The Colgate Scene
March 2007

[Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko]

The man behind the C

Liam Huculak has played many different roles in his life: geographer, set designer, world traveler.

One of his most meaningful roles, though, is the one signified by the captain's C he wears on the chest of his Colgate hockey jersey.

"We have such a good team," said Huculak, who is from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. "I'm honored to be the leader of all these good players."

"Liam has one of the best qualities you can ask for in a hockey player — consistency," said head coach Don Vaughan. "His teammates know that they are going to get the same level of play and effort from Liam every day. His teammates respect him for it, and it is just one of the reasons why he is such a good captain."

Huculak came to Colgate after playing several years in the Canadian junior leagues. During his time at Starr Rink, the Raiders have won two ECAC Hockey League regular-season championships, and advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2005. But as impressive as those accomplishments are, Huculak and his classmates want to leave something different as their legacy.

"We want to be remembered as a hardworking class with a winning attitude," he said.

Huculak brings that same ethic to embracing the rest of his liberal arts experience at Colgate, indulging his varied off-the-ice interests in both his academic and extracurricular pursuits.

An active member of the theater community, Huculak finds himself both behind and in front of the curtain. He credits his father, Gary, who taught a high school drafting class and inspired him to dabble in woodworking, with first sparking his interest in theater. Advanced coursework in set design at Colgate (he minors in theater) helped pave the way for Huculak to serve as lead set designer on last fall's Student Musical Theater Company production of Man of La Mancha. The 16th-century Spanish prison set he created featured rocks made of foam rising out of the stage floor, and walls reminiscent of crumbling brick and mortar. And this semester, he is taking his first shot at acting as part of the spring festival.

For his major, Huculak chose to pursue geography because of its breadth. "That's what drew me to it," he said, "that I'd be able to study many different things, like politics and environmental science as well as actual physical geography."

As with the theater, Huculak drew some of his interest in geography from his father, who recently finished a two-year stint teaching at a diplomatic school in Kuwait. Over the summer, Huculak spent 10 days there, experiencing the culture and dismantling his preconceived notions about the Middle East.

"People think of the Middle East as one big war zone, and it's not at all," he said. "Kuwait City is amazing, and it's fairly Westernized. The people are so nice and helpful because they want others from the West to visit. At the same time, the students in my dad's class all want to come over here to go to university." While there, Huculak also had the chance to teach hockey to his dad's students — at the city's first public ice rink.

Over his years of playing Colgate hockey, Huculak's teammates have become his closest friends. But until recently, he shared with only a few of them the most significant experience of his life: the death of his mother, Cindy, when he was 19 years old.

Huculak described Cindy as his "biggest fan" and "the typical hockey mom. Not the one who yells and screams, but the one who was always there." She passed away during his second year in the Canadian junior leagues, just three months after becoming the first to learn that he would be attending Colgate — she took the call from assistant coach Andrew Dickson inviting him to join the Raiders.

Going through losing his mother made him stronger and changed his outlook, he said. "Now, I try to always stay positive, to be more laid back. I don't like to get stressed out because it's just not worth it."

After he graduates this May, Huculak hopes to play hockey professionally, preferably somewhere close to Colgate. After his playing days are over, he said, "I see myself staying in the sport in some capacity, maybe as a coach or in a front-office job with a professional team."

Kelley is assistant director of athletic communications.
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