchell made 12 goals to help UVM to an 18-16-5 overall record and a 10-5 record in Hockey East. When the Sharks offered Mitchell a contract in lieu of his senior year at UVM, he took it.
In October 2007, Mitchell played his first NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers, and he scored his first goal just over a month later against the Anaheim Ducks. Then, in September 2008 during an open team practice, Mitchell slammed into the goal post and fractured his leg. He has also had two knee surgeries. Understandably, Mitchell says that the toughest part of the job is the physicality of hockey and not just on the ice. “There is the 250 pound guy coming at you and trying to take your head off, but there is also the top level of fitness you have to achieve. It is a business, and your job is to win.” Mitchell is all in favor of the NHL’s new rules about hits to the head. “This is going to help the game a lot. It is not going to lessen the physicality on the ice. You don’t hit somebody when they aren’t looking, and if you do, you are putting your career on the line.”
While on the road, Mitchell says, the accommodations are incredible. “We travel on a private jet, stay at the nicest hotels, and eat amazing meals. But it takes a toll. You leave a game, fly to another city, arrive at 3:00 a.m. and then get up a few hours later and play. A lot of the guys have families, and that can be tough. But it is fun for the most part, and I can suggest a great restaurant for you in many different cities.” The Sharks had a great run last year, ending the regular season with a 48-25-9 record. Their 105 points overall earned them first place in the Pacific and second place in the Western Conferences. Mitchell set his career highs in both points (23) and assists (14) with an impressive 13 points in the last 17 games, including the game-winning goal at Dallas on March 15. Notably, Mitchell posted his first career multi-goal game on March 23 against Calgary.
Mitchell has bought a house in South Burlington, Vermont, where he is close to a first-class training facility at UVM. “I love it there. I enjoy slowing down in the summer months. I practice every weekday morning for two hours with quite a few ex-Catamounts, current Catamounts, and some NHL players. I live close to the golf course, and I am working on my game.” As a “Shark,” Mitchell understands that he is a role model and feels that is important. “I was brought up in a good family, and I try to live my life being cool and collected. I remember being little, and we would go and watch the Finnish player Saku Koivu practice. He stopped one day and gave me an autograph. That meant a lot to me, and now I always try to talk to kids.”
Living the dream of millions of youngsters, Mitchell attributes his success to his true and utter passion for the sport. “When I was younger, I thought about hockey all day, every day. But people helped me, and things fell into place -- you have to perform well at the right time. If you are passionate about your sport, or about anything for that matter, you have to put in the time. Give yourself a chance by working hard.” Now, with only 10 classes left, Mitchell is determined to work hard on completing his degree. “I am going to play hockey while I physically can,” he says, “but my degree will be my next accomplishment.”
Visit http://sharks.nhl.com/ for news on the Sharks’ current season.