As Curry hockey and lacrosse standout Zach White closes in on his final days before graduation, he reflects on his time here at Curry as well as future expectations as a professional hockey player.
He’s come a long way since having only six points in 22 games his sophomore hockey season, but the challenges and successes along the way have helped him become fixture on the Curry campus.
“There was one point where I was on the verge of tears because I had twenty-something breakaways and scored on like one of them,” said White.
His numbers greatly improved over the next two seasons with 32 points and 39 points, respectively. Tying for second place nationally for division III with 23 goals this year also added depth to his resume. The decorated two-sport captain has recently joined Hockey Club Cholet, a professional team from the French Ice Hockey Federation.
But to get the full Zach White picture, you need to go beyond the nationally recognized scoring numbers, being a two-sport captain and of course, beyond signing pro contracts. Do some digging, and you’ll find a guy whose raw passion to compete is unparalleled.
“When you have your captain, the nation-leading scorer out on the ice a half hour before practice working on things by himself, and then you have a freshman walk into the rink while Zach White is already out there, think about how that impacts your team culture and the message it sends that freshman,” said Curry head hockey coach TJ Manastersky.
“Zach White works hard and puts in all this extra time, but I don’t think Zach thinks of it as working. He’s just doing what he likes to do. This is who he is.”
At White’s last junior hockey showcase tournament for the New York Apple Core (Eastern Hockey League), Manastersky and White had to re-introduce themselves due to the Colonel coach forgetting their first encounter a year prior at Curry’s 2014 Accepted Students Day. Impressed with what he saw, Manastersky offered White a spot on the Curry hockey roster. White began as a nursing major the following fall.
“It was huge just to get college coaches to look at me,” White said, “because kids come out of high school and play three or four years of juniors, and I’d only played one year.”
It was indeed huge. At five-foot-seven-inches tall and a hundred and fifty pounds, White is used to having to impress with his skill and raw passion, and he has experienced heavy skepticism before.
“I would be the first one on and last one off the ice ever since I started here,” White said, “and I knew what I had to do to get to this level, because everybody said ‘you’re not good enough,’ ‘you’re too small,’ ‘you’re this and that,’ and I just said ‘whatever’. So I knew I needed to stand out in some way.”
But hockey wasn’t enough. In the summer of 2015, Zach attended a prospects’ day for Curry lacrosse. After talking with head lacrosse coach Tim Murphy and showing his game film from high school, White landed a spot as a face-off man on the 2016 squad, cementing his role as a two-sport Colonel.
He talks of an amazing four years here at Curry, and his resume speaks for itself: a seasoned leader on two teams with amazing stats and an involvement in the community. He also managed to set up a floor hockey tournament this year with kids in the Miller gym, the mission being to spread bullying awareness.
“My goal in life is always to help people and I figured this was the best way to do it,” said White.
However, the fruits of being a revered captain across two sports and a well-liked person around campus have certainly come with struggles.
Aside from a sophomore scoring drought, he’s also experienced chronic back pain for the majority of his Curry tenure. His main job on the lacrosse field was face-offs, a position that can cause pain in a multitude of areas. That, along with doing the full workout regiments for both hockey and lacrosse, contributed to his pain. However, he was fortunate to have trainers guide him through a tailored workout regiment, which several multi-sport Colonels now use.
“When I would be returning to hockey workouts, the trainers would help me make a regiment where I’m not really lifting as much, I’m just strengthening my core and my back so that I wouldn’t be injured throughout the lacrosse season and then have to recover through another whole year.”
He refuses to let the pain stop him, and he remains poised to compete at a high level.
“It’s a grind for sure. My back is killing me now, but it’s just adversity. I want to win so bad, and I want our team to do so well. All the pain kind of goes away when you step on the field.”
But back pain is just part of the challenge his workload has brought. Time management becomes much trickier when you play on one team, never mind being the leader of two. He would eventually have to switch his major from the time-and-work-consuming nursing to criminal justice, which was a better fit for his athletic schedule.
“I’ve gone through struggles that a lot of people who haven’t played sports won’t understand,” White said. “Things like schoolwork and trying to make time for friends and family. Like I haven’t been able to really go see my family, so that’s very strenuous on me because my mom is very close with me. [My girlfriend] is definitely a motivator for me as well. She’s helped me with a lot of struggles.”
Along with the burden of a time-consuming schedule, there have also been deeper struggles. One of which was losing friend and former lacrosse teammate, Wade Prajer, who took his own life after withdrawing from Curry following his and White’s sophomore year.
“It was really hard on all of us,” White said, “especially because he was such a good guy, and nobody really saw it coming because that type of thing you don’t really notice, ever. So it definitely was hard hearing that.”
Aside from losing a friend and former teammate, the death of both his grandmother two summers ago from cancer and his grandfather just two months ago from a stroke have weighed heavy on the ever-so-resilient White.
“It definitely sucks because they were my number one fans,” White said. “It chokes me up a little bit, because they’re the people who want to see you graduate. They want to see you play pro hockey, and it just sucks not having them be able to see that because they put so much energy into seeing it, they were at almost every game.”
Through it all, he stands strong and ready to embark on his pro career. And as Manastersky put it, he is definitely reaping the fruits of his labor. He will step into a significant role for his new Cholet club, which brings pressure, but like any challenge, he’s embracing it, because that’s what Zach White does.
“Zach is a game breaker,” Manastersky said, “a guy who at a moment’s notice can go down and score… He’s going to do great [in France].”