The world of hockey is an expansive universe. There are many professional leagues around the world, with over millions of players. At the developmental and youth level, there’s infinitely more leagues with multitudes of children that lace up in the hopes of one day playing professionally. Given the sample size, the odds are astronomical, maybe even borderline improbable, to play virtually your entire hockey career with the same person.
Don’t tell that to Rush forward Alex Rauter and Rush defenseman Myles McGurty.
“We were peewees, 12 years old,” Rush forward Alex Rauter said when asked when the pair first played together.
“The Atlantic Sabercats, out of Floyd Hall in Montclair, New Jersey,” Rush defenseman Myles McGurty chimed in as he laughed. “It’s right on the campus of Montclair State University, where their club team plays.”
That was in 2006. Fast forward thirteen years later to 2019, and Rauter and McGurty find themselves a lot older, stronger, wiser…and wearing the same sweater again.
The two had a chance to sit down and reminisce on the biggest coincidence of their hockey career: each other.
“It wasn’t a super serious league, but we had a lot of guys that could play like Chris Carlisle that used to play for the Manchester Monarchs. Rauts and I, and this team, used to go into these tournaments, that weren’t the best tournaments really, and just hammer teams,” McGurty emphatically stated.
“I’m pretty sure we won the Montreal Meltdown tournament, and my dad still has the DVD footage of it,” Rauter added as the two fondly recalled their stories.
Rauter and McGurty are “Jersey Boys”, Rauter hailing from Chatham and McGurty from Weehawken, New Jersey. Both locations are separated by roughly a 30-minute drive, about 24 miles away from each other. Following peewees, the teammates played together with the North Jersey Avalanche, an under-16 hockey team that played in Hackensack, New Jersey at the Ice House.
“That was the most serious hockey for us, and the first big step in competition, especially in New Jersey. By leaps and bounds, the team to beat was the Avalanche,” Rauter explained.
“I played almost my whole life there,” McGurty exaggerated. “If you played hockey in New Jersey, you pretty much knew every player. There weren’t many of us, to be honest.”
Before their lone season together with the Avalanche in 2010-11, McGurty headed to the Toronto Marlies minor-midget AAA program for two seasons, coincidentally when Rauter joined the Avalanche program. Shockingly enough, that split was the only time in their careers the two have played against each other.
“It was the Silver Sticks Tournament in Michigan,” Rauter said. “It’s a pretty big tournament. I can’t remember if the Canadian teams had to win their province to get in, but in the States, you had to win your region. We won the Atlantic region, and it just so happened we faced off against the Marlies. It was a highly anticipated matchup, because we were clearly two of the best programs there. Gurts’ team had a bunch of NHL players on it.”
“Eleven guys,” McGurty interrupted.
“Yikes,” Rauter joked. “Like I said, it was quite a touted matchup. They won the game 2-0 if I remember right. It was a round-robin game.”
“We won the whole tournament too,” McGurty shot a barb across the room with a smirk.
That same year, Rauter lost in the U-16 national finals, but McGurty came back to the Avalanche a season later. That 2010-11 Avalanche team, with both of them in tow, lost in the quarterfinals of nationals.
“We lost to Shattuck [St. Mary’s] with MacKinnon,” McGurty interjected.
For those wondering, yes, he name-dropped 2014 NHL Rookie of the Year, Nathan McKinnon.
“We lost the game 7-6 or 7-5. Neither goalie played well.”
Rauter then spoke, “We had Brett Pesce on our team, who currently plays with the Carolina Hurricanes, and Carlisle, who was really good. We also had Jarrid Privitera, who played NCAA Division I too. We kept the team pretty small, kind of like an ECHL team.”
“The same guys on the team too…we played together forever,” McGurty again came into the conversation.
The similarities, the moments, the teammates, all of the memories came flowing back to the two Rush skaters in the midst of the conversation.
Eventually, both teammates went their separate ways. Rauter played in prep school at Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut, then advanced to the USHL with the Omaha Lancers and Youngstown Phantoms, then to the NAHL with the Wenatchee Wild before settling down in the NCAA with his alma mater, Cornell University. McGurty, on the other hand, went back to Canada and played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Moncton Wildcats, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, and Chicoutimi Sagueneens, before heading back state-side for a brief spell with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks. He too went to college, but again found his way back in Canada with Dalhousie University in USports.
