“Pretty much every significant relationship I’ve ever had, I’ve seen collapse under the weight of hockey. I’ve lost friends, missed out on experiences. You’ve gotta be tough.”
Many would write off Parks Owensby. At first glance, many could see the junior economics student as a traditional and ordinary San Diego resident or typical frat guy.
But, that could not be further from the truth. The 25 year-old goalie is currently living out of a hotel as he prepares to take the crease Friday night in San Diego State Hockey’s season opener. Luckily, over a decade of turmoil and pressure has prepared the goalie for his unique and stressful situation.
Currently, he’s over 2,000 miles away from where his love for hockey began. In Atlanta, Georgia, he was always drawn to the sport over more traditional options like baseball, basketball, or football.
“I just kinda fell into it. Which is weird being in Atlanta… As soon as I started playing I was attracted to the position (goaltending). I guess you get to play the whole game, which sounded like a good deal,” said Owensby.
“As I’ve gotten older I realize it’s the challenge of it that I like the most. That’s what draws me to the position is how complex it is; how technical it is.”
His love for the game would be a constant, and a necessity for his 2014-15 season of junior hockey. The youngster traveled to teams in Maine, Illinois, and Vancouver in hopes of finding a full-time spot, but he never did.
In 2015-16, he returned home to play for the Atlanta Capitals in the NA3HL, the third tier of US junior hockey. Owensby could not praise the highs of junior hockey enough, citing the travel and constant ice-time as far outdoing a traditional schooling experience.
“You learn to interact with people, and learn to make new friends every year and be part of a team… it was a good experience. It hasn’t always been fun, but it’s served me in life.”
Unfortunately, his next two seasons would be missed due to his dealing with a significant hip injury. This saw him lose eligibility for junior hockey, and forced him to look elsewhere to continue his hockey career
“I started training really hard and was blasting emails everywhere asking, ‘who needs a goalie?!’ I was fortunate enough that Robert Morris was in a position where they needed a guy.
“At the time, that was one of the premiere programs.” Based out of Chicago Illinois, Robert Morris University was a quality program where the goalie saw himself finishing his hockey and academic careers.
But, scandals and abuse allegations scorned the image of Robert Morris University’s hockey program which saw the club lose funding and team members seemingly overnight.
“My sophomore year we played with like 11 players. It was a mess:”
He left Robert Morris for greener pastures, and after a brief trial at the University of Pittsburgh Owensby found himself again without a team to play on heading into the 2021-22 season.
“COVID interrupted everything for everyone,” noted the optimistic Owensby. “It interrupted recruiting and people playing games. I knew there was going to be an opportunity somewhere. I just wasn’t really sure when or where.”
With multiple offers on the table, the goalie elected to sit out for the season. “I wasn’t really willing to just jump at something. I figured that this was going to be my last chance.”
He trained on-ice several times per week, in hopes that next season would have more attractive offers. But, doubts started to set in and the goalie often found himself wondering, “Am I chasing a ghost? Is there really something here, or has it passed me by?”
On the verge of joining a different university, SDSU Hockey presented an offer that Owensby could not refuse. With just one goalie on the roster, 2021-22 backup Charlee Leerow, head coach Phillip Bateman was in dire need of a new starting netminder heading into the team’s first season at ACHA Division 1 level.
However, admitting Owensby to the university proved challenging. As the goaltender recalls, “I officially committed to the program on a Thursday and showed up the following Monday for class.”
“I showed up here with no place to live; don’t have my car… had five changes of clothes and a hockey bag. It’s not the first time I’ve been functionally homeless to play hockey, but this is definitely the nicest place I’ve been functionally homeless to play hockey.”
Owensby turned down ranked ACHA D1 teams in favor of joining the Aztecs. At first glance, that may seem odd. Why would a 25 year-old junior opt to cross the country and play for a program just making the jump to Division 1?
“I wanted the challenge of helping build something. We’re building something here and you don’t get many opportunities in your career to be a cornerstone of something bigger. Usually you’re a brick higher up in the wall, and it’s nice to be part of that wall, but everybody hears about the guys who helped lay the foundation.”
“We get to be one of those guys,” touted Owensby.
SDSU Hockey will start their inaugural Division 1 season on Friday against the University of Colorado Boulder. On making his debut in Scarlet and Black, the goalie claimed, “I’m just excited to meet our fans.”
“Seeing the pictures and videos of seasons past of how crazy and rowdy the Kroc gets, it’s exciting.”
Although, the netminder’s main focus this season is about building the program and hockey’s outreach into Southern California. “Our goal is to open doors for kids behind us, in Southern California so they don’t have to travel 3,000 miles to play hockey…
“like I did,” chuckled Owensby.