Former Kalaheo Paddling Coach Gets His Chance On The Ice

Julian Wicker (37) faces off for the University of North Florida in Jacksonville - far from his Hawaii roots. Photo from Julian Wicker.

Julian Wicker has spent his entire 25 years living in either Jacksonville, Fla., or Kailua, Hawaii – cities not exactly known for ice hockey. Even so, he could not get hockey out of his system in his young adult years.

“I should have been born in Canada and moved to Minnesota,” Wicker joked by phone from Jacksonville. “Instead, I was born in Florida and raised in Hawaii.”

Wicker is known on the Windward side for his coaching success, having built Kalaheo into a canoe-paddling powerhouse. Taking over the season after his own eligibility clock expired, at age 18, Wicker quickly put his stamp on the program, leading the Mustangs to a pair of state paddling titles as well as five OIA championships.

During that period, Wicker still had the urge to play hockey and finally acted on it in December of 2011 when he tried out for the University of North Florida coaches. “I skated for them, and they liked what they saw,” said Wicker. “I decided to go back to school. I got my AA degree from Wind-ward Community College.”

In July, Wicker moved to Jacksonville, where his parents are living, and is currently playing college hockey for North Florida in the American College Hockey Association while working on a degree in public relations/communications. “It’s nice to be playing at the college level,” he said. “It’s been my dream since I was a child to play hockey at a higher level.”

Wicker first began skating on roller blades at age 7 and quickly switched over to ice hockey skates.

“I fell in love with hockey when I was 7,” he said. “My parents bought me a stick just to help me keep

my balance. I used it to mess around and play the game. We also had an ice rink open 15 minutes from my house about then.”

Wicker moved to Kailua just before high school, eventually graduating from Kalaheo, but kept playing hockey – first in youth leagues and later in men’s open leagues. The atmosphere on the ice is quite different now, he admits, at the college level. “It’s a faster game, and there’s more contact. There was no contact in the men’s leagues in Hawaii because everyone has to wake up the next morning to go to work. It’s an older group, and the physical part is done for them by then.

“I didn’t want playing in an Adult League in Hawaii to be the pinnacle of my hockey career,” Wicker added. “I’m very happy and very fortunate.”

At 25, Wicker is a few years older than his team-mates, but he’s put his life’s experience to good use. “I’ve been playing hockey longer than the kids I coached at Kalaheo have been around,” he said. “The main advantage I have is my age, since most of my teammates are 20 or 21. I’m emotional, and I can get caught up in a game, but I think I’m a little more mature in handling those situations. That comes from coaching.”

Wicker hopes to play three seasons at UNF by the time he finishes his degree, and he’s eager to get back to Kailua. “I miss Hawaii, so I want to get back there as soon as I can. I miss paddling, my friends, and I left my girlfriend back there, but I’m never going to have this time and experience again.”