Unlike many hockey players, Vincent Hinostroza has never really had to go far from home to further his hockey career.
The native of Bartlett, Ill., a suburb just outside of Chicago, played major bantam AAA for the prestigious Chicago Mission, juniors for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League, college hockey for Notre Dame and professionally for the Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford Ice Hogs.
“It’s crazy everything’s been so close,” said Hinostroza on Wednesday. “Waterloo is four hours [away], Notre Dame is two, now Rockford’s an hour and Chicago’s about 30 minutes. Every place is getting closer. Chicago is the final goal, and hopefully I can achieve that.”
At 15 years old, Hinostroza saw the Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Little did he know that he would become a member of his favorite team a couple years later, when the 5-foot-9, 158-pound center was drafted in the sixth round (169th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“My whole life growing up, I watched the Blackhawks,” Hinostroza said. “At high school, everyone was wearing Blackhawks jerseys, so of course you always want to play for the Blackhawks. You never know if that dream is going to come true, but you always work for it.”
Being drafted is one thing, but actually making it to the NHL is another more difficult process. Hinostroza took his first steps toward achieving that goal by turning pro after his junior year at Notre Dame. His dream became a reality when he made his NHL debut on Oct. 17. He has played seven games with the Blackhawks but has spent most of this season with the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. In 57 games, Hinostroza has 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists).
“I learned a lot of things on and off the ice,” Hinostroza said of his time in Chicago. “It’s very valuable time being up there. Every day you get up there, it is a great experience and a learning opportunity. I just want to take everything I learn there and bring it [to Rockford] and be up there again at some point. … Every player there helped me out in some way, whether that was teaching me something off the ice or talking to me about the systems. Every player was great. Every player there is a leader. It was great to be in that locker room.”
The transition to the pro game is not an easy one, especially when you are an undersized two-way center. Fortunately, Hinostroza has shown signs of improvement as the season in Rockford has progressed, and that bodes well for his future in the Blackhawks’ organization.
“I think he’s come a long way in his defensive part of the game,” IceHogs head coach Ted Dent said. “There is more detail in it. [He is] learning how to block shots and get in shooting lanes. He is learning how to play in his end with a little more poise and patience.”