Nanook captain born to play

By Kaitlin Johnson

Sun Star Contributor

Since he was little, Nanook team captain Kevin Petovello lived for hockey.

“He never wavered,” said Leslie Lowe, Petovello’s mom.  “That was it. That’s what he wanted to do,”

When he was only six, his mom recalls, Petovello used to copy the stats of NHL players on a pad of paper that he kept near his bed. Beside those, he’d write the stats of a few of his teammates and his own to compare them with pros. To keep updated, he hardly ever watched cartoons, just sports.

This dedication to hockey took Petovello from a coal mining community in British Columbia to captain UAF’s only Division I sports team.

When he recruits, head coach Dallas Ferguson considers more than just a player’s skills, he said. Equally important to their ability on their ice is a player’s ability to contribute in the locker room. Petovello’s personality and drive have been huge assets to the team and major reasons why he was chosen as captain.

“There’s lots of reasons we picked him.” Ferguson said.  “As a player and a person, he’s just a committed guy.”

Petovello is more than just committed to hockey; it’s his “addiction.” Now a senior and in his final year as a Nanook, Petovello isn’t prepared to think about what comes next. He’s determined to see how far this last season might take him.

“I kind of have my heart stuck on playing a long as I can,” he said. “And I’m gonna play hard every day to get what I can out the season.”

Kevin is inspired by the way 27 guys from all over the continent can wind up in Fairbanks, Alaska to commit everything to a common goal. It gives his life direction and meaning, he said.

“It’s hard to give up. It’s easy to come every day when there’s 27 guys right beside you putting themselves through the same hard work, sweating on the ice and in the gym with you,” he said.

Petovello said he lives for the moments on the ice and in the locker room where his actions change the momentum of the game, such as scoring a goal or making a crucial hit. Seeing both his teammates and the crowd respond is one of the most rewarding parts of hockey to him.

Spending summers working in the coalmines of his hometown keeps Petovello motivated to work hard to achieve his dreams. It reminds him that regardless of how hard he works for hockey, getting to play is a privilege.

“People should know that as cool as it is for them to get to come and see us, it’s even more exciting to us to get [to] play,” he said.

Lowe is excited to watch her son play at parents’ night at the end of October. This will be her third time visiting Fairbanks to see him. She loves that Petovello is living his dream, but being so far apart from her youngest son is hard.

“Kevin’s my baby,” she said. “The first year he went away, that was hard for us both. It gets easier each year, but it’s always hard to see him go.”

She said she hopes Petovello will continue playing competitively once he’s no longer a Nanook.  “I want him to go as far as he wants. I want to see all of his dreams come true.”

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