Mitchell Chaffee’s pro hockey debut put on hold

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Of the millions of kids who have grown up playing hockey in Michigan, only a very select few have ever made it to the NHL.

Rockford native Mitchell Chaffee was supposed to begin his quest to join that elite group this spring after signing with the Minnesota Wild, but like most things right now, that dream has been put on hold.

Long before signing to the Wild, he was a college star and captain at the University of Massachusetts.

“When you grow up playing hockey as a kid out on the pond, you look forward to this moment. And you look forward to someday seeing yourself out playing in the NHL against the stars you grew up watching,” Chaffee said.

He left home at just 16 to play with the HoneyBaked Hockey Club in Detroit. He also played two seasons with the former Michigan Nationals hockey team and a couple years in the United States Hockey League in Bloomington, Indiana, and Fargo, North Dakota, before heading to the University of Massachusetts.

Chaffee was a Hockey East All-Star, a league scoring champion and a two time All-Academic Team star.  He posted 34 goals and 71 points in just 70 games as a sophomore and junior before signing with NHL’s Minnesota Wild this spring.

“It’s not like the usual, you sign and go play with the team right away. With everything going on, I’ve been trying to keep busy here at home, with working out and especially trying to finish my school work this semester, so it’s been a lot to handle,” Chaffee said.

After camp, the plan is for Minnesota to send Chaffee to Iowa to play for the Wild in the AHL, which of course, would include several trips home to Van Andel to play against the Griffins in the arena he use to go to watch games as a kid.

“Growing up, you go out and you watch the Grand Rapids Griffins play and you dream about being out there someday, so it’s kind of a reality check that I’ll be out there in the Van Andel Arena and it’ll be a real cool experience,” Chaffee said.

Though the coronavirus has delayed his plans, Chaffee is one step closer to his ultimate hockey dream of playing in the NHL.