AGAWAM — Connor McAnanama loved hockey so much that he got his first hockey stick when he was 14 months old. It sparked a dream to one day play pro hockey.

That dream turned true in August for the now 24-year-old, when he was signed by the Binghamton Black Bears. Standing 6 feet, 1 inch, and weighing 185 pounds, McAnanama is a goaltender for the minor league team based in upstate New York.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was be a pro hockey player,” said the Agawam native. “Thankfully, my parents never told me this wasn’t an option. They would always tell me to do what I love — and hockey has always been the love of my life.”

The lifelong Boston Bruins fan fell in love with hockey by watching NHL games on TV with his dad. His dad also built a rink in the backyard almost every year once McAnanama could walk.

“I used that rink until I got a little too big for it in high school,” he said.

His parents, Wendy and Steve McAnanama, “have been my biggest supporters — hands down,” he said. “They spent countless dollars and hours driving me or themselves to my games around the northeast. Even now, they still drive from Agawam to Binghamton just to watch me play 60 minutes of hockey.”

When McAnanama was very young, he played both defenseman and goalie, but became a netminder full-time when he was about 10.

“I wanted to be a goalie because you’re the last line of defense for your team and the mentality behind it is also different. You’re supposed to be in control of the game and no matter if things are going your way or not, your team always needs you to have their back,” he said.

One of his earliest memories of playing the sport was when he joined the Greater Springfield League, an amateur youth hockey group affiliated with Massachusetts Hockey Inc. and USA Hockey Inc.

“I played for Westfield and I remember the season we went 29-0-1. I scored a goal in the championship game at the MassMutual Center,” he said. “I’m pretty sure, I wrote about that experience for most of my essays in school, when I was allowed to choose the topic.”

In addition to playing youth hockey for Westfield, McAnanama started playing “travel” hockey for the New England Junior Falcons when he was 11. He was with the organization until he went to high school.

As a sophomore at Agawam High School, McAnanama had the opportunity to play in the Division III state finals. After graduating from AHS in 2017, he was given what he calls “an amazing opportunity” to play U18 hockey for the Springfield Junior Pics, preparing him for college hockey and changing the trajectory of his hockey career.

At the University of Massachusetts Boston, McAnanama played one season with the Beacons, a NCAA Division III team that competes in the New England Hockey Conference. In his 11 collegiate games, he posted a 2.57 goals against average and a .909 save percentage — meaning he stopped more than 90% of the shots on goal he faced.

While his passion is playing, McAnanama has used his on-ice experience to help others by taking on coaching duties. He was a goalie coach for the Springfield Pics’ premier team and an assistant coach for its elite team. Last year, he helped coach the AHS team.

McAnanama said he enjoys playing hockey because it helps develop many life skills while having fun playing the sport.

“You constantly learn new things about teamwork and how to get over obstacles throughout the year with your teammates,” he said.

His enthusiasm for the sport intensified once he noticed how much his life outside of the sport was developing alongside his life in the sport.

“Having an activity that I love to do, with people who are always pushing me to be better at hockey and to be a better person, is what makes hockey special to me and keeps escalating my passion for the game,” he said.

McAnanama’s career goal is to become “the best goaltender that I can possibly be” and to play for as long as possible. He doesn’t know where his career will take him during the next five years, but he wants to continue playing his best hockey.

“I plan to continue chasing my dream of climbing the ranks of professional hockey,” he said.

As long as his body allows him. McAnanama said he will “live and breathe” the sport of hockey.

“I don’t see my passion for the sport dying anytime soon,” he said. “I definitely would try and coach again after my playing career is over — I just don’t see myself being able to stay away from the sport.”

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts