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Air Force hockey's Kyle Haak honors, emulates grandfather as team hosts Army

November 2, 2017 Updated: November 3, 2017 at 8:39 am
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Kyle Haak (16) of the Air Force, left, fights Anthony Croston (18) of the Arizona State for possession of the puck as the Falcons took on the Sun Devils at the Cadet Ice Arena at the U.S. Air Force Academy on Friday October 13, 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

Air Force junior forward Kyle Haak’s late grandfather, William “Wild Bill” Haak, was a captain and Airborne Ranger in the U.S. Army.

“We gave the nickname to him because he has a very quiet personality, but the things that he does and the things that he stands for are nothing short of wild,” Kyle said. “He was composed, intellectual, thoughtful and wild in his own manner.”

Bill Haak went on to become a school administrator and headmaster before retiring in 2002. Kyle said he didn’t know about his grandfather’s military career until just a few years ago. He preferred to focus on his wife of 56 years, Mary Eva, and his 17 grandchildren.

“He wasn’t one to boast about his accomplishments or his past,” Kyle said. “He was always invested in me and always wanted to talk about me.”

Bill would watch Kyle’s games from his home in Michigan and text his grandson afterwards, offering encouragement. Bill passed away in April, and Kyle treasures those texts.

He has his grandfather’s initials on his hockey stick. He tries to lead by actions, not words, and throw himself into hockey, academia, and everything else, like “Wild Bill” did.

“His entire life was just a positive impact on humanity,” Kyle said.

But whether the clock reads 11:00 or 23:00, there are a finite number of hours in the day. Kyle, a physics major with a 3.95 grade-point average last year, has missed practice time for research. He knew splitting his focus would hurt his play, and last season’s sixth-leading scorer has one point - a goal Oct. 13 against Arizona State - heading into this weekend’s home series against Army.

He and his linemates are healthy and back together, and they’re hoping for better results.

“We’re looking forward to picking back up and getting our productivity going again,” Haak said.

As a team, the veteran-laden No. 19 Falcons - and especially coach Frank Serratore - are disappointed with inconsistent efforts so far. The weekend rivalry series offers Air Force (5-2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Hockey Conference) a chance to start piecing together wins.

“Not playing your best and still winning games is key. Some of the best teams can win on their off nights,” Haak said. “Once we start playing well for longer stretches of time during the game, hopefully the wins keep coming.”

Army (3-3, 0-2 AHC) was swept by RIT last weekend. Serratore expects the Black Knights will come out aggressively.

“There’s going to be nothing easy about this weekend, and if for any reason, in the back of our minds, we’re thinking we’re going to get through this thing without putting the maximum amount of effort forward, there’s not going to be a happy ending to the story,” Serratore said.

When it came down to choosing between the Army he served in versus the Air Force Academy Kyle plays for, there’s no question “Wild Bill” Haak would have been wearing blue this weekend.

“Absolutely,” Kyle said. “He’d be excited.”

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