Kenai Central senior Ryan Elliott was an in-line hockey player living in San Bernardino, Calif., when his father retired from the police force.
Brad Elliott, Ryan's father, decided to take a year with his family and make a grand tour of almost the entire United States. While home-schooling their children, Brad and Rosalie Elliott, Ryan's mom, hit 46 states and a couple of provinces in Canada in search of a new place to live.
"When we came up here, we didn't want to leave, especially when we got to the peninsula," Brad said. "We wanted to turn around when we got to Anchorage. I was a cop in California and wanted to get away from the big city.
"When we got to the peninsula, we never left."
Ryan Elliott had just picked up the sport of in-line hockey when he was in fifth grade. So when he moved to Alaska before the start of his seventh-grade year, there was little doubt which sport he would pursue.
"I think the big thing Roller hockey did is give him a desire to play the game," Brad said. "Naturally, when he came up here, he wanted to take his hockey to the ice."
The transition from in-line hockey to ice hockey was initially tough for Ryan. While stickhandling technique translated nicely onto the ice, Ryan had to learn a whole new way of skating.
"These kids have all been playing for so long up here," Elliott said. "They learned to skate before they could walk.
"Everybody had a big jump on me."
Elliott said it took him until ninth or 10th grade to close the gap on the area's skaters.
In 10th grade, Kenai Central hockey coach Brian Gabriel showed Elliott just how far he still had to go to compete in the upper levels of the North Star Conference.
As a sophomore, Elliott had played junior varsity for most of the year when Gabriel brought him up and threw him in on defense against Soldotna, one of the North Star Conference's best teams.
"He definitely got started at the top as far as learning what varsity hockey is," Gabriel said.
Even at that age, Elliott showed the coachability that Gabriel loves.
"His best attribute is that he can take constructive criticism," Gabriel said. "In the heat of the game, you can point something out and he'll come up after the game and want to talk about it. He wants to learn from what he did wrong.
"Very few kids do that."
As a junior, Elliott was a swing player, meaning he played junior varsity but also practiced with the varsity and saw some varsity ice time.
This year, Gabriel said Elliott is having his best year in a Kardinals uniform. He plays defense and sees regular ice time on a team that will carry the No. 1 seed into this week's Region III tournament.
Elliott said his improved play this year is due to experience and the advice of Kenai assistant Bob Downs, who has taught Elliott to play more conservatively and to read plays better.
Just as Elliott has shown constant improvement on the ice, he also improved steadily in the classroom. As a freshman, Elliott said he had a high C or low B average. This year, he says he has a low A average.
"It was just getting used to school and wanting to get out of here," Elliott said. "I need to do the best I can so I can get into college."
Elliott would like to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage and study to be an air traffic controller.
"My junior year, I went on a job shadow at the airport," Elliott said. "I got a chance to talk to the air traffic controllers there and it sounded like this is a job I can go places with."
After getting his degree, Elliott wouldn't mind staying in Alaska. Like his father, he's not fond of overly populated areas. He also loves the hunting and fishing this area offers.
Rosalie said her son has done a good job of balancing all the tasks in his life.
"I believe a good way to raise children is to try and make their lives balanced," Rosalie said. "He does well in school, is active in sports and goes to church.
"He's learned how to set goals for himself and work until he reaches those goals."
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