Oklahoma roots separate Garzone from teammates

Even growing up in Okla., Gophers forward Brook Garzone grew to love hockey.

Minnesota forward Brook Garzone hails from Sand Springs, Okla. Garzone started playing hockey after she saw “The Mighty Ducks” on Disney Channel at age 4.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Brook Garzone hails from Sand Springs, Okla. Garzone started playing hockey after she saw “The Mighty Ducks” on Disney Channel at age 4.

Betsy Helfand

The Disney movie “The Mighty Ducks” had a significant impact on at least one member of the Gophers women’s hockey team growing up.

Brook Garzone, a freshman forward on the team, hails from Sand Springs, Okla.

Oklahoma is a football and basketball state. It’s certainly not a hockey state.

“Everyone always asks her, ‘How did you get into hockey being from Oklahoma?’ so we kind of give her crap about it,” junior forward Amanda Kessel said. “Who in Oklahoma plays hockey?”

But Garzone saw “The Mighty Ducks” on the Disney Channel when she was 4 and got hooked on hockey.

“I saw the girl playing, so I had to play,” she said, “and ever since then I just loved it.”

Garzone’s experience growing up with hockey was different than many of her teammates’.

She said there were just two rinks in all of Tulsa, Okla., for a while, and one was shut down because “ice hockey’s not that big [there].”

She said the rink was about 30 to 45 minutes away from where she lived.

Garzone said her team drove to Dallas three weekends a month to play four games in two days.

The drive — which was about four hours — made for a lot of travel, but she didn’t want to do anything but play hockey.

“I didn’t know how to socialize, but it didn’t really matter to me,” she said. “As long as I was playing, I didn’t really care.”

Garzone was the only girl in the program and played on boys’ teams growing up, which she said she loved.

Garzone’s love for hockey was great enough to convince her to move almost 700 miles north to continue playing.

Head coach Brad Frost said moving to play hockey shows a lot of dedication.

“Anytime you’re leaving home to pursue something that you love, it obviously takes an extreme passion,” Frost said.

Garzone attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn.

“I didn’t know there was [a] boarding school for hockey. I thought it was ‘Zoey 101,’” she said, referring to the Nickelodeon show.

Shattuck is a noted hockey powerhouse boarding school — NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise are alumni.

So is Garzone’s teammate Kessel, who said Shattuck is a great building block.

“We’ve had a lot of great success with players from Shattuck,” Frost said. “For a player like her who didn’t have a lot of opportunities necessarily to play a lot of hockey in Oklahoma, it was a great fit for her.”

Garzone went from practicing two times a week and playing four games a weekend to a program that prepared her for college hockey.

Kessel said players practice six to seven times a week at Shattuck, which makes the transition to college hockey easy.

“A lot of high school teams, you don’t get that same ice time, or if you do, it’s not as intense,” Kessel said. “We had intense practices and games all the time [and were] constantly on the ice. Whenever we wanted, the ice was available.”

That’s quite a change from Oklahoma.

“It was hard coming from home [to] practicing every day of the week, but you got used to it,” Garzone said. “You were surrounded by people who were going for the same thing.”

The transition was tougher on her mom than it was on her.

“She didn’t really like it that much, but she knew that it was my goal to play hockey, to play college hockey,” Garzone said. “She let me go.”

She also said Shattuck was one of the best things that ever happened to her.

After all, it’s what led her to the Gophers.

“I don’t think you get very [many] recruits out in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” she said.

Growing up, she said she only knew two schools with women’s hockey programs: Minnesota and Boston College. She said ever since she was little, she wanted to go to Minnesota.

Shattuck opened that door for her.

Garzone has two assists in the Gophers’ eight games this season.

She has played on the team’s fourth line, but Frost said she was the team’s 10th forward and would see time on the penalty kill and “in different situations as the games present themselves.”

But even though she plays in Minnesota, there’s still a bit of Oklahoma left in here.

“She’s lost some of her accent when she came up here, but she still says a couple goofy words here and there,” said Katie Frischmann, Garzone’s linemate. “You can kind of tell that she’s from somewhere not in Minnesota.”