MARQUETTE, Mich. – Playing in your hometown whether it be little league, high school or college has many advantages and disadvantages. For Northern Michigan University student-athlete Justin Florek, Marquette is a special place. He began his hockey career and but for two years he has played his entire hockey career in Marquette. Before the 2010-11 season began the Boston Bruins draft pick was named by head coach Walt Kyle as one of the assistant captains for the 2010-11 Wildcats.
He is basically a small town kid who loves the U.P. and the other activities that one can do outside of hockey. “My favorite thing is being able to go fishing and hunting with my friends and family,” said Florek. According to Florek he loves the community, the small town feel and he likes that hockey is the number one sport in town.
Playing in a city like Marquette where hockey is the lone NCAA Division I sport in the NMU sports offering brings the spotlight to the program. The city loves hockey from the little kids first learning the game all the way up to the Wildcats when they hit the ice on a Friday or Saturday night at the Berry Events Center. “Walking around town people know who you are and always want to talk hockey,” said Florek. “Growing up always watching NMU I know the pressure that the town puts on the team. I just want to live up to and exceed everyone’s expectations.”
After five games in the 2010-11 season, Florek has two goals and an assist on the season. He has scored both of NMU’s power-play goals so far this season. Through 86 career games, Florek has recorded 55 points on 23 goals and 32 assists.
Having been raised in a city such as Marquette it teaches you something that you can keep for the rest of your life. “It (Marquette) has taught me the work ethic I have today and to love the game like I do,” said Florek.
Growing up in Marquette he followed NMU hockey and dreamed of playing for the ‘Cats. His favorite players growing up were the ones from Marquette who came before him. According to Florek some of his favorite players were Ryan Riipi, Chris Gobert, Dan Ragusett and Roger Trudeau.
The two years he did spend away from Marquette when playing for the USNTDP in Ann Arbor was a love hate relationship for him. Florek really liked the hockey, the facility, staff and the professional way you were treated. “I was so busy down there, I never really got time off for myself which was hard for me,” said Florek.
When it was time to pick a college to continue with is hockey career there was no doubt in his mind where he was going to play. “Not once. Another thing that being a Northern fan taught me was the chip on everyone’s shoulder towards the bigger schools such as Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State,” said Florek. “I give credit to the puck heads for all the chants they had when I was younger and making me never want to play for a school like that.”
All Wildcats fans are very happy when they see No.18 take the ice now that they have a home grown talent who will hopefully help the ‘Cats towards another winning season and a Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) title. What he brings to the team night in and night out can not be taught it is what he learned growing up in Marquette.
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