Kyle Looft's hard work pays off, gets his chance at playing pro hockey

Apr. 17—Kyle Looft is making a habit out of playing for his favorite childhood team's rival organizations.

The Mankato native chose to play his collegiate men's hockey career at Bemidji State. After five years with the Beavers, the lifelong Minnesota Wild fan signed an amateur tryout contract with the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars.

"I didn't think about it like that," Looft said with a laugh.

Quips aside, Looft's signing with Texas came with many emotions.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to play professional hockey, but I'm also super thankful," Looft said. "I'm thankful for all of the programs and the people that helped me get here — BSU, Cedar Rapids and Mankato West High School. All of the people who put their time into helping me when they didn't have to, I'm so grateful for them."

Looft's fifth season with the Beavers was his best. He won CCHA Defenseman of the Year and Best Defensive Defenseman. The All-CCHA First Team member was a four-time Defenseman of the Week and a two-time Defenseman of the Month.

He did it all while missing five weeks in the middle of the season with a wrist injury.

"I'm humbled," Looft said. "You put in a lot of work to get the opportunities, and I'm just super excited the opportunity came for me. I'm just happy, happy for my family and friends and all of the people that supported me. You get a lot of texts and calls, just talking to people and seeing how excited they are, that's pretty cool to me."

Looft sometimes wondered if his wrist injury, which he suffered while blocking a shot against St. Cloud State, would jeopardize his chances of playing hockey professionally.

"I thought I had a good first half of the season," he said. "Truthfully, I was only concerned about getting back and playing for the Beavers. We had big goals, and you want to help your teammates get there. I wasn't 100%, and I won't be until I'm able to rest for a long time. Maybe there was a little doubt there that I wouldn't get the opportunity I felt I deserved. But that didn't play into the decision to come back (for a fifth season) or the effort it took to get back healthy."

After BSU lost the Mason Cup on March 22,

sophomore forward Lleyton Roed

signed with the Seattle Kraken.

A week later, fifth-year senior

Carter Jones got his contract

with the Norfolk Admirals in the ECHL.

Meanwhile, Looft decided to stay patient, waiting for the best fit for him at the next level.

"You're super excited for Roedy and the deal that he got, obviously Jonsey, too," Looft said. "You know the work that's put in to do something like this, and you're super happy and excited for their opportunities. But yeah, it's hard to stay patient when you want to be playing somewhere. At the same time, you have to do what's best for your future. I trusted that."

With the help of an agency, Looft got the offer he was looking for late last week. He took off for Austin on Sunday, got acclimated to his new team on Monday and skated with the Stars for the first time on Tuesday in a practice.

"They wanted me," he said of the Stars. "Everything I've heard about the organization has been great. Guys I've talked to, guys with a lot of respect in the hockey world, say great things about the organization. You get a feel when you talk to the organization. They seem like great people. They want what's best for the organization and the people involved."

While Looft's path to becoming a pro hockey player started long before he arrived at Bemidji State, his decision to return for his fifth season made the difference. And while his teammates called the two-year captain "The Sheriff," now they can call him a pro.

"It was one heck of a year playing with my teammates and the type of people they are," Looft said. "We had so much fun on and off the ice. That led to success on the ice. I had full trust in our coaching staff, and they pushed me this year. My teammates pushed me this year. I'll never regret coming back for a fifth year. It was the best hockey decision I ever made. I'll cherish that year forever."