Despite the distance, they always kept in touch.
“We definitely would keep in touch in the summer, always about ice,” Rauter said with a smile.
“I was never really ‘back’ in New Jersey, but when I was, I texted Rauts and we always got ice and played,” McGurty confirmed. “It was always great catching up and skating with him.”
Both player’s careers eventually led them to professional hockey. Rauter made his professional debut with the Atlanta Gladiators following his senior season at Cornell, and scored in his first game on March 31, 2018. He saw himself back in the ECHL the next season, beginning with the Wheeling Nailers and Manchester Monarchs. Following his Canadian college career, McGurty began his professional play in Europe with Fehervari Titanok of Erste Liga prior to coming back to North America and the ECHL, where he went to the Orlando Solar Bears.
Fast forward now to March 7, 2019: the ECHL trade deadline day. The Rapid City Rush made significant adjustments to the lineup in the hopes of making a late playoff push. Rush Head Coach Daniel Tetrault engaged in four deals that sent four players out and brought in six, with an additional player to be named in the summer. Two of the four exchanges brought the former North Jersey Avalanche teammates back together eight years later. Rauter came to the Rush from Fort Wayne (through Manchester) in exchange for Josh Elmes, while McGurty found his way to the Black Hills from Orlando, along with Taylor Crunk, in exchange for Shaquille Merasty.
“I remember my mom texted me that day, and she said ‘Did you know Alex got traded [to Rapid City]?’ I told her no, but said that’s good. I didn’t know anyone else on the team,” McGurty said as he chuckled.
“I came over to the team with Dexter Dancs, who joined me in a different transaction from Manchester, and he asked me if I knew anyone on the Rush,” Rauter added. “I told him ‘I don’t know a single player on Rapid City, but I do know McGurty! He got traded with us from Orlando!’” Looking at McGurty, he joked and said “I tried to text you, but I definitely had the wrong number for you because you had a Canadian number still, or a new number that I didn’t have.”
Of course, the reunion wasn’t as smooth as they originally imagined. Due to complications in McGurty’s travel from Orlando to Rapid City, he didn’t immediately meet the team, and Rauter, for the second game in the series against the Utah Grizzlies on that Friday.
“I flew all day on Friday. It was brutal,” McGurty recalled. “I flew 26 hours total. [The Solar Bears] were in Newfoundland, and we got there on a Wednesday for a three-in-three series. On Thursday, I found out I got traded. I had to fly the next morning on Friday from Newfoundland to Toronto, Toronto to Chicago, Chicago to Denver, and Denver to Rapid City. It was outrageous.”
“We were definitely amped up though,” Rauter jumped back in. “It’s good to know someone on a team when you get traded. It’s also very rare to go somewhere in hockey and not know a single person, but that’s what would’ve happened had Coach Tetrault not traded for either one of us.”
“When I got over the jet lag and could finally enjoy a cohesive thought,” McGurty joked, “I looked back on the whole thing and couldn’t believe the odds of this. To put it in perspective, playing in Toronto like I did, everyone who played at a decently high level like that plays somewhere. You know plenty of players from Toronto. It’s a little different when you’re from New Jersey. There’s maybe five guys from our age group that are playing hockey from Jersey.”
“It’s hilarious too that four of them are from our Avalanche team, and I’m all of a sudden leaving Manchester, which had another player from that team. Then I’m heading to Rapid City and Myles is coming with me,” Rauter added in shock. “It’s so crazy, and yet, here we are now, somehow in South Dakota together.”
From the moment the reunion began at the end of the 2018-19 season to present day, the Rush are 15-8-2-1 with Rauter and McGurty on the team. While winning surely helps with the enjoyment level of the experience, the two are having a great time playing together again at the professional level.
“It’s been fun. We’ve been winning, which is great. It brings us back to the Avalanche days of winning,” Rauter said with a chuckle. “You feel something special in the air. Even though you might not be home, there’s still a home feeling.”
Both players are 25 years old, and still have long careers ahead of them. Their careers will most likely take them to different locker rooms, different leagues, or maybe even different countries across the world. One thing is certain, though: no matter where one goes in life, the odds clearly dictate, as they have for the last decade, that the other is surely not that far behind.