When the Ohio State men’s hockey team travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on the Wolverines on Friday, junior defenseman Sean Duddy will be at home.
For a weekend, anyway.
Duddy grew up in Ann Arbor and went to Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, which sits right across the street from Michigan Stadium.
“I was definitely a Michigan fan growing up,” Duddy said. “I mean, it is hard not to be, living in Ann Arbor.”
However, when it came to college, Notre Dame, Air Force, Lake Superior State and OSU recruited Duddy to play hockey. Michigan did not.
Duddy didn’t have his sights set on Michigan anyway.
“I wanted to go to school somewhere else, away from where I grew up,” Duddy said. “I wanted to have a new experience and get a different perspective from Ann Arbor.”
Duddy’s mother, Lisa Hesse, said she understood her son’s decision.
“Going to Michigan after living in Ann Arbor is like going to school in your backyard,” Hesse said. “It wouldn’t be much of an adventure.”
Duddy chose OSU because he loved the school and its campus, he said, and it was still close enough that his family could come to watch him play.
Several Division I schools recruited Duddy, but both Duddy and Hesse said he was never a star player and that he had to work hard to get noticed.
“Most people would say, ‘Hey, why don’t you just go play D-3 and focus on academics?'” Hesse said. “But Sean wanted D-1, so Sean went after it.”
Now Duddy has helped to lead the Buckeyes to a 13-14-2 record as a captain, something associate head coach Steve Rohlik attributes to Duddy’s work ethic.
“He brings it every day with every practice and game,” Rohlik said. “He is not going to take days off.”
The defenseman does not pile up the goals and assists. Instead, he said he likes it best when his shift on the ice goes unnoticed.
“My style of play is that if you don’t notice me, it’s good,” Duddy said. “So, if I stand out it’s because I’m making a mistake.”
Duddy spends about five hours a day on hockey, not including the time spent traveling almost every other weekend. A recent road trip to Alaska included leaving at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday and returning the following Sunday about 7 p.m.
Despite having a demanding hockey schedule, Duddy has excelled in the classroom. The finance major has posted a 3.98 grade point average in his three years at OSU.
Duddy’s achievement on and off the ice has earned him several awards, including being named an OSU Scholar-Athlete, Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten choice.
“It takes a special athlete to do that,” Rohlik said. “To be able to play at the Division I level and carry close to a 4.0 attributes to Sean’s hard work.”
Duddy’s success could leave him with a tough decision. After his senior year he will have to decide between a profession in hockey or one in business.
“I could see him trying after college to play professionally, but I could just as well see him move on and get a normal job,” said senior forward and fellow captain Sergio Somma.
Duddy said he would love to play after college, but has not given it much thought.
No matter the ability and leadership Duddy displays, he has not been able to escape his roots.
“When we play Michigan, guys will joke around and say that I am a spy for Michigan,” Duddy said, “that I’m recording what we do in practice to give to the Michigan coaches.”
Duddy said he generally does not follow or support the Wolverines, but he always pulls for their hockey team to lose.
He has even managed to convert most of his family to the Scarlet and Gray.
“I’m definitely an OSU fan now and I can say the same thing for Sean’s dad,” Hesse said. “His brother might be a different story though.”
Duddy will just have to settle for two out of three.