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Penn State Hockey: Diversity Not In Shortage On Nittany Lion Roster

by on January 09, 2018 12:00 PM

Finland, Canada, Russia and the United States. There's a little bit of everything on Penn State hockey's roster.

In total, nine players from outside the United States, the most on any one team in the Big Ten. Four countries, also tied for the most of any in the Big Ten.

For Penn State the diversity of backgrounds has been an asset for the budding program. European skaters have brought along a different style of skating, Canadians a certain mindset on the ice. The Nittany Lions have become something of that proverbial melting pot of hockey skills.

"It's a lot of fun," Canadian born Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said on Tuesday, he himself still working on his path to US citizenship. "I think they get along regardless of where they're from, one commonality between all of them is that they're quality people. We as coaches have really enjoyed it, it wasn't something that we anticipated or did by design but it's fun, they get along despite their differences."

"For me I can always tell where a guy is from," Freshman forward Evan Barratt added. "The smoothness of a European skater, or a Canadian and how hard nosed they are. So when you see someone you can kind of figure out where they're from by watching them play and it's pretty cool."

Of course there are the drawbacks as well.

Like when you don't know what your teammates are saying.

"They'll be talking on the bench about something in Russian," Sophomore forward Nate Sucese said of Russian born teammate Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev. "And we have to be like 'guys, speak English' so we can understand them."

It may have never been a goal to turn Penn State into such a diverse set of backgrounds. But the Nittany Lions aren't complaining and the diversity doesn't stop there. Liam Folkes is the first black player to take the ice for Penn State, and one of a small but growing miniroity in sport at-large.

"I love it," Folkes said of the many backgrounds on the team. "It's definitely nice to be able to experience everyone else's culture...and playing styles. The Russians were saying that they were taught never to dump the puck, to just circle back around and regroup. So just little things from everyone' experiences growing up."

And then there is the locker room banter, especially around international play.

"I think it's fun for sure," Finnish native Erik Autio added. "It's fun to compare cultures like that and when we have a tournament like the World Juniors on TV it's fun because we're all cheering for different teams."

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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