By: Kelcee Kent (02/14/18)
Robert “Rory” Herman (18) is a true West Coast kid with firm Southern California roots. From the sunny San Diego suburbs, the Poway, California native and Green Bay Gamblers forward started his hockey career out on what he feels was a fortuitous encounter.
Herrman got his first taste of hockey when he was a young kid after his parents bought San Diego Gulls season tickets. At the time, the Gulls were a minor pro team in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
The family’s tickets were on the glass next to the visitor’s bench, and that more than anything impacted a young Herrman’s outlook on the game.
“It was practically like you were in the game. Sitting next to the visitor’s bench, seeing the players and watching the game – it was an immediate connection for me. Hockey was something that I wanted to do.”
But it was by chance that Herrman decided to give hockey a try.
“We had season tickets for about three straight years before the Gulls moved from San Diego. I consider this lucky, because I was young and playing several other sports. I truly feel like if we never had those tickets, I would be playing a different sport right now.”
The Gulls were on hiatus from San Diego for about ten years, until the Anaheim Ducks (NHL) organization decided to bring their AHL (American Hockey League) team to San Diego, bringing the Gulls back to the area in a higher league.
After some inspiration from watching the Gulls, a five-year-old Herrman knew playing hockey was next for him. His dad bought him a pair of roller hockey skates, and there was no turning back.
On the West Coast, most kids get their start in ice hockey with the help of roller hockey.
Roller hockey coaches Bob Gauthier along with Ron Smith jumpstarted Herrman in the sport.
“I can’t say enough about the roller hockey community in San Diego. Gauthier and Smith (they) are still coaching roller hockey today at the same rink I started in when I was a kid. I can’t thank them enough for my start,” said Herrman.
While some Cali kids choose to continue down the roller hockey path, Herrman made the move to the ice. At nine years old, he told his dad that he wanted to play ice hockey.
With Herrman’s parents on board, they purchased equipment and headed to their closest ice hockey arena, the San Diego Ice Arena.
“We essentially called the hockey director and showed up with my ice gear on a Friday night for a youth skate,” said Herrman. “I was able to jump right in. My skating ability and puck handling from roller hockey transitioned over very well, and I felt that helped in my learning process.”
Herman played his first year of ice hockey under Craig Sterling and Martin St. Amour, a retired pro who played for the Ottawa Senators and a former player and coach of Herrman’s hockey inspiration, the San Diego Gulls ECHL team.
After spending a few years learning his craft in San Diego, Herrman began to travel to Las Angeles four times a week to play at a more advanced level.
In L.A., Herrman played for the L.A. Junior Kings. That year Herrman and his team would go on to win the Bantam AAA State Championship. That state championship win would send the Junior Kings to participate in nationals at Cornerstone Community Ice Center, in Ashwaubenon. An ironic setting for a now-Gambler.
“As Gamblers, we have practices at Cornerstone, so it’s kind of funny looking back and thinking that I’ve been there before for nationals,” says Herrman on his nostalgic experience.
During his time with the Kings, Herrman found himself being scouted by east coast prep schools during a hockey tournament in New Hampshire. By his sophomore year, Herrman moved to New Hampton, New Hampshire to attend and play prep hockey at the New Hampton School.
In what he describes as one of the best years of his life, Herrman attributes his prep school hockey experience and success to his coach, Casey Kesselring.
“I felt like I had a really good year, and I owe that to my coach. It was the first year that I could think about Division I hockey being a possibility in my future, and is was an opportunity for me to look into east coast colleges.”
With his first year of prep school in the books, Herrman was set to go back to the New Hampton School for his junior year, but with a passing in the family he made the tough decision to return home to California.
Back in Cali, Herrman did not miss a beat. He began playing with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks.
“I had a really strong year with the Ducks and I was able to get noticed by the Gamblers organization. I was drafted by them later that year, and I have had the opportunity to be here in Green Bay ever since.”
Currently, Herman is in his second-year with the Gamblers, posting eight goals and eight assists in 34 games.
“Going into my first year with the Gamblers, I knew I had to be the hardest working guy out there. Now in my second year, I think it’s important to bring that same attitude. I pride myself on working as hard as I possibly can to get better every day,” said Herrman on his two years with the Gamblers. “With that being said, I feel like we have a really strong group of guys and a core group of returners that bring leadership and a strong work ethic to the ice every day.”
As Herrman looks to his hockey future, he remains in the present.
“I really let things take care of themselves. I want to play Division I hockey, and I want to play in the NHL,” says Herrman. “But I know that it all takes time and hard work. I’m here in Green Bay right now, and I think it’s important to focus on now. We want to win a Clark Cup. We want to win here before thinking of anything else.”
Along with Herrman’s own ambition comes an extensive family support system. Rory’s parents, Greg and Teresa have been huge influences on his hockey career and athleticism.
San Diego native, Greg, grew up in true Californian style – on the beach surfing, scuba diving and fishing. He was a notable athlete, holding a rugby career for over twenty years.
Teresa moved to the United States from Liverpool, England in her early twenties to attend college in San Diego, where her brother was also attending school and playing Division I soccer.
Herrman himself is a dual citizen, and visits family in England at any opportunity.
“I have had a lot of great support. A lot of influential coaches helped me get to where I am. But from my parents I have always had really strong support.”
To this day, the Herrman family have maintained their San Diego Gulls fandom, and still have their season tickets on the glass at Valley View Casino Center.
“My parents go to every game. And I’ve even been fortunate enough to catch a few games in my last two years that I have been away from home,” says Herrman.
Herrman, who most recently caught a Gulls game over the USHL’s winter break, said it felt nostalgic.
“Being at the game over break was almost touching. Walking around the rink was a crazy feeling. That’s pretty much where I got my start, and to see how far I have come, it really brought back a lot of memories.”
For Herrman, the difference in lifestyle and climate from the coast to the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay makes no apparent difference. He lives in the present moment and is focused on the game he loves and becoming a better player to reach his ultimate dream.
“Playing hockey and being from the west coast, I represent my city, Poway, and San Diego, and even California. I can’t say thank you enough to all the people back home that have played a part in my career thus far, but I’m looking forward to a future of hard work that will make them proud.”