This story was posted a while ago on the USA hockey website, but it is work posting....
Skates. Check. Hockey equipment. Check. Backyard rink. Check.National Team Development Program Under-18 defenseman Derek Forbort was always on the ice as a youngster. The time of day didn’t matter in Duluth, Minn.; Forbort was always skating.“I started hockey when I was 2 years old,” Forbort said. “My dad built a rink in the backyard, and my mom ran a daycare. There were obviously huge games going on back there so I was always out there skating.”So, it should shock no one that Forbort is doing something that he loves all while wearing the red, white and blue for Team USA this season.
Derek Forbort mans the blue line for the NTDP.“The best way to describe Derek is that it just comes natural and so easy to him,” Under-18 coach Kurt Kleinendorst, a former coach in the New Jersey Devils’ organization, said. “The way he plays and practices — the agility, puck skills and movement — it seems to come so easy for him.”
Forbort arrived at the NTDP after appearing in 25 games for Duluth East High School last year, posting seven goals and 28 points and leading the team to a coveted Class AA state tournament berth. The transition from high school to the NTDP has been an interesting ride and an eye-opener in some respects for Forbort. In 24 games, he has one goal and 10 points, along with 12 penalty minutes.“The game is so much faster. You have to be more responsible defensively. In high school, you could get away with some things. Here, if you make a mistake you are going to get burned,” Forbort said. “I knew that I was always going to come here. I love my high school and I have a lot of friends back there. Hockey is what I want to do with my life and this is the place to be if I want to do that.”
Not surprising, the most difficult adjustment for the 6-foot-4, 195-pound blueliner has been the workouts.“I thought maybe I would get sick of the rink, but I love hanging out here and with the guys. I love being here, especially in the locker room,” Forbort said. “I knew the workouts would be pretty tough.”As a first-year coach, Kleinendorst can relate to what Forbort is going through this fall.“The players who come in after the first year go through an adjustment period. They have to make the commitment and train,” Kleinendorst explained. “Derek has a great attitude but he probably had no clue to what extent he was going to be pushed. He has really handled it well and I have not really noticed that adjustment period. He is a good player, and he has a great reputation as a good kid and he was raised by very good parents.”
Forbort did have a little taste of USA Hockey last year, appearing in two international tournaments. He competed with the U.S. Under-17 Select Team at the 2009 Under-17 Five Nations Tournament in Slovakia. In addition, he skated in nine games with the Under-17 team, including all six at the 2009 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in British Columbia.“Last year, I went to Slovakia with the team and that was a really cool experience. I also played at the U-17 Challenge in B.C. and that was a lot of fun to play against the Canadian teams,” Forbort said.
“Getting to know the guys last year at the tournament was a huge help and a feel for international tournament was a huge help.”Forbot will never forget the first time he saw the USA jersey waiting for him. It is a memory that can last a lifetime.“It was unreal. I remember walking into the locker room and I was staring at it for a while. To represent your country is a pretty cool thing and I am really fortunate to be able to do that every day,” Forbort said. “It is a huge honor [to play for the NTDP]. You definitely do not want to take it for granted as you are representing your country, so take it all in — live in the moment.”Living in the moment are words that Forbort tries to live by.
He is currently the top-ranked defenseman in the NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary ranking for United States Hockey League. Yet Forbort is not even worried about the rankings. Instead, he is focused on the team.
Maybe it is that attitude that has the scouts focused on Forbort’s talent.“I do not pay any attention to that at all. I am not thinking about that at all. I am worried about this year and this team winning,” Forbort said. “I need to be solid defensively and do my job back there. If everyone does their job, then we should be able to win.”Even though Forbort attended plenty of Minnesota Duluth games growing up, he committed to the University of North Dakota.
He knows that he needs to continue to work and improve if he is going to get to the next level.“I really like the coaches out there and the program. They seem to be developing their players pretty good so it was the right fit,” Forbort said of his decision to play for the Fighting Sioux. “I need to get a lot stronger on the ice, stronger legs and a better skater. I need to keep working on my game; every part of your game can get worked on and no one is perfect at everything.”
No matter what the future holds, Forbort will always have his early beginnings as a reminder of just how far he has come with hockey. After all, it all began on a backyard rink built by his dad when skates, equipment and a group of kids was all that it took to have a game.