He is the lone American on his team, one that plays 641 miles away from his own residence in Danvers.
Yes, there are days that Zac Zakas misses his family. A lot.
But the 6-foot-1, 185-pound defenseman doesn’t question his decision to play junior hockey in the Maritimes Hockey League, hoping it will lead to something bigger and better, be it in college or at the professional level in the United States or Europe.
The 20-year-old Zakas is in his second, and final, year of playing for the Bridgewater Junior A Lumberjacks, based out of Nova Scotia, Canada. He has found a home away from home with his billet family, Gail and Ralph Dicks,
“I had offers to play NCAA hockey this year, but I loved it so much up here in Nova Scotia that I couldn’t turn down the chance to play my last year of juniors,” said Zakas, who played for head coach Buddy Taft at the Pingree School his freshman and sophomore years of high school before transferring to Danvers High.
An assistant captain for the Lumberjacks, Zakas said his decision to play in Canada has been one he’ll never regret because the level of hockey there is high and he has improved his game tremendously. He is hoping it will end with a long playoff run, and even though the team is young the Jacks are in a position to make the playoffs.
He played two years of Midget AAA hockey with the Boston Junior Rangers out of Raynham before deciding he wanted to go the Junior A route. The highest such level in the Boston area, however, is the Eastern Junior Hockey League Tier III, which Zakas said costs around $8,000 per player.
“I come from a blue collar family,” said Zakas, who is grateful for the constant support his family has shown him throughout his career. “My dad runs a heating oil business and my mom has a daycare out of our house. I knew Junior A hockey was free in Canada, and over the summer I skated with a few teams in Ontario. It’s difficult to make a Canadian team, though, because as an American you’re considered an import.”