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Redondo Beach’s Cox finds hockey home with NCDC’s Jr. Rangers

 

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Sometimes he’ll walk there, sometimes he’ll ride his bike, and sometimes he’ll drive.

But whichever mode of transportation he chooses, you better believe Redondo Beach native Takato Cox will make every effort during the offseason to take advantage of his hometown’s sandy, wave-beaten waterfront.

After all, the rest of the year, the place he plays hockey does not quite have the pleasant climate of home.

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Cox is a forward with the Connecticut Jr. Rangers, members of the tuition-free National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC) of the United States Premier Hockey League. So, yes, he will be thousands of miles (and several dozen degrees) away from the perennially warm weather of Redondo Beach this coming fall and winter.

Wherever he gets a chance to play high-level hockey, he’s happy to go there. After all, he is now in his second year in Connecticut after a previous stop in Winnipeg. He also lived in Chicago for many years before moving to Redondo Beach at age 11.

The 1998-born Cox is one of the Rangers’ leading forwards, posting two goals and nine assists for 11 points through nine games. Last year, he was the second leading scorer for the Jr. Rangers in the NCDC’s inaugural season, with 48 points in 55 regular-season and playoff games. The Jr. Rangers were off to a strong start with a 5-2-1 record through Oct. 5.

“I consider myself a skilled offensive player. I make nice passes, I stickhandle well and I have a good hockey IQ,” said Cox. “Our line right now, with Noah Strawn and Bradley Ong, is off to a pretty hot start this year.”

NCDCCJRCox300Putting on the miles

The map of Cox’s life represents a zigzag around North America – and even time overseas.

“I was born and raised in Winnipeg. Our dad is Canadian, so he was into the sport because hockey is obviously huge there,” said Takato.

Two years after Cox was born, the family (including mother Yasuko and father Gary) were living in Japan when his brother Hiro came into the world. This year, Hiro – a 2000-born forward – played six games with the Jr. Rangers, the first time the brothers were teammates since their early youth hockey days.

It was a return to form of sorts for Hiro, who missed the entire 2017-18 season due to concussion symptoms. Before this September, he last played in 2016-17 for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ 16U team.

From Japan, it was back to the States, and more specifically, the Windy City, Chicago. That is where the Cox brothers first put on boots with blades on the bottom.

“I was 5 years old when we moved to Chicago,” Cox explained. “At such a young age, I liked the speed, the intensity of hockey and the skill involved. Just everything. I was never a big runner, so skating was just more fun to me.”

The brothers played for the first time in the Northwest Chargers youth hockey organization, the last time they would play until early this season.

Gary lost his banking job in Chicago after the 2008 housing crisis blew up. Looking for new work, the Cox family decided to look west and warmer, and found their house in Redondo Beach.

The Northwest Chargers’ loss was a gain for the Jr. Kings.

“We moved to California when I was somewhere around 11, so that would be Pee Wees,” said Cox. “There’s good hockey around California. While with the Kings, I played against some guys who are NHL draft picks, as well as with (the Edmonton Oilers’) Kailer Yamamoto.”

For Cox, however, he felt it was time to up his game after his 16U season, and went back to the city of his birth, playing two years in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, including time with the Winnipeg Blues.

The rocking Rangers

What Cox really wanted, however, was to advance to play NCAA college hockey and he knew that his chances would increase if he moved from Winnipeg to New England, one of the hotbeds of college hockey in the United States.

“I wanted to play around the NCAA schools; I wanted to showcase myself,” he said. “I did a little research on the NCDC, and I thought it would be a right fit. It’s going pretty well so far, it’s a great league and there are a lot of college coaches coming to watch each game.

“I’m talking to a lot of Division III schools, and my ultimate goal is Division I, so that’s why I came back this year, for one last chance.”

NCDCCJRCoxback-300dpi

It’s a long way from Redondo Beach, but Cox has found his new hockey home in Connecticut.

Sure, he might not be able to wear shorts quite as much as in Redondo Beach, but whether it be Winnipeg or Chicago, it’s nothing he hasn’t dealt with before.

Photos/Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com

— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com

(Oct. 15, 2018)