It could have been scoring goals or checking opponents into the boards.
Perhaps team bonding or winning games would fit the question.
But when Christian Kadolph was asked what makes hockey so much fun to him he answered being a role model.
“Oh man, that’s definitely my gig,” the senior for the Brainerd Warriors boys hockey team said. “Just growing up and watching (Josh) Archibald and (Mitch) McLean and all those guys who play pro now -- just helping the kids and helping them figure out that they can go somewhere like them or maybe like me or maybe like (teammate Haden Kruse) somebody, it’s just getting them to love the game as much as I did is really important to me.
“That’s my go-to thing. Anything to give back to people more than I’ve taken.”
Brainerd head coach Dave Aus called Kadolph the pied-piper among little Warriors at the rink.
“He is very, very popular,” Aus said. “His personality lends itself to our youth hockey community. He goes out and volunteers with the teams and the kids and the kids absolutely adore him. When you watch him come off the ice after warmups and there will be a lineup of about 20 little kids and they’re all yelling at him because they know he’s going to look them in the eye and fist bump them and say hi to them and spend time with them. That’s what makes him such a great piece of your team. He does a great job of interacting with your young players here in town. He always has a smile. He’s always positive. He’s always at the outdoor rink so they get to know him there. He’s just a really good kid.”
It doesn’t hurt that Kadolph’s skill level is on par with his contributions back to the hockey community. The senior defenseman moved to the offense about two weeks ago to help ignite the Warriors.
The move paid off in Brainerd’s 6-3 victory over Section 8-2A foe Bemidji Jan. 21. Kadolph, teamed with Kruse and Mike Laber, contributed on all six goals.
He kick-started the Warrior scoring with an assist on Haden Kruse’s goal to hand Brainerd a 1-0 lead.
Bemidji stormed out to a 2-1 edge before Kadolph tallied his first goal. That was followed by an assist on Mike Laber’s goal for a 3-2 first-period lead.
“Honestly, I don’t know what happened,” Kadolph said. “I couldn’t do it without my linemates or my teammates. Everyone was involved. Hockey isn’t an individual sport so I don’t know.”
Kadolph assisted on both of Eric Pohlkamp’s second-period goals and scored his second goal in the third to seal Brainerd’s 6-3 victory in the Section 8-2A matchup.
The senior captain made the move to offense last year as well so it’s not something he’s unfamiliar with. If you ask him he’ll tell you he would rather play defense if given the chance, but when it comes to helping the team -- he’ll choose the team.
“It takes a little bit of an adjustment, but in this game, you have to be quick about it,” he said. “You have to be fast at learning everything. I’m a student of the game. Obviously it’s the way it is. I’ll play anywhere they tell me to play.”
Kadolph followed his big game with a goal and an assist in Brainerd’s 5-1 Central Lakes Conference win over Sartell Friday, Jan. 24.
“He handles the moves well, but that’s who he is,” Aus said. “He’s always team first. He’ll do whatever we need him to do to help us win. We moved him last year and I believe it was when we played Duluth East, and quite honestly, I don’t think we would have beaten them if we didn’t move him up front because he just provided a spark we needed. He forechecks tenaciously. He has a real understanding of how to attack the puck.”
This season Kadolph is second on the Warriors with 21 points. He’s tallied six goals with 15 assists.
“He’s worked at this,” Aus said. “When I moved here he would be out at Loren Thompson Park all the time. I mean all the time. Daily and for hours on end. He just worked at it and worked at it and by the time he got to us as a 10th grader, he stepped right into the lineup immediately and was really pretty effective.
“He’s really quick. He’s deceptive. He can use a little shoulder dip and a head fake and have guys miss him. He sometimes gets himself going too fast, but he just is really slippery and that just comes from working on his game.”
Last season, Kadolph tallied three goals and eight points. As a sophomore, he totaled three goals and seven points.
He, Pohlkamp and Kruse all played in the fall elite league and Kadolph said it was a great experience.
“He’s coachable,” Aus said. “He’s smart enough to listen to guys who have done this longer than he’s been alive. He takes coaching well. He gets very emotional at times in games and he’s done a good job of calming himself down and listening to the right guys. Plus, his parents are great people and they’ve done a good job of raising him.”
Kadolph was quick to heap thanks to all who helped him discover hockey, to improve at it and just let him play.
“It started when I was eight or nine years old and we lived close to an outdoor rink and I was just like, ‘you know what? Buy me some skates. We’re going to try this.’” Kadolph said. “That’s what we did and my parents followed me all the way up and I can’t thank them enough and I can’t thank any of my coaches enough. All the way up from the Peltomas to Terry Dolan and just everyone. They helped me love the game, even more, every year.”
Other notable performances
Cal Madison, Alpine skiing, won the Cook County Invite at Lutsen with a 1:17.88.
Myah Nelson, girls basketball, finished with 15 points against Fergus Falls and 20 points against Sartell.
Eric Pohlkamp, boys hockey, scored two goals against Bemidji.
Haden Kruse, boys hockey, finished with a goal and three assists against Bemidji.
Mike Laber, boys hockey, finished with three goals against Sartell.
Position: forward and defense
Career highlight: 2019 Section 8-2A Final game and six-point game against Bemidji
Grade-point average: 3.5
Favorite class: Government
Favorite food: Spaghetti
Favorite movie: “Miracle on Ice”
Favorite TV show: NHL Network
Favorite website or app: Snapchat
Favorite restaurant: Olive Garden
Future plans: Play junior hockey
Favorite athlete: Former NHL player Martin St. Louis
Parents: Joe and Christina Kadolph