Bulldogs goaltender spends summer giving Duluth a Lyft

Hunter Shepard of Minnesota Duluth speaks to members of the media Thursday during NCHC Media Day at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Clint Austin / The Rink Live

By Matt Wellens

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Users of ride sharing apps — specifically Lyft — may have found themselves doing a double take this summer upon hopping into the backseat of their ride.

The answer is, yes, that was Minnesota Duluth’s two-time national champion goaltender Hunter Shepard driving you home from the bar at night.

“A few of the guys were doing it on the side and I was like, ‘That’s better than cutting lawns starting at 5:30 a.m. for 12 hours a day,’ ” said Shepard, who previously worked for a landscaping company in the Twin Cites. “I tried it out. It wasn’t too bad.”

Shepard found himself in search of a summer job, like any other average college student, soon after deciding — just moments, in fact, after UMD won its second-straight NCAA title in Buffalo, N.Y. — that he would not field any NHL offers and instead chase a three-peat with the Bulldogs.

Of the eight players who were surveyed by The Rink Live during NCHC Media Day on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, half were working men this summer as they passed the time between seasons.

St. Cloud State defenseman Jack Ahcan answers a question during NCHC Media Day on Sept. 19, 2019, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. Ahcan was named a Preseason All-NCHC pick earlier in the week and is the Huskies’ captain. Clint Austin/The Rink Live

Working at camps, skating schools

The popular part-time summer gig for those who worked over this summer or in previous summers were hockey camps and skating schools because they allowed them to continue training, while also earning some dough.

Miami senior forward Gordie Green of Ann Arbor, Mich., worked a camp run by Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, cousin of RedHawks goalie Ryan Larkin.

“Once I’m done playing, I’d love to be a hockey coach,” Green said.

Shepard had previously worked goaltending camps, but mowing lawns paid much better. It just didn’t fit well with his training schedule.

Driving for Lyft proved to be the perfect fit.

“You work out in the middle of the day and a lot of places aren’t super flexible and don’t let you work when you want,” Shepard said. “I made the same amount of money (driving for Lyft) as I could working landscaping, just way better hours. It’s pretty tough to go mow lawns for 12 hours and then try to go work out on skates.”

Before he mowed lawns, Shepard umpired American Legion and VFW baseball games during the summer in Grand Rapids. That was his favorite summer job, he said.

St. Cloud State senior defenseman Jack Ahcan, of Savage, Minn. also used to work in baseball during the summer, helping with field maintenance. He’s also helped out at a daycare and worked construction.

“I did everything from siding to doing a roof, peeling off shingles,” Ahcan said. “I picked up scraps and brought them to the dumpster. I learned a little bit of stuff.”

Colton Poolman of North Dakota speaks to members of the media Thursday during NCHC Media Day at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Clint Austin / The Rink Live

Working outside hockey

Other NCHC captains with work experience on their resumes outside of hockey include Nebraska-Omaha senior defenseman Dean Stewart, of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. He worked at a golf course.

North Dakota senior defenseman Colton Poolman, of East Grand Forks, Minn., once spent a summer washing cars for an auto body shop. In high school he worked at a movie theater ripping tickets and cleaning. That job came with some nice perks.

“You got early screenings,” Poolman said. “I think I saw ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ early. I was pretty pumped about that. I was a big Batman guy.”

Shepard said he was recognized fairly often as the Bulldogs star goaltender while driving for Lyft. Sometimes he confirmed people’s suspicions, other times he left them guessing, he said.

“I try not to say anything,” Shepard said. “I just get you where you need to go.”

Shepard said his experience with Lyft was fun, minus an intoxicated rider who needed to get out and hurl during Shepard’s first night driving.

“It’s kind of refreshing,” Shepard said. “It’s a small world. You meet people, they know people that you know and have been places that you’ve been to.”

It’s also been educational. He discovered parts of Duluth he never knew about.

“I thought I knew my way around Duluth, kind of, but I didn’t know,” he said. “If I didn’t have my GPS on my iPhone, I’d be lost all the time.”

Matt Wellens (@mattwellens) can be reached at mwellens@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5317.
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