From maize and blue to red, white and blue

May 22, 2023

Team USA invited Dearborn Wolverine men’s ice hockey player Brendan West to join their roster. West calls what happened next a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Photo of Brendan West, College of Business senior, playing with Team USA.
UM-Dearborn senior Brendan West represented Team USA at the 2023 World Cup of University Hockey. Photo by Tamirian Róbert

At the end of the 2022-23 men’s ice hockey season, forward Brendan West had some pretty impressive stats: 32 goals and 45 assists. Named WHAC Player of the Year, West helped the team win the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Tournament.

“I’m really proud of what we accomplished this year,” said West, a College of Business senior. “I’ve been playing since I was a kid and love it. But I know that playing hockey at this level can’t continue forever due to jobs and other responsibilities. Thinking that this season might be it for me, I played hard and appreciated the time I had on the ice.”

Then a call came from Team USA — and West went from maize and blue to red, white and blue. West was named to the 23-man Team USA roster, led by Head Coach Gary Astalos, for the 2023 World Cup of University Hockey, which took place in Romania in April.

“As kids, we dream about playing in the NHL. But representing the United States is something so big that I never could have imagined. It’s an incredible honor,” West said. “It was amazing standing on the ice with ‘USA’ on my chest. I’ll never forget the feeling of being in another country and seeing people stand for the U.S. national anthem. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

During game 1 against Sweden, West had two goals and three assists. Fast forward to the semi-final game against Romania: West had the game-winning goal, with a final score of 3-2. And then Team USA went on to play against Canada for the gold.

They won it in a 4-0 shutout match.

“I knew when we were up a goal that we were going to win, but you don’t want to assume anything because momentum can change quickly if you let your guard down,” West said. “I remember looking at the clock and seeing a second left. That’s when it hit me: We, as Team USA, won. We’re bringing home the gold.”

Brendan West after the final match.
Photo by Tamirian Róbert

West said hockey has given him more than he ever expected. In addition to a world championship title, West said the tournament was the first time he’s traveled out of North America. Going back further, West said some of his favorite memories are playing with his dad — who West credits for teaching him hockey — on a makeshift pond West’s parents’ dug in their backyard.

West also said he’s thankful that hockey helped him earn his college education. He wasn’t sure what the next step would be following high school graduation. Following a stint playing in the North American Hockey League, UM-Dearborn Men’s Hockey Coach Chris Haltinner reached out to him.

“Coach Haltinner called me up and told me that I had a lot I can bring to the team. He said UM-Dearborn had a lot to offer too. He was right on both accounts,” said West, who expects to graduate in December with his finance major. “I’ve loved my time at UM-Dearborn. People want you to succeed here and they back it up by helping you. Without Chris reaching out to me, I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I’ve had. I’m grateful that he took a chance.”

West said he couldn’t have predicted the opportunities he’s had during the past year — so he doesn’t want to speculate what’s next. But he does know that whatever comes, the experiences he’s gained through UM-Dearborn and Team USA will be with him.

“Playing hockey ends at some point for everyone. I’m not sure when that time will be for me, but the love of hockey — and the bonds formed with the people I’ve met and the memories I’ve made — will be in my life forever.”

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.