SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Easton Zueger could only imagine what it would be like playing for the Sioux Falls Stampede growing up. After earning a special invite to the Herd’s training camp this summer, Zueger earned a roster spot, becoming just the second ever player born and raised in Sioux Falls to don the Stampede sweater.
Playing for the Stampede was a childhood dream for Easton Zueger.
“For a lot of these guys they can go to NHL Games, Boston, New York. For me it was always a Stampede game and that’s been my dream since I was little. It’s a dream I didn’t know that was achievable, but I worked everyday and now I’m here wearing this sweater, and it’s the best thing I could’ve asked for,” Sioux Falls native Easton Zueger said.
Zueger started playing hockey when he was four years old, and throughout his childhood looked up to Stampede players, including another Sioux Falls native.
“Like, Zeb Knutson is kind of one before I was even, when he was even on the Stampede coming up he worked with me at camps. Then he became the first local to put the sweater on, so he’s big name for me,” Zueger said.
Easton spent several seasons as a stick boy for the Herd.
“It was my first taste of being behind the scenes, get to know the guys a little bit more. The coolest thing was I worked for about two years at the old convention center with my buddies and then we worked through the transition into the Clark Cup winning year of 2015,” Zueger said.
Zueger tried out for the Stampede last year, but says he wasn’t ready. He put in the work this offseason to earn a roster spot.
“Undrafted, but that didn’t phase me. I continued working, continued proving myself and prove everyone that I am ready, ready to be here,” Zueger said.
“He hasn’t been handed anything. He’s earned everything he’s got. Little bit of an underdog story, but those are the kind of kids you root for too,” Head Coach Marty Murray said.
After spending last season in Maine, and in Arizona before that, Zueger is happy to be back home.
“After being gone for two years, it’s the best thing I could have asked for. Home cooked meals, I mean help with my laundry, I’m not messing up all the time. It just makes life a lot easier. I’m back at school now at O’Gorman High School, get to be back with my friends. It’s kind of a dream come true there too,” Zueger said.
While he’s donned the Stampede sweater twice already this season, wearing it for Saturday’s home opener will mean a little more.
“I’ve only ever been a guy on the other side of the glass so now it’s, I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like going through those doors, ready for battle with these guys that are now my family,” Zueger said.
Zueger becomes just the 5th South Dakota born player to play in the USHL. He and the Herd will welcome Lincoln to Sioux Falls Saturday night for their home opener. Puck drop is set for 6:05.