Before trying out for the New Trier Hockey Club as a freshman, Alex Furton knew there was a possibility that he wouldn’t make a Trevian team, so he was preparing to try out for other sports.
Furton ultimately was picked for the school’s JV team, admittedly one of the last players chosen.
The school’s top varsity team, New Trier Green, always played before JV that season and “I remember watching Jack Dolby dominate the ice (for) one of the best Green teams in history,” Furton said. “Back then, it always seemed like (playing for Green) was so far in the future and I would never make it. Once I had the opportunity to play for New Trier (as a freshman on the JV team), quitting was not an option.”
As a sophomore, he was “very upset” to be selected for the New Trier Gray team, not the higher-level White or Blue team. But still, because of COVID, he played in the same league as White and Blue.
As a junior, he landed on New Trier Blue.
This season, he finally landed on Green, thus ending his high school career in the Illinois High School Hockey State Championship game at the United Center on March 19.
“I went to Green games when I was playing for the Winnetka Warriors, but, at the time, the Green players seemed so big and so much older,” said Furton, 18. “Now playing for Green, this team is a brotherhood, a family. We have had highs and lows through the season, but we always stick together.”
Furton, who lives in Winnetka, sports No. 52 on his Trevians’ jersey. He finished the Scholastic Hockey League regular season with 2 goals, 5 assists in 25 games. He also had 2 goals, 1 assist last November in 5 games of the Loyola Academy annual O’Grady Thanksgiving Tournament.
“This season has been the best hockey experience of my life,” Furton said. “I met all these great guys, most of whom I hadn’t played with before. (Head coach) Adam (Cheris) and the assistant coaches are new to coaching Green and are doing a fantastic job. Sometimes it feels like the coaches are also our friends and teammates when we are just hanging out off the ice, but the strict need for success is still present on the ice. Being on the top team for the school and potentially the top team in the state put a new pressure on my shoulders. Adam tells us, ‘It’s easy to be a bad team. Losing is expected, so any win is a celebration. Being the best is hard. We always have to play our best game because (every) other team will give it their all to beat us,’
“Needing to play our best game every time is a real weight on the team, which I believe has forced us closer together.”
The unity among Green is evident on the ice, in the locker room and beyond. Heck, they even opted for wacky haircuts before their first game against arch-rival Loyola Gold. “I’ve never laughed so hard in my life: Everyone’s haircut was so bad and going to school with those haircuts was such a funny day.”
Furton is linemates with Ian Finger and Owen McAdams – they have teamed for two seasons and bring an aggressive forecheck, aimed to keep the opposition in their zone for a tiring amount of time. “It is built around cycling the puck down behind the net and rotating in front of the net,” Furton said.
“I love hard work. It hurts and feels good at the same time. I’ve always found myself working my hardest at everything I do without thinking about it. In hockey, I haven’t had the intense training that a lot of my teammates have had, so I decided to make up for that with hard work. It’s always been that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Furton is, arguably, the most physical player on Green – and his 42 penalty minutes in SHL regular season games was most on the team.
“Being a physical player was very much a high school development. I was not a hitter as a freshman, but understood it was an effective tool on defense,” Furton said. “I got into lifting weights as a sophomore with some of my buddies who play other sports, which allowed me to gain a strength advantage over most hockey players, as strength training is not a huge part of hockey. Suddenly I can blow up players on the other team and it gets us the puck (from them) at the same time as making our opponents fear us. It makes it hard for the other team to play when they’re scared.
“My line plays a hectic game that really counters good players. We do not score many goals, but we allow even fewer. When we have home (team faceoff change) advantage, Coach Cheris likes to match my line against the top lines from other teams to keep them shut down and allow our high production lines to score. I try to bring intensity to the team. I like to hype up teammates by always telling them good things that they did. Words that will bring a teammate down never leave my mouth on the bench.”
Furton said his junior season, on Blue, was his biggest year of hockey improvement. He had a slow start to the season, but ultimately led the team in points. “One of my favorite hockey moments was last year during our senior night game against Carmel, Indiana. I had a check that flipped the other kid into the penalty box head over heels.”
Furton said the biggest influence on his career has been his parents. “They spent all the time, money, love and support for me to play the sport I love,” he said. “My younger brother and dad both played hockey because I did, so we played together occasionally (as a family).” He also praised Green’s Coach Cheris, who also coached him in past summers and more. Plus, his praised his past Winnetka Warriors coaches and teammates.
“I still remember my first travel hockey season on Winnetka mite 4. I played defense and utilized the signature coast-to-coast, which Coach Pete loved,” Furton said.
Furton is undecided on his college plans for the fall, though he wants to continue playing at the club level.
“When I was young, my parents always had me focused on academics over sports,” he said. “Being a good student is how you make it in the real world. I put in 100 percent effort into everything I do, and school (work) is no exception.”
Slapshots With … New Trier Green Senior Alex Furton
Off Ice: Enjoys lifting weights, lacrosse, golf, skiing and being a lifeguard.
Little-Known Fact: “I play piano. I took lessons for more than 10 years.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Alexander Ovechkin
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Happy Gilmore
Favorite Pre-game Meal: “Chicken fried rice from Little Lans, with some heat.”
Best Hockey Tip: “When I was a mite at Winnetka, coach Al Pekka told us to ‘bend our ankles’ instead of our knees to help us get low.”
Teammate Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Tyler Smith
Hardest Slapshot on New Trier Green: Will Cusick
Most Accurate Shot: Butler Chessen
Fastest Skater: Landon Douthit
Best High School Uniforms (other than NTG): Glenbrook South black and blue alternates