As a child, Tanner Kero learned the fundamentals of hockey at Michigan Tech's Hockey School. This summer, Kero, a rising star with the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL, gave back.
The youngsters who attended Hockey School at Michigan Technological University this summer received a rare treat. Among the instructors at the three, week-long camps was a rising star in the National Hockey League. A player who, not that long ago was standing in their shoes … er… skates.
Former Michigan Tech hockey standout Tanner Kero, who will soon begin his third season with the Chicago Blackhawks, returned to the Copper Country this summer. It was a homecoming on many levels for Kero, a Hancock native. He returned to the Michigan Tech ice, the same ice where he played four years of Division I college hockey. Where he was named Huskies MVP, the scoring leader and Player of the Year in the WCHA and was a finalist for college hockey’s highest honor, the Hobey Baker Award.
Kero was one of the instructors this summer at Michigan Tech’s Hockey School. The very same summer program that he attended many times as a youth hockey player in the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association.
“It was great to come back and work the hockey camp,” Kero says. “I remember how much fun it was to go to the camp as a kid and how much fun it was to have some of the Tech players helping out.” Kero says some of those Huskies stars that made an impression on him were Brett Englehardt, Chris Connor and Colin Murphy. Among the current Tech players helping at the camp this summer was Huskies goaltender Devin Kero, Tanner’s younger brother.
Tanner said the Tech Hockey School is successful because it offers young players a wide variety of hockey development activities in a fun environment. “The staff loves working with the young kids, and that makes it more enjoyable for everyone.”
As expected, the youngsters had a lot of questions for the NHL player. But they were not necessarily questions Kero expected. If nothing else, returning home did have a grounding effect. “Usually the first question was ‘Do you REALLY play for the Blackhawks?’ And then it was followed by ‘What’s it like to play with Patrick Kane?’”
Most of the youngsters were indeed impressed by their professional instructor, including Calvin Rinkinen. The seven-year old Mite player had a great time at hockey school. “I liked all the on-ice work, especially skating around the cones and shooting on the goalie.” He said he enjoyed learning from a professional player, especially someone from our area. “It makes me think that I could do that too,” he said.
With Hockey School over, Kero—along with his wife and infant son—are spending time with family before heading back to Chicago and the grinds of an NHL season. While he plans some quality time on the water and maybe play a little more golf if the weather holds, hockey remains a priority. “I’ll be spending a lot of time skating and continuing to work off-ice,” he says.
"Usually the first question was 'Do you REALLY play for the Blackhawks?'"
While he was growing up, Kero was a Huskies fan, but unfortunately in those years, Michigan Tech’s glory days were behind them. Over the last few seasons, the program has returned to national prominence with Kero playing a key role in the Huskies’ turnaround. “It’s definitely been great to see and to be a part of the growth of Michigan Tech hockey,” he says. “There is a winning culture here again, and everyone expects the team to have success.”
Kero credits his time at Tech, even during his earliest days, with having a significant impact on his life, both on and off the ice. “Michigan Tech has been a huge part of my development as a player and as a person. It was my dream to be a Husky even before I wanted to play in the NHL. When I was able to make that happen, it was very special.”
Kero says he owes so much to Michigan Tech that it was important for him to come back and hopefully inspire younger players, much like he was inspired a decade and a half ago. “I hope I was able to show them that you can make it to where you want to go, if you dream big and work hard.”
He certainly did inspire the youngsters during his three weeks at hockey school, even if some wanted to know more about Patrick Kane than about Tanner Kero.
However, in at least one case, he was able to accomplish the nearly impossible. When asked if skating with Kero was enough to convert a die-hard Detroit Red Wings supporter into a ’Hawks fan, seven-year-old Calvin thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Sort of.”
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.