Crocock skates his way into the pro game

Brantford's Mike Crocock is playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League with the Birmingham Bulls after concluding his NCAA career at Sacred Heart University earlier this year. Submitted Photo

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Mike Crocock barely had time to take off his skates before starting the next chapter in his hockey career.

Following the conclusion of his NCAA season at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut earlier this year, the 24-year-old signed with the Birmingham (Ala.) Bulls of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

“I jumped at the opportunity,” the Brantford native said early Friday prior to Game 1 of his team’s best-of-three quarter-final playoff series against the Fayetteville (N.C.) Marksmen.

“It’s definitely a cool opportunity to get my feet wet in professional hockey.

“Coming down to Alabama where the weather is pretty nice so far is definitely a bonus. It’s been awesome so far.”

After Sacred Heart was knocked out of the Atlantic Hockey quarter-finals, Birmingham coach Jamey Hicks called Crocock to talk about playing for the Bulls.

Crocock had to quickly make up his mind because he needed to play in five regular-season games to qualify for the team’s post-season roster.

The five-foot-10, 180-pound defenceman didn’t score in 37 games with Sacred Heart this season but earned seven assists.

In six games with Birmingham, Crocock scored two goals and added two assists. He scored his first professional goal on a slapshot against Evansville (Ind.) Thunderbolts on March 23 in his first game.

He said he felt “snakebit” during his season with Sacred Heart.

“Once I got here, the goals seemed to come. It was nice to get one out of the way in my first game.”

Crocock said the quality of the league is good with a lot of older players with skill and speed.

“It’s a jump from college hockey,” he said.

“I think I’ve transferred my game pretty well into the pro ranks. But it’s a bit different, for sure.”

One difference is that there is no one looking over your shoulder to make sure you are doing the work and taking care of yourself, he said.

“You have to take it upon yourself to take care of your body, and that you’re eating right and getting your workouts in,” said Crocock.

Heading into his final season with Sacred Heart, Crocock and the team had set certain goals, including making it out of Atlantic Hockey.

“I think our expectation every year was to try and make it to the (NCAA Division I) tournament,” said the son of Rob and Janet Shaw. “We fell a little bit short of that but I think it was our best season.

“We’ve made a ton of jumps in the right direction and I’m excited to watch how this team grows in the next few years.”

After opening with a win against Rochester Institute of Technology in the Atlantic Hockey quarter-finals, Sacred Heart was eliminated from the playoffs with two straight losses.

“It was disappointing,” said Crocock.

“We got a bye through the first round, which I don’t think we’ve ever done in school history. Overall, it was a great year and I had a lot of fun.”

Going from Sacred Heart to the Bulls has been “a bit of a whirlwind,” he said.

“I don’t think I’ve really processed it yet,” he said. “Over the summer, I’ll take some time to reflect on it and be proud of what we accomplished at Sacred Heart.”

Crocock’s contract with the Bulls will expire at the conclusion of the season but his dream of professional hockey won’t end.

“I’m happy to be here and get my feet wet,” he said. “Hopefully, I can move up in the pro ranks over the next few years.

“I’ll try to play for as long as I can.”