Tufenkchian goes for the gold

He’s a versatile athlete of many names. While he’s known in some circles as a defensive back, safety and slot receiver, and an all-star in any position in basketball, junior Michael Tufenkchian’s  true passion lies in the game of hockey. Not only does he play for various leagues across L.A. County, but he also swims and plays tennis and football.

In hockey, Tufenkchian has played as a right wing for the Junior Maple Leafs in Pasadena and the California Heat Hockey Club at the Valley Ice Center. He has since honed his skills in the sport to an outstanding level. “I’ve had actual scouts come talk to me about my future in hockey,” Tufenkchian said. “I’ve talked to the Dallas Stars’ coach, and he’s seen me play before.”

Tufenkchian has played for a division above his age group. “These guys were a lot bigger than I was,” Tufenkchian said. “The whole team would practice for two hours, but I would practice for another hour or so after.”

During his hockey season, Tufenkchian would practice almost every day for three hours. He would leave after school and get to the ice rink at around 4:30 p.m. and his practice would end at around 8 p.m. “I do my homework and my studies in the car,” Tufenkchian said. “That’s a good hour or so of studying, and I got most of my work done.”

“It’s hard honestly because you want to concentrate on your sport, but you also want to be focused in school,” Tufenkchian said. “It’s like a fifty-fifty of my day. Fifty percent goes to school and the rest goes to my sports and whatever practice I have that day.”

Tufenkchian says one of his most memorable moments is when his team made it to the national championship game for their league, but were losing halfway through the second period. “Hockey has three periods, and halfway through the second we were losing 4‒1 and half the game was over. Basically, it was game over,” he said. “You’re not gonna make five goals to win in 15 minutes.”

However, the turning point in their game came when their coach called them together and motivated them to win. “Our coach called us in and gave us one of those motivational speeches, like in the movies. He gave us that speech and we somehow got motivated to not give up,” Tufenkchian said. “Even if you lose, you gotta just play your heart out.” His team ended up scoring the five goals the needed, winning the game 6‒4

From that experience, Tufenkchian says he learned the value of hard work. “I learned to never give up, because hard work pays off,” he said. “Stay concentrated and know what you’re doing.”