Not many hockey players in Europe dream of playing in Texas. But for European-born Kevin Kenyon and Marcin Papiez, the UT club hockey team is now where they continue their love of the sport.
Kenyon was born in Munich and lived in Germany for 10 years. After playing hockey as a child, he moved to Houston with his family where he played for his high school team.
“I speak German with my mom, but Germany isn’t very culturally different from here,” Kenyon said. “I feel like Germany is kind of like a copy of America.”
He does miss the tight-knit small towns of Germany, though. He began playing hockey because his dad played, and he looks back on the great times with his dad at the rink.
“I just loved it and started playing and never turned back,” Kenyon said.
After graduating high school, he made the decision to play junior hockey in British Columbia.
“With football, you start out and you play high school and you go straight to college,” Kenyon said. “But with hockey, if you play high school and if you want to play competitively anywhere in college or something, you have to go play juniors and that’s where the scouts look.”
Between living with a host family and handling the tremendous demands of playing sports full-time, junior hockey life is difficult. After a year in British Columbia, Kenyon decided it was time to focus on school.
“I was just kind of sick of the whole junior lifestyle,” Kenyon said. “It’s really brutish and demanding. It’s very competitive.”
Kenyon could have gone to a lesser school that had a more formal hockey program but decided he wanted a more academically balanced environment. He came to Texas, where they have a strong computer science program and a club hockey team.
He misses Germany sometimes, but hockey provides continuity in his life.
“Hockey is always going to be important to me,” Kenyon said. “That’s why I still put in the time now, even though that doesn’t mean I will play after UT. It’s something that’s intrinsically within me.”
Kenyon isn’t the only foreign-born player on the roster. Marcin Papiez is from Poland and moved to the United States two years ago expecting to play hockey for a Division I college team.
“Those were my priorities, to play hockey first and then school,” Papiez said. “But later, it kind of switched. Education is first now and hockey second.”
Papiez’s parents immigrated to the United States before him, and he remained in Poland to finish high school. He played for the Polish Under-18 and Under-20 national teams.
“Wearing your jersey with your national emblem on your chest — it is something that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Papiez said. “Travelling with people who are at the highest level in Poland and just being around them is really kind of inspiring.”
During the 2009 World Junior Championship, he competed against some current NHL players such as the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mikkel Boedker and the Montreal Canadiens’ Lars Eller. Poland had a disappointing loss to Japan and placed fourth in the tournament.
Although he is proud of his Polish heritage, he did not hesitate to come to the U.S. when he had the
“I love Texas,” Papiez said. “Coming from Poland, we have four seasons. I used to get really sick of the winters. When you would walk somewhere, your feet would almost freeze.”
Both players believe hockey is something they need to have Head coach Bob Smith said both players are tough competitors.
“Kevin, because he started young in Europe and came over here and became very Americanized, understands the best of both worlds,” Smith said. “He has good experience in both U.S. and European kind of hockey. Marcin brings a lot of European finesse and athleticism.”