Michigan captain Tony Calderone has a message to the kids in his small town: You can do it

By Brandon Justice ,

Hockey

Michigan hockey’s senior captain Tony Calderone grew up a Michigan fan. Now, he’s the captain and the hottest player on the team this season. There’s more to his story, more to his roots, and more to his message, than you know.

From a small community in Metro Detroit, Calderone was one of many hockey stars as a youngster in Trenton, Mich. – just 30 minutes away from Yost Ice Arena. Kids back in that small town, with a huge heart for hockey, look up to the Wolverines captain that laced up his skates for years in the same city.

“Growing up in that community was awesome. You and all your friends played hockey, you went to the high school games together. You go back now, they’re still doing awesome things,” Calderone said. “I think it’s awesome to know that kids there are looking up to me. It’s really cool.”

His stardom has taken over on the ice now titled after legendary coach Red Berenson. That stardom reached new heights when he netted a hat-trick against the Wolverines’ in-state rival, Michigan State, on Thursday night in Ann Arbor.

That same small-town kid was living in a dream world, one where he described his first goal as a “blackout.” He had no defensemen around him. Just a goalie. He saw nothing, he felt nothing – but he scored.

And he scored again & again, until the ice of Yost Arena was littered with hats, celebrating the captain’s triumphant hat trick in his final home game against the in-state Spartans.

Calderone didn’t always think he’d be there, on that ice, in front of the Children of Yost, as the star of the team he grew up loving.

In middle school, he took as big of a hit an athlete can take. I’m not talking about a blindside hit at mid-ice. Calderone was cut from his AAA travel team – Little Caesar’s Hockey Club – in 8th grade.

For those same kids that look up to Calderone, he wants that moment in his life to be a teaching point.

“I think if a kid comes up to me, and I can tell him my story, he’ll see that he can do it. I got cut from Caesar’s in middle school,” Calderone emphasized. “If I can give (that kid) hope with that, then that’s pretty cool.”

Calderone didn’t stay in Trenton as long as most. He left before high school ended. His parents didn’t follow, he headed to Sioux Falls on his own with a billet family to play in the USHL as a 17-year-old. He was cut from his travel team just four years before.

While you can see his love for the city is genuine, he knows that there’s a world in hockey outside of the six square miles that cover the small Downriver city. He wants to show kids that, too.

“Growing up in Trenton, a lot of kids stay there, then go to college together,” he said. “And I’ve learned that you don’t have to do that. I moved away from home my junior year (to play in the USHL) and it was good for me.”

Being that he’s just a short drive away from home, the senior has been back in his hometown far more often than most college athletes have been in theirs.

This story isn’t about Trenton. It was originally about Calderone. But, his deep thoughts when asked about what it means to be a role model to the players back home, made this story about the kids who got knocked down – just like him.

He made the story about the kids who just got cut. The kids who think they won’t make it out of that small town. The kids who don’t know what the future holds.

And here’s a message to those kids …

Take Tony Calderone’s word for it: You can do it.

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