For college athletes, time spent away from friends and family is something they become used to through practice, preparation and games taking up their weeks.
For hockey players, having their families and friends cheering in the crowd as they take the ice is something about which many can only dream. This wish came true for Carson Meyer, who grew up in Powell, Ohio, just a 20-minute drive from the Schottenstein Center, where he now plays hockey for Ohio State.
After the junior forward moves on from college, Meyer will join the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team he’s expressed interest in since its Columbus debut when Meyer was young.
“I started playing hockey when I was 3 years old. It was the same year the [Blue] Jackets became a team here,” Meyer said. “That was a huge part of it, my parents hearing about the Jackets and taking me to games and watching them on TV with my dad and stuff like that. That was pretty much the majority of what drew me to the game.”
Meyer is not just a Blue Jackets fan; he’s also been a part of the organization, playing on the Blue Jackets’ Bantam Major AAA under-16 and under-18 teams for more than four years. The work he put into the organization paid off when he was drafted by the team with the 179th pick in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Though Meyer was excited to play at Ohio State, his return to central Ohio came with hardships.
In his freshman year at Miami University (Ohio), he scored 10 goals and assisted on 16 more, priming himself for an impressive career at one of the nation’s top college hockey programs.
Disaster struck in his sophomore year as his game performances declined to only 10 points on the season. Nobody knew the root of his issues until Meyer revealed that a 25-inch tapeworm had taken up residence in his small intestine.
Tapeworms can cause fatigue and weight loss, so his struggles were easily explained. But it took time for Meyer to recover mentally and get back to where he was before his health issues.
“Last year, as bad as it went, not knowing what was wrong for the majority of the year, you start to kind of second-guess yourself every step of the way. All summer I was working out and working hard, but you never really know. You just get in your own head: ‘What if I can’t get back to where I was?’ and stuff,” Meyer said. “I feel like I’m back to where I was and I’m starting to take steps forward to be even better than I was at this point [last year], so it’s a great feeling, just refreshing.”
Meyer is now well into his junior year, but transferring as a 21-year-old threw him into an awkward position, as the team had already experienced much success, with each player having an established role on the team
“It is different. In the beginning you don’t want to step on any toes because you’re kind of the new guy but at the same time it’s like, you’re not a freshman,” Meyer said. “I’ve got some experience, and I’m actually an upperclassman, so I know there’s a lot I can offer this time, both on the ice and off of it.”
He isn’t afraid to share advice or wisdom. On a team with eight seniors — including team captains Mason Jobst and Sasha Larocque — Meyer sees himself as a leader on the squad that didn’t know him six months ago.
“He’s a great player,” Jobst said. “Obviously he’s new to the team, so we’re still getting used to each other a little bit, but over time I assume more goals will come and he makes it real easy on me.”
Meyer has had a strong start in his first season as a Buckeye, tying the team lead in points with four goals. He’s recorded at least two points in three games and has scored in half of the games the Buckeyes have played.
Though Meyer might have had doubts about his play going into the season, head coach Steve Rohlik and the coaching staff have shown trust in his ability, starting him in four games on the first line.
“I think he’s played fine. He’s bought into our culture. He’s a good teammate. He’s a 200-foot player. He’s still learning,” Rohlik said. “I know it was a rough year for him last year, but, again, everything’s looking out the front window right now, not the rear-view mirror for him, so it’s great to have him on the team and he’s fitting in nice with the guys.”
Moving forward, it’s time for Meyer to focus on bettering himself as the season progresses. While it might take time to fully assimilate into Ohio State’s culture, the focus is shared amongst the entire locker room: return to the big stage in April and compete for a national championship.
“It’s very high expectations,” Meyer said. “Really good culture, a winning culture. I kind of knew that was how it would be coming in and I’ve been really impressed with how everybody has handled the situation and what our focus is for this season.”