MOORHEAD – It was a preschool field trip to an ice rink in Mississippi where former Moorhead High School hockey standout Michael Bitzer learned to stand on his own two feet. Literally.
“I was the last person to get my skates on, so I didn’t get a chair to lean on when I was on the ice and everyone was learning to skate,” Bitzer said. “While everyone was in the center, holding onto their chairs, I had to lean against the boards at first, going around everyone, but I ended up having to teach myself to skate.”
It was only preschool and Bitzer was already skating circles around everyone. From a preschooler in Mississippi to an 8-year-old moving to the Fargo-Moorhead area to an 18-year-old committing to play hockey at Bemidji State on Friday, so goes the hockey journey for Bitzer.
“It’s a relief to finally have my future plans figured out for now,” Bitzer said. “Now I can go back to playing hockey.”
The last few months have been a whirlwind for the former Spuds goalie. In December, Bitzer signed to play junior hockey with the Alexandria Blizzard.
In March, he won the Frank Brimsek Award for Minnesota’s best senior goaltender as a member of the Moorhead hockey team, after going 18-9-2 with a 2.30 GAA and helping the Spuds reach the state tournament.
In May, he was selected in the second round of the USHL Entry Draft by the Lincoln Stars and Friday he picked Bemidji State over Bowling Green and Minnesota State University Mankato to continue his hockey career.
“I’ve been talking to Bemidji since the end of last year,” Bitzer said. “It’s close to home, it’s a team I’ve been able to watch play before and they have a new facility. The rink is unbelievable and the coaches seem to have faith in me.”
Bitzer said that he will join Bemidji State next season or the season after. Bitzer made it official Friday, but it’s something former Moorhead coach Dave Morinville saw coming years ago.
“He really came on, especially in his junior year,” said Morinville, who coached Bitzer for four years at Moorhead. “When he was given the reins, you could see him take off. There wasn’t an award in high school last season he didn’t win. He’s just an unbelievable athlete and a real competitor.”
Until the next fork in the road appears, Bitzer is happy to finally have chosen a path to walk down.
“It’s been surreal,” Bitzer said. “You always dream of this day growing up and it finally happened.”