With his career nearing its end, Austin Bostock looks to give back to hockey

By Joey Figueroa

With his playoff beard growing in nicely, senior captain Austin Bostock is ready for the ACHA tournament, but he’s not quite ready for his last home games with the Illinois hockey team.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Bostock said of senior weekend. “It came way too fast.”

Bostock has been an integral part of the Illini’s success since his freshman year. Over the course of his four-year career, Bostock has compiled 49 goals and 58 assists and has led the team as the captain during his junior and senior years.

Bostock earned his position as captain from a team vote at the beginning of his junior year and is still nearly speechless when he thinks about how much it means to him.

“I can’t even describe how it makes me feel,” he said. “It makes you feel good when the 30 guys that you’re with every day choose you as a leader. These guys are my best friends on campus, and I hope I did well for them.”

With the hardships the Illini have faced this season, the senior leadership has been as important as ever, and Bostock has been at the forefront of that with the example he sets for the rest of the team.

“As a captain, you can’t ask others to do things you’re not willing to do yourself, and he’s done everything I’ve asked him both years I’ve had him,” head coach Nick Fabbrini said. “There’s a saying in hockey, ‘it only takes one spark to start a fire,’ and he’s a guy that has started some fires for us this year. There’s going to be big shoes to fill next year, absolutely.”

Being away from the ice will be a strange feeling for Bostock, who has played hockey nearly non-stop since he first started skating at age five. Bostock said he developed a strong passion for the game as soon as he put on the skates.

“Passion for hockey is an internal thing,” Bostock said. “You really can’t teach passion. And it’s never going to leave, either. I’m going to be a passionate coach, and if my kids someday play hockey, I’m going to be passionate for them, too. That’s just something that’s always been inside me. I’m passionate about everything I do.”

Bostock’s strong passion for hockey will keep him close to the game after he graduates. Even with a great job lined up in Dearborn, Mich., to work for Ford Motor Co. as a manufacturing engineer, Bostock still sees hockey in his future.

“They always have different levels of men’s leagues, so I feel like I can find a little niche in there and get going in Michigan,” Bostock said. “It’s a good state for hockey, and I feel like anywhere I go I’m going to find hockey. It’s not hard.”

Bostock has made it his duty to give back to the game of hockey, and along with senior forward Matt Welch, he was responsible for starting the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game, which is something he hopes has a lasting impact.

He has also been involved in programs such as Learn-to-Skate and the Minor Hawks “Learn to Play” Hockey in Champaign, which has given him an interest to coach in the future.

“I envision myself as a coach one day,” Bostock said. “I love teaching. I love coaching the little guys, so I’m sure I’ll find a way to get involved in coaching in some aspect of the game.”

Fabbrini had the same sort of passion for teaching hockey, which made his return to the Illini after his playing career ended in 2008 a no-brainer. He thinks Bostock has the right qualities for the task of coaching one day.

“I think that he’s got the right personality for it; he’s always a guy out here helping out with youth hockey,” Fabbrini said. “I think that he understands that coaching is an opportunity to give back to the game. He’s a smart kid and he’s a personable kid, so I think if he decides to get into coaching, he’ll be great at it.”

Bostock said if an opportunity presents itself to return to Illinois with a coaching position, he doesn’t see why he wouldn’t accept it because he would do anything to help out the place he has called home for the past four years.

Even though he admitted it will be very emotional playing in his final games as an Illlini, Bostock has a very positive outlook on the future and has no plans for hockey to leave his life.

“I don’t view it as walking away; it’s just closing the book on being a player, and after that I can start giving back to the game of hockey that’s given me so much,” he said. “Now I’ll just have to call myself an alumni. It’s going to hurt a little bit, but it’s going to give me the chance to give back to the game. It’s just a new chapter.”

Joey can be reached at [email protected] and @joeyfigueroa3