A young Sameer Chand attended OPRF Hockey games at Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex in Oak Park and those wearing the blue and orange representing Oak Park and River Forest High School were his idols.
Flash-forward a decade and it’s Chand in uniform No. 21 with the captain’s C emblazed on the upper-left side. Chand, 17, a senior right-handed shooting center who lives in Oak Park, is in his second season on the varsity team, where he skates with sophomore wings Sebastian Robinson and Liam Moroney.
Chand formerly played for the Oak Park Huskies, Franklin Park Panthers and Chicago Jets, and has been a Hustle and Flow Award-winner (Jets), Defensive MVP (Jets) and Illinois West Academic All Star (OPRF).
“Now that I have the opportunity to play for (OPRF), I never take it for granted and value every moment,” Chand said.
Chand brings a “grinder” approach to the ice. “I have never been the greatest goal scorer, but I am not afraid to go to the dirty areas to cause a turnover and win puck battles,” he said. “This year, I have been shooting weekly, lifting in season and really pushing myself to the limits.
“Since my freshman year, I have become faster which has allowed me to elevate my forecheck, causing more scoring opportunities and offensive zone time for my team.”
He scored the favorite goal of his career earlier this month in game one of the best-of-three Hruby Cup against Fenwick at the Allstate Arena, a 5-2 loss. “It was a huge rivalry game, and the stadium was packed with my friends and family. Skating on that big of an arena in that big of a game was an unreal experience I will never forget.”
OPRF has struggled this season. They opened the year 0-3 and were 1-8 soon thereafter. Of late, they are 2-8-1 in their last 11 games.
“What’s most important to me is that my program is building good character and strong young men,” said OPRF head coach Mike Murphy. “We are losing a lot but are in a place where we’re doing what’s most important.”
Chand, for sure, has been a bright sport for the squad that lost about 90 percent of its varsity from last season. “We have begun to find ourselves and are slowly converting our club’s culture into a winning culture,” Chand said. “We are all so dedicated to the clubs that I know that there are big things ahead.
“We have a very close and unique bond on our team, and we are all not only teammates, but we are a family.”
Off the ice, Chand has spent nine years playing lacrosse, where he is the OPRF goalie.
“Being a lacrosse goalie means you have to not only make saves, but also use your voice to command the defense,” he said. “I often call out different formations we are in as well as who is covering what player. This has allowed me to find my voice on the ice and create chemistry with my lines.”
He also volunteers at a local food pantry. This year, for instance, Chand and his teammates distributed flyers to every home in Oak Park asking for donations and then a few days later, they picked up the donations. “We ended up collecting around 20 cars full of food for people in need,” he said.
“Helping others means putting others before myself, and always sharing my aspect of the situation if it is requested. An example of this is always listening to my teammates’ opinions and problems, and helping them whatever way possible, and if I am unable to help them, I will find someone who can.”
Chand is looking to attend a BA/MD combined medical program next fall.
“I have always been a huge advocate that hockey for everyone. No matter who you are you should have the opportunity to play hockey,” Chand said. “Being one of the few Indian people on the ice, I have understood that people may look at me differently, but I never let that bother me because I know that I am where I belong.
“Although I am always pumped up on the ice and working as hard as I possibly can, I try to relax before games. I always visualize the game before playing it to get into the hockey mindset and prepare for what I am going to do in game situations.”
Slapshots With … OPRF Center Sameer Chand
Jersey Number 21: “The number is significant to me because it is my mother’s birthday and when I wear the number, it reminds me of all she has done for me to be able to play the game that I love.”
Hockey Superstition: “I always hold the butterfly stretch for more than 10 seconds.”
Career Highlight: “Scoring my first varsity goal. I was in front of the net and Sam Busch took a shot from the point. I tipped it downward (past) the goalie.”
It’s a Fact: “My favorite type of music is rock.”
Hobbies: Woodworking, refinishing old furniture
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Jonathan Toews
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Miracle
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Tuna and black coffee
Favorite app: Clash of Clans
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Sylvester Stallone
Hardest Slapshot on OPRF: Cam Barnes
Most Accurate Shot on OPRF: Griffin Wesley
OPRF Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: “Me”
Best High School Uniform (other than OPRF): Evanston