Community Service carries special meaning, motivation for NW Chargers U18 center Thorsberg

By Ross Forman

cthorsgrad17For Christian Thorsberg, the road to a state championship with his Northwest Chargers midget U18 team runs right through … Thoreau, New Mexico.

Thors, as the 17-year-old Chicago resident is known, is a senior at Northside College Prep. He is looking at numerous colleges for next fall – from Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Northwestern and Cornell to Vanderbilt, Rice, Boston University, Georgia Tech, University of Michigan, and even the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, among others.

He shoots left-handed and centers a line with wings Jarred Van Hauter, a senior at Elk Grove; and Anthony Heisler, a senior at St. Patrick’s.

“I’m a playmaker and defensive forward above all else; I take pride in doing the little things, (such as) winning face-offs, back-checking, and takeaways. It is always my aim to have the highest plus/minus and most assists on my team.”

The Chargers are 28-18-4 overall, yet were only 1-5 in their final six games in January over a 14-day stretch. Still, optimism is ever-present as teams – both high school, midget and all levels – head into the final month of the season.

“We have the skill, speed, and hunger to win the state tournament,” Thorsberg said. “Our end goal is to prove all the doubters wrong.”

That means Thors will flash back to his time over the past two summers in New Mexico for added motivation. Specifically, two week-long trips to a Navajo Reservation, which he tagged as his “most meaningful” high school activity.

cthorschargers3Thorsberg and about 12 other teens served as mentors and tutors to the K-8 students at the local school, aiding the teachers in their curriculum while helping the students make the right decisions, and set goals for themselves.

“Interacting with the students up to eight hours a day is not only fun, but inspiring,” he said. “To tackle the issue of malnutrition, we raised money and put together food packages that students can take home to their families, while also teaching important lessons about nutrition. Additionally, I helped build hogans, (which are) traditional Navajo homes for the young, growing families, and (also) climbed up mountains to deliver food and resources to the senior elders.”

Thorsberg and the other teens also visited senior homes, served lunch and engaged in meaningful conversations.

He plans to go back this summer, too.

“I am incredibly excited to continue my work, and forge even stronger relationships with the students than already exist,” Thorsberg said. “I will never forget last year, when on the final bus ride home from school, a small girl (said), ‘Thank-you; we love you.’ It was in that moment, that I knew my work was truly worthwhile.

“This is an experience where, dropping everything and going is unbelievably worth it. Changing just one life is reason enough to return, (and) bettering the community in the way I believe we do is groundbreaking.

“It is an incredible experience – no matter what you give out, you receive more in return.”

The mission was organized by Thorsberg’s former principal. She approached him during his freshman year and presented the opportunity. “I couldn’t pass up such a unique, worthwhile experience,” he said.

So, he fundraises annually to fly from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Albuquerque, where they then take a three-hour bus ride to Thoreau – a small, poverty-stricken reservation town just outside of Gallup.

“The Navajo (who) I spend time with are some of the strongest people I have ever met; they taught me the true meaning of perseverance, leadership, and gratitude,” Thorsberg said. “On the ice, I do my best to exemplify these qualities, being a team leader and working hard for a game I am so fortunate to play.

“At the reservation’s school, we began each morning in the gymnasium with breakfast and dancing to get the kids moving and energized. One particular song, Wavin’ Flag (from K’Naan), has always been our collective favorite, and (it) elicits great memories of the experience.

“This is always the last song I listen to on my playlist before I play a hockey game.”

On the ice, Thorsberg brings consistency. “I do my best to be smart with the puck, have good on-ice awareness and knowledge of where my teammates are,” he said. “I’m not a flashy player, but I always put in maximum effort, and hope that my teammates can feed off my energy.”

Thorsberg started skating for the Franklin Park Panthers, then for the Hoffman Estates Wolfpack NIHL from peewee through midget minor, and ultimately for the Chargers U16 CSDHL and U18 NJPHL teams. With the Wolfpack, he made it to the SilverStick tournament, won a NIHL Championship in 2015, and twice hoisted the Krolak Cup. With the Chargers, he’s played in the Bauer Tournament, and the National Junior Prospects League.

cthorschargers3“In this, my last year of youth hockey, we have without a doubt grown the closest of any team I have ever played for,” Thorsberg said. “With great coaching, dedicated players, and competitive opponents, not only have I developed as a player, but I have truly grown to appreciate what the game has given to me. As my final season winds down, I will look back gratefully on the experiences I have shared with these brothers, knowing that I ended my youth career on a definite high note.”

Thorsberg could have skated for the co-op Lane Tech team, and he truly considered the high school slate, but ultimately wanted to end his hockey journey with some of the teammates he has spent the last six or seven seasons.

“In Illinois, there are so many teams, divisions and leagues, (thus) the talent is spread incredibly thin, resulting in a lack of consistent, competitive hockey for many leagues,” he said. “From a player’s standpoint, chemistry is key; the ability to play with the same players and linemates for many years is extremely beneficial. Not only would players achieve individually more success, but I believe all teams – high school and club – would develop better because of it. Looking at Minnesota youth and high school hockey, for example, the talent and career paths are streamlined and teams remain relatively constant for years. If the same existed in Illinois, I think everyone would be better for it.”

More About Christian Thorsberg:

cthorschargers6College Plans: To pursue a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering

College Hockey: “I will be choosing my college first and foremost based off academics, (but) it is my ultimate dream to play club hockey while receiving a good education.”

Favorite NHL Team: New Jersey Devils

Favorite NHL Player: Scott Stevens

Favorite Sport (other than hockey): Baseball

Jersey Number: 4, a la Scott Stevens, his favorite player. “Wearing that number is a constant reminder to play the game with the intensity, passion and leadership that he did.”

Giving Thanks: “Hands down, it is ‘thanks’ to my parents and sister that I have been fortunate enough to play the game I love for so long. I will always be thankful for their constant support, the sacrifices they make, and their belief in me to become as good a player as I can be. I also would like to thank coaches Stan Dubicki, Randy Jordan, Norm Janis, Jim Bailey, and Mike Tompkins.”

ross formanRoss Forman has written about Illinois high school hockey for more than 15 years, and is the only sportswriter to have covered Illinois High School hockey every year during that stretch. He played locally and then at Indiana University before becoming a referee. Ross was a referee for the State Championship game several years ago at the United Center. Contact Ross by email at Rossco814@aol.com.



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