OXFORD — Miami University junior Justin Vaive can’t remember a time when hockey was not an all-encompassing presence in his life.
In truth, from the day Vaive was born there was no such time, and probably won’t be in the near future.
His father is Rick Vaive, a now-retired veteran of 15 seasons in the NHL, a three-time all-star who scored 50 or more goals in three straight seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and who went on to coach seven seasons in the East Coast Hockey League and American Hockey League.
Vaive is picking up where his father left off, a 2006 entry draft choice of the NHL’s Aneheim Ducks who is about to make his third straight trip to the NCAA tournament with the RedHawks.
“My mom took me to every game up until I was 5 years old, which is when my dad retired,” Vaive said. “From when I was age 5 to about 14, he coached some sort of professional hockey, whether it was the AHL or East Coast League. I was around the rink, around all his players and seeing practices and games.”
Vaive said the decision to pursue a career in hockey, however, was his own.
“He definitely left it up to me,” Vaive said of his father. “Growing up I played a bunch of different sports. About my sophomore or junior year in high school I finally made the decision to commit to hockey. My dad never pressured me.”
Vaive was drafted by Anaheim and attended the Ducks’ rookie camp before he even set foot on the Miami campus.
“It was a cool experience, to see what you have to play for,” Vaive said. “It motivates you throughout your four years here because you know how nice it is (at the professional level), that you could have it if you just put in the time.”
But professional hockey will have to wait. Right now Vaive is concentrating on Miami’s NCAA first-round game against Alabama-Huntsville.
Vaive said he “started a little slow” over the first half of the season. He did score two goals in the RedHawks’ 4-3 victory at Northern Michigan on Oct. 30, but then he tallied only one goal in his next 25 games.
“Over the last six weeks I feel like I’ve started to bring my game back together, re-focus what my role is on the team and do what I can do to make our team successful,” Vaive said.
“On the ice I’m more of a physical presence,” he said, “somebody that’s going to get the puck deep, be strong in the defensive end, someone who will make room for the smaller, more shifty guys on our team.”
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