The name “Middendorf” has been stitched onto many a jersey, including in the pros. Colorado College freshman Erik hopes that letter combination is seen a lot more in the coming years.
“Big genes, big bodies,” is how he described his family.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder with NHL aspirations said the Middendorfs are hockey-crazed, with a notable football interlude. His grandfather — who suited up for the Washington Redskins before being drafted by the army — played football for University of Cincinnati, and was called “the greatest offensive center in the country” by his coach.
But Erik followed his father, brother and uncle, who played in the 1986 World Junior Championships and later the NHL, onto the ice.
The first Tiger born in the 2000s was raised in the Phoenix area, coming up a few years behind Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.
“He’s what sparked my passion for the game. If he’s doing it, anyone can,” Middendorf said. “If I heard of a stickhandling drill he was doing, I’d do it at home.”
Right after ducking into his parents’ bedroom to accept the invitation to follow his idol and play for the U.S. National Development Program, someone else called claiming to be Matthews.
“I thought it was a joke,” Middendorf said. “I was like, yeah yeah, whatever.”
But it was him, offering his congratulations.
“That was pretty incredible,” Middendorf said.
Middendorf went on to play more than a hundred games with the NDP and appeared in several international tournaments, most recently winning the Five Nations Tournament with Team USA.
He had 16 points (8 goals,8 assists) in 43 games for the U18 team.
“The experience that they give them there, it’s second to none,” CC coach Mike Haviland said. “Being around the guys at that level and practicing at that level every day, your game can go to another level, and it worked out well for Erik.”
“We prepared differently, looked at games differently,” Middendorf added. “I wouldn’t take anything back.”
Middendorf committed to Denver but wound up an hour south.
He scored his first collegiate goal in his first CC game at Alaska-Anchorage.
Haviland prefers to keep lines, or at least pairs, together to build chemistry. But Middendorf has played with nearly everyone, floating between the bottom three lines — from mucking it up in the corners on the fourth to showing off that internationally-honed speed and skill on the second.
That’s how he scored his second goal of the season, and first game-winner, Nov. 16 against Miami. The Redhawks turned the puck over at their own blue line and within seconds, Middendorf had one-timed an Alex Berardinelli pass home.
He gives his first two months with the Tigers an average score, with room for improvement.
“I want to score more goals,” he said.
“I thought it was going to be an easy adjustment for me, but it’s bigger, stronger, faster in college,” he said. “You’ve got to kind of find what works for you.”