Former Illini hockey player attempting to make professional team
October 17, 2016
When Illinois hockey player John Scully was in his senior year at the University in 2014, he traveled to Bloomington, Illinois for his supply chain management program certification test.
While there, he decided to take a look at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum, home of the Bloomington Thunder, then a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Scully walked around to the side of the building and opened one door leading to the equipment room.
“Can I help you?” the man working the room asked Scully.
“Sorry,” Scully said. “I’m just looking to check out the rink.”
The quick exchange led to Scully’s touring of the locker room and looking around the rink. New Thunder head coach Greg Pankewicz took the time to talk to Scully and invited him to an open skate, which soon led to a contract for the rest of the 2014 season.
“It’s just by chance I ended up here,” Scully said.
Most hockey players like Scully don’t end up playing professional hockey — most don’t even continue playing after college.
But now, Scully is on a quest to play for the Indy Fuel of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), the third highest ranked professional hockey league in the country.
After a four-year career playing hockey at St. Viator High School in Scully’s hometown of Arlington Heights, Illinois, he wanted to give college hockey a shot. Scully says he chose Illinois because of the setup of the program, its proximity to home and the world-class education offered.
“When I showed up, I was definitely pretty excited to go to school there, but I really also wanted to play hockey,” Scully said. “I wanted a balance of good hockey and a good education.”
Scully only recorded eight points during his freshman year. The right-winger’s Illini career finally took off once he was an upperclassman, when he recorded 23 goals and 10 assists as a senior, leading his team to a 2014 Central States Collegiate Hockey League championship.
“By my senior year, I was like ‘Holy smokes, I’m doing alright here,’” Scully said.
Scully graduated from the University with a degree in business and chose to pursue professional hockey after school, beginning with the Thunder.
After Scully appeared in the final three games of the season for the Thunder, the organization folded. He spent the next two seasons in the Federal Hockey League with the Danville Dashers in Illinois and the Brewster Bulldogs in New York, where Scully was the Bulldogs’ captain.
Looking for a challenge in the 2016-17 season, Scully accepted an offer to participate in the Indy Fuel’s preseason camp after making the cut in an ECHL free agent camp earlier in the summer.
The Fuel, affiliated with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, is typically composed of AHL and NHL prospects, not former collegiate club hockey players.
“I just want to get my foot in the door,” Scully said. “It’s tough to crack the ECHL, and they’re still making cuts, so things could change at any second. (The Indy Fuel) have really been a top-notch organization, and I’m learning a lot and getting a little bit better everyday, which is the main goal, and I’m just trying to make an impression.”
While the salary isn’t top-notch in the ECHL, Scully’s family has supported him throughout his career.
“He had his degree, and if he can go play hockey, I hoped he could play as long as he can,” Scully’s father, Dennis, said. “Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
If cut from the Fuel’s preseason camp, Scully says he will return to the SPHL or the FHL and continue developing as a hockey player. Wherever his season will start in the next few weeks, Scully is looking to keep playing hockey.
“I went to school and got a supply chain management degree,” Scully said. “I’ll use that eventually, but in the meantime, I figure I’ll play hockey and make the most of it.”