Julian King admits he has an atypical story to tell.
How did a high school senior who hadn’t played hockey — let alone put on a pair of skates — in two and a half years end up on the Faribault High School varsity team? The journey was a long and winding one that’s brought him back to the ice, this time in a Falcons uniform.
King grew up in Fort Myers, Fla., far from the normal hockey hotbeds. But after he began playing the sport at 9 years old, King seemed to have a knack for it.
“I go fishing all the time. I’m really a southern guy,” King said. “Hockey kind of came as a second thing to me.”
While hockey may have been secondary for King, it turned out he was good at it. So good, in fact, that he moved to Faribault to play for Shattuck-St. Mary’s as an eighth-grader. For two years, he was a member of the Sabres’ Bantam A team.
But King said SSM wasn’t a good fit for him. So he left hockey — and Faribault — behind and enrolled at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, as a sophomore. The rigors of military school were tough, he said — every morning started with a five-mile run.
“We basically were in the military,” he said.
Yet amid all the stress, he excelled. King was getting straight A’s in the classroom and was the captain of the rifle team. He was even set to compete in the Junior Olympics.
It was a skill that he had learned as a result of his parents’ backgrounds — both were in the Marine Corps.
“It was kind of a natural thing that I had learned and picked up,” he said. “I was good at it.”
“I was on my way to being great, and then I had to leave.”
King said older classmates took exception to his success in school and on the rifle team. As a result, King said he was hazed by other students, which made him uncomfortable to the point that he left the school.
So after seven months in Texas, King moved back to live with his mom in Faribault — his parents moved north during his second year at SSM — and he finished his sophomore year at Bethlehem Academy.
At BA, King was finally comfortable. He made quick friends with hockey players Sean Lipinski, Aaron Forgaard and Jacob Mayer. Those three convinced King to go out for the hockey team during his senior season, despite the fact that he hadn’t been on the ice since his freshman year at SSM.
“I actually had it out of my mind that I was ever going to play hockey again,” King said. “About two months before tryouts, I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to play.’”
Prior to tryouts, King had to pick up some new equipment. After all, he had outgrown his old skates and shoulder pads. But once he was on the ice, it was like riding a bike.
“I got back out on the ice thinking I wasn’t going to be able to skate,” he said. “I just had to get back into the rhythm of it.”
“You don’t lose it after a couple years,” Lipinski said. “You can tell he hasn’t played for a while, but he really skates hard and shows he wants to play.”
King admitted he hadn’t done much conditioning prior to tryouts. But during tryouts, he worked hard enough to impress the coaching staff.
“He’s a real strong, physical kid,” FHS coach Brad Ryan said. “His work ethic definitely was observed, and just his total respect for the game and his respect for life and just how he addresses people and addresses the game.”
“During tryouts, I just gave it my all,” King said. “I just went as hard as I could the entire time and everything seemed to work out.”
Since earning a varsity spot, King — a right winger — has been playing on either of the top two lines of forwards in practice, mainly with Lipinski. King said his physical style of play and Lipinski’s speed compliment each other well.
“He’s just like me, he likes to work hard,” Lipinski said. “He’s not afraid to go in the corners. I guess we consider ourselves grinders.”
“He brings to us a kind of playmaker, hard worker,” Ryan said. “I expect big things from the kid.”