Spotlight - Chris Hirano

Chris Hirano

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Chris Hirano first met Spartans coach Dwayne Lowdermilk when he was moving into Douglas Hall on Trinity Western’s campus in September of 2010.

Hirano was unpacking his hockey gear and, as is consistent with his quiet demeanor, was keeping to himself. However, Lowdermilk was not.

Thinking Hirano was a new recruit he hadn’t yet met, Lowdermilk approached Hirano to make him aware of the Spartans upcoming practice times. As Lowdermilk quickly found out, the 5-foot-8, 160-pound forward from San Jose was not a recruit. In fact he had his hockey gear there to play for the Trinity Western Bombers – the university’s “big time” recreational league team that’s actually quite good.

Lowdermilk invited him out anyway.

Hirano wasn’t so sure.

“I looked at the roster and they were all big guys so I didn’t really go out,” said the mullet-sporting Hirano.

But as it turned out, that interaction was a planted seed.  

Instead of trying out for the Spartans, he played and excelled with the Bombers. In 24 league games, he had 16 goals and 14 assists – good for second on the team – and then in the playoffs scored the overtime winner, not to mention his team’s only other goal, in a 2-1 victory in the league championship game.

Although that championship performance was unbeknownst to Lowdermilk until this week, his overall effort throughout the season earned him a shot with the Spartans this past fall.

“I watched them during the season and I figured I could play with them,” Hirano said. “I just wanted to play more hockey and with the Bombers it just wasn’t enough.”

After all, despite growing up in the warm climate that is California, he’s been playing hockey, and a lot of it, since he was eight years old. And enjoying it even longer.

As a five-year-old, Hirano fell in love with hockey while watching the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. It was the first year the professionals had played at the Olympics – not that he would have known the difference at that age – and he was drawn in.

“My parents tell me I asked for a hockey stick right after that and started playing in my backyard,” said Hirano, who is studying business and would like to become an accountant.

By age seven he was skating and a year later he was on the ice with a stick and a puck.

And for Hirano it was the iced game that always drew his attention. While most Californian hockey players – not to mention the legendary Jesse Hall of D2: The Mighty Ducks lore – played roller hockey in the summer, Hirano did not. Instead, in the summer he played field lacrosse and yearned for the ice.

You see, Hirano doesn’t do things by the Californian book.

Despite living just a 30-minute drive from Santa Cruz, surfing wasn’t his passion and if you can imagine the typical, blonde haired, vocally charged Californian, you won’t come up with Hirano.  

“He’s very quiet. He just goes out and does his job,” Lowdermillk said.

Although Hirano – who moved up here for the “hockey atmosphere” and because a lot of his mom’s family is from Coquitlam, B.C. and he thought he’d “change it up” – only has two assists in 17 games, he’s the type of hard-working individual that any hockey team would love to have.

“He’s willing to go into the corners and the dirty areas,” Lowdermilk said.

Hirano, who actually suffers from asthma, said: “I just need to play as hard as I can. It’s been a little slow for me. I haven’t really been playing the way I’ve wanted to but I think I’m getting better.”

When Lowdermillk first discovered Hirano on the first day of school a year and a half ago, he had no idea what he was getting – Hirano would never be caught boasting about his accomplishments – but what he’s discovered has been a real gem.

He just goes about his business, works hard, doesn’t complain and that seed planted during Hirano’s first week at Trinity Western has grown into a regular shift with the Spartans.

There’s not a coach in the world who wouldn’t make sure he got that player on his roster.

Last Updated: 2012-03-09
Author: Mark Janzen