Beau McCue has been on the move since he was 13 years old, playing hockey in cities around the West until he landed with the Tri-City Americans this past season.
After spending seven months playing hockey and attending Kamiakin High School, McCue opted to stay in the Tri-Cities and finish out his senior year. He will graduate with the class of 2013 today.
“At 13, I left Montana to play in Las Vegas. At 15, I moved to Phoenix,” McCue said. “Kamiakin is my third high school. My parents (Gene and Sharon) moved from Montana to Colorado Springs, and had I had gone there, I wouldn’t have known anyone. That’s one of the reasons I chose to stay — for the stability, a home base. It’s been kind of nice to hang out with kids I have met here and be a normal kid.”
McCue, 18, is the first Tri-City Americans player to graduate from Kamiakin since 1996 — defenseman Chris Anderson (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). With most players coming from Canada, they tend to return home and graduate with their friends.
A look through the Kamiakin archives shows five players before McCue who opted to stay and finish their senior year.
The late Todd Klassen (1974-1993), a former Americans captain from Sherwood Park, Alberta, graduated from Kamiakin in 1992, as did Dean Tiltgen (Edmonton, Alberta).
Terran Sandwith (Edmonton) graduated in 1990, and Boyd Olson (Edmonton) in 1995.
Former Americans player Justin Togiai of Kennewick (2001-03) graduated from Southridge High School, as did Bend native Kyle Peters (2005-06).
The Americans do not have specific graduation information because records have been lost or destroyed with changes in ownership over the years. However, general manager Bob Tory said no player has stayed to finish school at Kamiakin in his 12 years with the team.
“Most of them go home and finish up the year and graduate.” Tory said. “In Beau’s case, he was working on his senior project and it was important for him to see it through. He’s graduating with honors, which is tough to do with our schedule. Beau is mature for his age. He’s a problem solver and very disciplined when it comes to his schoolwork.”
For his senior project, McCue designed physical education lesson plans and implemented them for grades K-5 at Southgate Elementary School in Kennewick, under the direction of teacher Lori Woods. He worked with the kids for four months.
Balancing school and hockey is no easy feat, but McCue made it work to the tune of a 3.8 GPA. He’s taken AP classes in English, calculus, U.S. history and European history.
“When we were gone for two weeks on our Eastern swing (in mid-October), I had to teach myself two weeks of AP calculus,” McCue said. “The teachers were really good about giving me my assignments ahead of time, and if I needed help I could email. If there was something I couldn’t figure out, they would go over it with me when we got back.”
Kirsten Kramer, the Americans’ education adviser for the last five years, said McCue is one of the brightest and most committed student-athletes she has worked with.
“Beau shows maturity, responsibility, and dedication when it comes to schoolwork,” Kramer said in a letter to the Western Hockey League in nominating him for the league’s education award for the 2012-13 season. “He has completed multiple advanced placement and honors courses throughout high school, including calculus and physics.”
McCue also was a pleasant surprise for a rookie on the ice during the season. He had 17 goals, 12 assists and a plus-14 in 54 games — skating part of the season on the top line with Justin Feser and Malte Strömwall. He missed 15 games in January and February with an ankle injury.
McCue was the team’s Scholastic Player of the Year, and shared Rookie of the Year honors with Parker Bowles.
McCue’s billets, Chris and Kylie Blankenship of Kennewick, had no problem with him staying to finish the school year, but it has been hard on the McCue family.
“My family has always been really close,” said McCue, who noted his parents were traveling Thursday to attend his graduation. “It was tough going away. I’ve been gone for three years and it has caused me to mature more quickly and open my eyes to different lifestyles with the people I have lived with.
“It will be nice to see my family again. Hockey is what I want to do and that meant leaving home. My dad realized it, and so did my mom, though she didn’t want to.”
“It was fine that he stayed,” Chris Blankenship said. “He was already here and he’s no trouble. He’s pretty quiet around the house. He does his own things with his friends from school. It will be different when he’s gone.”
McCue will return home with his parents Monday, but first he will collect his high school diploma and attend the all-night senior party.
“Playing hockey, you don’t get to have a lot of normal high school experiences,” said McCue, who will be back in August for training camp. “I’m looking forward to it.”