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Thursday, November 11, 2004

Generals' rookie has found lost love


Generals' rookie has found lost love
Kinnie back on ice after almost walking away

By Brendan Savage

Rookie forward Mike Kinnie has resumed a life-long love affair with hockey.

He can thank for the Flint Generals for his change of heart.
A year ago, during his junior season at Ferris State University, Kinnie got so fed up with hockey that he was ready to hang up his skates forever. That was an unusual feeling for somebody who grew up near hockey crazy Detroit dreaming of being a pro someday.

"As I got older, I fell out of love with hockey," Kinnie said Thursday. "I didn't care if I played anymore. In college, I hated the game. I wasn't having fun anymore.

"I was going to stop playing hockey all together."

The reason for Kinnie's unhappiness was largely financial.

After a midget career playing for the fabled Little Caesar's program in Detroit, Kinnie skipped junior hockey and went to Ferris State, making the team as a walk-on.

He had five goals and four assists in 25 games as a freshman before enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign, when he had 15 goals and 15 assists in 42 games.

But any excitement Kinnie felt about his junior season quickly disappeared when he wasn't given any financial aid in the form of a scholarship.

"The (lack of a) scholarship really bothered me," said Kinnie, 22. "I felt I was getting screwed on money. I had a great sophomore year and didn't get anything. Now, I'm getting paid for (playing) and I don't have the burden of school to worry about with hockey."

Generals second-year forward John DiPace deserves credit for bringing Kinnie to Flint.

DiPace and Kinnie were skating during the summer when Kinnie told DiPace about his plans to quit playing hockey and instead concentrate on obtaining his business administration degree, something he still plans to do beginning next summer.

DiPace told Kinnie the Generals were looking for players and the union has been a perfect fit as Kinnie leads the club with three goals while skating on a line with DiPace and newcomer Jason Selleke.

"This style of hockey fits me a little better," said Kinnie, who is tied for third in scoring among United Hockey League rookies with six points. "College was a lot more running around. This is more positional and waiting for something to happen.

"It's good. I like it."

Being so close to his home in Shelby Township has allowed DiPace's family and friends to attend many games. In fact, he expects his parents to be at tonight's game against the Motor City Mechanics in Fraser, which is just a 10-minute drive from the Kinnie home.

To relax during the season, Kinnie enjoys playing video games as well as low-stakes poker games with teammates at the apartment complex where many of the Generals are living.

During the summer, Kinnie likes to spend time at his grandfather's cabin in Lakeview, where he can fish, jet ski and ride his motorcycle.

Although he's rediscovered his passion for hockey, Kinnie hasn't made any long-term plans.

"I'm taking it year by year, game by game," he said. "Anything can happen. They can release you at any time. I feel good. I like how the pro hockey game is played."

Ed. Note: John DiPace was a member of the 2002-2003 Continental Cup champion Detroit Lightning of the now-defunct Continental Elite Hockey League. Bobby Kukulka was also on that team and, like DiPace, is now with the Generals. DiPace and Kukulka are also cousins.

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