If there is such a thing as destiny, Wyatt Kaiser (Ham Lake, Minn.) was destined to become a hockey player.
His maternal grandfather, Blane Comstock, was a goalie for Bemidji State College, represented Team USA in three World Championships, and was a member of the 1976 Olympic Team. Other family members have also played at various levels.
That’s not to say Kaiser was pushed into the game — far from it. But even he admits it was meant to happen.
“I had hockey blood running through me at an early age, just with my family and everybody playing,” said Kaiser, currently a member of the U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team competing in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Piestany, Slovakia. “[My grandfather] was very humble, he didn’t talk about hockey a lot. Whatever I wanted to do, he went along with it. He didn’t force anything on me. He was there to support me.”
Kaiser carries the puck up ice during a matchup against the Czech Republic in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Kaiser, a Minnesota native, was already spending time on the ice around age 2. He and his family would go to the local arena in Warroad during the winter to skate. As he got older, he learned how to put on hockey gear, and often played knee hockey with Blane and other family members.
“He’d get up first thing in the morning, early, and that’s what he would want to do, play hockey,” his mother Sara recalled. “Whomever was with him had to be the goalie so he could shoot on you.”
Initially, Kaiser wanted to be a goalie like his grandfather. But after one game in which he allowed eight or nine goals, he decided skating and handling the puck was more appealing.
“I’d get bored because I had so much energy as a young kid, so [being] in net wasn’t very fun for me,” Kaiser said.
He became a defenseman instead, utilizing his skating techniques and ability to move the puck. He developed a left-handed shot, often shooting pucks with friends and his father Don.
“He’s a good skater,” Blane said. “He was blessed with skill, but he’s taken it upon himself to hone those skills. He’s a natural player, that’s for sure.”
A University of Minnesota Duluth commit, Kaiser is entering his senior year at Andover High School. He scored 29 points as a junior, including nine goals. In 2018, he competed in the U17 Five Nations Tournament in Piestany, appearing in four games. The past two summers, he attended USA Hockey’s Select 16 and 17 Boys Player Development Camps, and came away with a deeper appreciation of the work and sacrifice it takes to compete at a high level.
“The coaches I had were awesome guys,” Kaiser said. “They show you what it takes to prepare off ice, and how you want to treat people. You learn a lot during the presentations, with different people talking about nutrition, and how you want to be looked at as a USA Hockey [player].”
The significance of playing for Team USA isn’t lost on Kaiser, not just because he’s following in his grandfather’s footsteps, but for the pride he takes in representing his country. The experiences playing overseas have taught him a great deal about life outside of hockey.
“It’s unreal to put the USA jersey on,” he said. “The feeling really hasn’t hit me yet. It’s an eye-opener, and it shows you what different parts of the world are like.”
Kaiser plans to take some time off once he returns from Piestany before starting his final season at Andover. He’s also looking forward to playing junior hockey with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL before heading to UMD. As much as he wants to carve out his own path, he still takes pride in what his grandfather accomplished in the game.
“He’s been so laid-back about his hockey [success], I wouldn’t mind being called Blane’s grandson,” Wyatt explained. “I’m so proud of him and everything he’s done.”
The feeling is mutual for Blane, who became a teacher and high school hockey coach following his playing career. While he’s kept his advice to a minimum and allowed Wyatt to choose his own direction, he also knows it will take more than talent for his grandson to achieve his ultimate goal: playing in the NHL.
“You have to have a lot of breaks along the way,” Blane said. “You have to knock on wood and hope your health can stay with you. You have to have a little luck on your side, too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.