It’s a long way from dock boy to professional hockey player, but why not dream big?
For Lake of the Woods High School senior Alex Lyon, it is also a long way from his hometown of Baudette to the Twin Cities (319 miles), but for the past several years it seems like he has spent every spring, summer and fall weekend in the metro area as a mainstay in various all-star events (also known as model camps, select camps and elite leagues).
Closer to home, Lyon played all 26 games during the 2009-10 high school season as he assumed an Ironman role (think Cal Ripken Jr., Lou Gehrig or Brett Favre, not the blockbuster movie franchise) for the Bears.
In the summer, when he's not cleaning fish and loading boats at Ballard’s Resort on Lake of the Woods or playing elite-level hockey, Lyon gets in as much walleye fishing as he can, plays some golf and occasionally bumps into Baudette legend Keith Ballard, a defenseman playing for the Vancouver Canucks.
We recently caught up with Lyon after an Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League game (Lyon plays for Team North) and asked him about catching trophy walleye, killing time on long bus trips and why a young hockey player would want to become a goaltender.
Question: You play for Lake of the Woods High School, which is located in Baudette, which claims to be the “Walleye Capital of the World.” What’s the biggest walleye you have ever caught?
Answer: Well, my dad is a fishing guide so I have an opportunity to get out there quite a bit. But I haven’t been too fortunate. Twenty-six and a half (inches) is the biggest one I’ve ever caught.
Q: Who would you say is the most famous person to ever came out of Baudette?
A: (Vancouver Canucks defenseman) Keith Ballard. No question.
Q: About 37 miles to the west on Highway 11 is Warroad, a town that takes its hockey pretty seriously. What is it like playing against the Warriors?
A: Well, they have a pretty long hockey tradition. Some of the games get pretty nasty. It gives me an opportunity to play against guys like (Univeristy of North Dakota forward) Brock Nelson. They produce pretty good hockey players, so it’s always a good game between us.
Q: You’re in the midst of a pretty solid Elite League season. What is the secret to playing well in a league with so many great goal scorers?
A: I just like to trust the team I’m on. They play well in front of me all the time. As long as I just do my part, they are going to do their part, and everything just takes care of itself.
Q: In one Elite League this fall game you stopped Hill-Murray’s Kevin Becker of Team Southeast on a penalty shot with about two seconds left and your North team leading 3-2. Where does that save rank among the most dramatic you’ve made in your career?
A: I’d have to say No. 2. I made a pretty good save against a rival this last season.
Q: Who was that?
A: Kittson Central. We were in overtime, 3-3. If we weren’t going to win, it was going to get ugly in practice the next day. That’s probably No. 1.
Q: Who was the Kittson Central player you made the save on?
A: Craig Lindegard.
Q: Why did you become a goaltender?
A: I think most goalies, when they are young, think it is a pretty sweet position. You get to wear the pads. You get to wear the expensive equipment. I’m no different. It just worked out.
Q: Do you play any other sports?
A: I played football last year, baseball and I golf in the summer, too.
Q: Other than Warroad or possibly International Falls, there are no short trips when Lake of the Woods goes on the road. What is the best way to kill time on the bus?
A: We like to play cards on the bus. That gets pretty exciting. But sleeping is always a good option, too.
Q: Section 8A always has a handful of strong teams. Warroad, Thief River Falls, East Grand Forks and Crookston all should be good again this year. Where do you think Lake of the Woods fits into that mix?
A: Well, going into the season I’m not too sure what is going to happen. There are probably five or six teams that are going to contend for the top. Warroad and Thief River always are strong. I think we will hopefully be in the top three this year.
Q: What are your options after the high school season? Do you have any idea where you might end up playing?
A: Hopefully I will make a USHL team. That’s kind of what I am striving for right now. I’ve talked to some colleges, but I’ll probably end up in juniors somewhere.
Q: What advice would you give to young goaltenders who want to become elite-level players?
A: Work hard when you are young, because it will pay off when you are older.
Q: Is there anything in particular, when you say work hard, that you think they should be working on?
A: Focus on just watching the puck, making sure that you are always watching the puck. Because at a level like this, if you take your eye of the puck it’s in the back of the net.
Q: How well do you know Keith Ballard?
A: Pretty well. My dad and his dad are pretty good friends, so I got to watch him growing up. I always say hi when I see him. He comes back once a year and skates a little bit. He’s a good guy.
School: Lake of the Woods
Upper Midwest High School Elite Hockey League team: North
Weight: 205 pounds
Credentials: Through Oct. 15 Lyon ranked second in the Elite League with a .925 save percentage and third with a 3.06 goals-against average. He played in all 26 games for Lake of the Woods during the 2009-10 high school season and posted a .918 save percentage and 2.85 goals-against average. Lyon has played in numerous all-star events, including the Minnesota National Invitational in Plymouth last spring.
College committment: None. Lyon says he has has been in contact with a few colleges but expects to play at least one year of junior hockey after high school.
Cats or dogs? Dogs
Hunting or fishing? Fishing
Martin Brodeur or Ryan Miller? Ryan Miller
Favorite subject in school? Math
Last book you read? [Long pause] Kite Runner
Favorite restaurant? Olive Garden
Favorite home-cooked meal? Lasagna
Best meal you make? Chicken Alfredo
Dream car? Dodge Charger
Car you drive now? (2003) Oldsmobile Alero
TV show you can’t miss? Boardwalk Empire
Movie you have watched 100 times? Happy Gilmore
Summer job? Dock boy at a resort (Ballard’s) on Lake of the Woods
Dream job? Professional hockey player
Best player you’ve ever been on the ice with? Tim Bergland (Thief River Falls, University of Minnesota, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning)
Favorite Website? YouTube
Band or song you’ve been listening to the most lately? Clint Eastwood by the Gorillaz