By the time he was 15, Cody Chiverton had taken on more pressure — and perhaps more air miles — than most his age.
The teenager from Selma moved to San Jose, Calif., to play elite-level youth hockey after making the cut from among a pool of hundreds of other players. He transferred from Illinois Valley High, where the enrollment was under 400, to Leigh High, with an enrollment of over 1,700.
WHO: Chiverton grew up in Selma before moving to San Jose to play hockey when he was 15. The 20-year-old Spartans forward went on to play in Minnesota before returning home to compete for the local Western States Hockey League squad.
up next: Friday, Seattle (6-11-1-2) at Southern Oregon (10-7), The RRRink, 7:35 p.m.
Chiverton lived with a family not his own for about nine months, squeezing in hours of practice and play with school and meals. This was not a cheap vacation, but rather an expensive opportunity on par with attending college. It was not an easy decision sending his boy off, father Chris says, but he wanted him to succeed. It was not easy, but it was worth it, Cody says.
Suffice it to say, Chiverton's life has been spent differently than most his age. But there is a reason.
He loves hockey like he loves his family.
And now, he has both.
It took some work though.
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Chiverton made his bones with selective midget teams in California and Minnesota, mostly because those were the places where the opportunity was. Now he's back in the Rogue Valley, playing the role of strong-as-steel forward for the Southern Oregon Spartans (10-7). He's the only player from Southern Oregon on a roster overflowing with Midwest talent, giving fans a familiar face to root for.
He's the local- kid-makes-good story, right?
Almost. Chiverton's tale is a work in progress. This is his final season of eligibility for playing on teams like the Spartans, and he hopes it ends with the team winning a title and with him receiving a college scholarship.
In the meantime, Chiverton's doing everything possible to make those hopes realities.
The 20-year-old works 32 hours at two gas stations — early mornings and late nights at Texaco and Shell in Ashland — and then uses up the rest of his energy practicing and playing. During the summer, he worked with Grayback Forestry fighting fires. Chiverton anted up about $5,600 to participate with the Spartans and covers all his bills, from rent for a humble apartment in Ashland to car payments.
Growing up, Chiverton fell in love with hockey while watching The Mighty Ducks movies. He was driven 50 miles from Selma to Medford regularly by Chris and mother Linda because there were no rinks in Grants Pass.
"In school I was known as Cody, the kid who plays hockey," Chiverton recalls.
After playing for the Jr. Summits, he participated on the North Medford hockey team. Before his sophomore year of high school at Illinois Valley, he tried out for the Jr. Sharks in San Jose and made the team.
"I thought I was a long shot," Chiverton says.
After two years in San Jose, he competed for two seasons with the Granite City Lumberjacks in St. Cloud, Minn., making the cut out of thousands of other hopefuls.
"Hockey is much different than other sports," Chris says. "At that level, you pretty much have to go away. But he was the one putting up the most sacrifices, you just have to support him as best you can. It was tough to see him go, but it was something he really wanted to do."
Paying for hockey training, like paying for college tuition, was an expensive sacrifice, but one Chris says was worth it.
"Cody's put in a lot of work trying to achieve a dream, but he's accomplished a lot along the way," Chris says.
Making the adjustment was challenging for Chiverton, but he did it.
"At first I was homesick," recalls Chiverton, who came home for winter breaks and summers during his out-of-state experiences. "I didn't have any friends, I was at a much bigger school and was just way out of my element."
The schedule — and the pressure — could be grueling, and the family knew it.
"You eat, sleep and practice from 6 to 10 at night, you're gone every other weekend in some other state," Chris says. "There is a lot of stress just being a teen in high school. That is why a lot of kids don't make it. They are not mature enough. ... (Cody) knows what his goals are and he doesn't waver from them. He sacrificed a lot to do this."
Chiverton, who returned for a final semester in Cave Junction and graduated a Cougar in 2011, says he grew even more mature through the experience.
"I had to be careful with money," he says.
Now Chiverton is surrounded by a bunch of Oregon transplants, many of whom have been away from home longer than ever before.
"You just have to remind them of Christmas Break," he says.
Chiverton has just two points this year — a goal and an assist — and most of his work goes undocumented.
"He has been a fantastic pickup," Southern Oregon head coach Mike Stanaway says. "With Cody he brings exactly the type of mentality and competitiveness that I am looking for."
Says Chiverton: "I fit the agitator role. I like to pride myself as the hardest worker on the ice. I work hard. I am not the flashy guy, not the highlight-reel guy. I try to be a leader."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org