Yamashita plays hockey for the love of the game

Sterling Silver

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Photo by Valeria Cardenas/valeria.cardenas@marquette.edu

Graduate student Ken Yamashita took an unlikely path to the Marquette club hockey team. Two extended breaks from the ice and moving halfway across the country proved challenging. But, because of a couple friends and a suggestion from a boss, at 27, he is playing the sport he loves in his first and final season with the Golden Eagles.

Ken Yamashita was born and raised in the small beach community of Hermosa Beach, just south of Los Angeles. He explained that his family never played hockey, but he discovered it from an older friend when he was in kindergarten.

“I had a friend who was a few years older; he was in fifth grade and he was a goalie at the local ice hockey club,” Yamashita said. “I wanted to be like him and I just started playing. It started with street hockey and soon I started skating.”

Recognizing his talent level, Yamashita’s parents gave their blessings and he began playing ice hockey. But after working his way through youth and high school hockey, he dropped the sport to spend more time in his pursuit of a law degree at  California-San Diego.

“When I decided to go to college, I kind of decided to step away from the game, actually, and not pursue juniors or an NCAA scholarship anymore,” Yamashita said. “Hockey was kind of an afterthought.”

Eventually, the sport he enjoyed playing came back into the fold. An old hockey teammate from his high school playing days went to school at UCSD and invited Yamashita to try out his senior year of college. He later made the team and, in thirteen games with the Division II squad, he recorded 13 points, including seven goals.

After graduating from UCSD in 2010, Yamashita took a job with Forensic Technology International Consulting. He worked as a legal consultant with the company for three years, but soon realized he could not move higher in the company without a law degree. With his boss’ support, he began to look at graduate schools across the country, even though it was not initially on his mind.

“I actually had no plans of coming to graduate school,” Yamashita said. “After college, I was tired of (it). I didn’t want to study anymore.”

Marquette, Hofstra and a couple of schools in Brooklyn were his top choices because he wanted to work in a bigger media market and attend a school with a high quality sports law program. Marquette’s Sports Law Program is more respected than others because it has a multitude of sports law classes and seminars. Add the quality of the new law school itself and it was an easy choice for Yamashita.

After being out of hockey for three years, the sport soon returned. Yamashita began to miss playing so his parents sent over the gear (some of which he realized was broken). He soon began playing drop-in hockey in Delafield and eventually joined a men’s league after an invite from another player.

“It got a little more competitive and I began to miss the competition,” Yamashita said. “I played hockey at UC San Diego and I figured, ‘Hey, Marquette’s a cold area. They should have a team over here.’”

Later “Googling” the team, he eventually tried out and became a Golden Eagle. A month shy of 28, Yamashita said despite being older than the players and his head coach, the relationships are just as if he were his teammates’ age.

“With the guys, they treat me just the same as any other guy on the team,” Yamashita said. “I may crash out a little bit earlier because I can’t keep up with them that long, but I don’t think it’s as awkward as most people would think.”

Yamashita is conscious that every week is a game closer to the end. With that in mind, he hopes the team can make it as far as possible in his final season of competitive hockey.

“I guess it’s bittersweet,” Yamashita said. “I love competing and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to play with, but knowing it’s my first and last year with this team, and last year playing competitively, is a bummer. I just hope I can end my time playing on a high note with an MACHA championship or National’s berth.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email