ASU hockey transfer Tanner Hickey's fork in the road that led him to Tempe

Hickey joined the Sun Devils after UAH's hockey program was cut and later reinstated

As a hockey player, sophomore defenseman Tanner Hickey isn't used to seeing curveballs. But over this past summer, he, along with the rest of his teammates on the University of Alabama in Huntsville Chargers, was thrown one "straight out of the blue."

The UAH athletic department discontinued several sports programs in May, including men's hockey, to ease budget tensions due to a lack of funding during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"We just had a meeting one day over the summer and (head coach Lance West) was just all choked up about it and he just said ‘We’ve been shut down today guys. I was fighting for it, but due to a lack of funding, we can’t have a hockey team anymore'," Hickey said on the discontinuation.

As a result, the Canadian freshman was inserted into the transfer portal with his 27 now-former teammates. ASU called him just a few days later expressing interest.

"They caught me by surprise because I didn’t really hear much in the first two days," Hickey said.

ASU junior defenseman Jarrod Gourley, who played with Hickey for two seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League from 2016-18, knew that Hickey was available and could add a valuable skillset to the program.

"I came into contact to Tanner and he knew I wouldn’t lie to him about the program and told him straight up what we are all about and he loved it," Gourley said. "Tanner saw himself as being a good fit with our culture and what our team is trying to do."

Tanner Hickey handles the puck on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in Von Braun Center, in Huntsville, Alabama.

Hickey, like any transfer, did his homework and looked at what each program that was interested in him offered. Hickey believes talking to Gourley in that process helped with his navigation through the transfer portal.

"Just knowing a guy well that goes here and he was texting me too while the coaches were talking to me, it makes a little easier to (make that transition)," Hickey said.

After Gourley talked with head coach Greg Powers, Tanner decided to commit to ASU.

"(Tanner) comes in with immediate eligibility and a year of college experience under his belt, and that’s a kid that could probably play for anybody in the country," Powers said. "People are going to find out how good he is."

Although Hickey said the decision to transfer to ASU was a "no-brainer," he encountered another fork in the road.

People from the collegiate and professional hockey communities launched a fundraising campaign that raised more than $750,000 for the UAH hockey team to be reinstated for the 2020-21 season.

"Powers gave me a call (after the reinstatement of UAH) and was like 'Hey, obviously we want you, but we completely understand if you want to go back to Huntsville,'" Hickey said. 

Hickey had the opportunity to return to UAH for his sophomore season or begin a new chapter of his hockey career with ASU. He picked the latter.

Hickey brings a skillset to a team that places a high premium on offense from defensemen. This emphasis has been seen in previous players such as Brinson Pasichnuk and Joshua Maniscalco, both of whom left the program this summer for the NHL.

“I am looking forward to seizing that opportunity, but it is something I have to earn," Hickey said. "It’s definitely not going to be given to me. I am looking forward to having to work towards that and hopefully earn a spot.”

Hickey finished the 2019-20 season with three goals and seven assists in 30 games, enough to lead all defensemen on the team. 

"I compete hard in all three zones, and I am a little more offensive than I am defensive," Hickey said. "So hopefully, I can contribute on the offensive side of the puck, and just add a hard work ethic here.” 

Hickey has found a new home with the Sun Devil hockey program after handling multiple turns in his journey to the team.

"I am committed to you guys now," Hickey said to Powers. "You guys are my team now."

Reach the reporters at and follow @averyklatsky on Twitter. 

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