Whether he’s on the dirt or on the ice, Wolthers excels
Ethan Wolthers isn’t like most young athletes.
He retired from his first career (BMX bike racing) at age nine after winning six world and three national championships. Next it was football, which he played until he was 12.
Four years ago, Wolthers knew next to nothing about hockey. Suffice to say, he’s come a long way since then.
The 2001 birth year was one of the leading scorers on the Anaheim Jr. Ducks’ 15U AAA team heading into the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League playoffs, which isn’t bad considering he’d never put on skates until he went to a birthday party at Ice Station in Valencia.
“One of my friends invited me,” Wolthers said. “While we were there my dad (Marcel) discovered a weekend camp called Hockey 101. I went for two weeks and then he put me on an in-house team.
He improved rapidly enough that he made a Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ Pee Wee AA team that fall, after skating for six months.
The next season, Wolthers played Bantam AA for the Jr. Kings and last season, for West Ranch High School in the Los Angeles Kings High School Hockey League. This past summer, he made Darryl Tiveron’s Jr. Ducks’ 15U team.
“At tryouts, he seemed to be a natural in that he skated well, moved the puck well and saw the ice well,” Tiveron said. “He has a good skill set – his shot, his hands. He came out of nowhere on the second day of our tryouts.”
Wolthers’ journey from dirt tracks to ice rinks followed a familiar pattern – countless hours of hard work to keep up with his big brother, Nicholas, who is four and a half years older. Ethan also has a twin sister, Jessica.
“When Ethan was 18 months and Nick was six, everything Nick wanted to do, Ethan wanted to do,” Marcel said. “When Nick learned to ride a bike, Ethan would point and say, ‘Bike, bike.’ By his second birthday, we took his training wheels off and he went zipping around and around.
“We took Nicholas to a BMX track and Ethan would watch. Then as a two-year-old, he would ride for hours and hours. When he was two years and seven months, he became the youngest rider ever in a national racing event.”
Ethan “played up,” beating six-year-olds at four and winning U.S. and world age-group championships at six, seven and eight.
“His talent was incredible,” Marcel said. “Our family (including his wife, Monica) traveled the world going to races, and he had bike and helmet sponsors.
“USA Cycling put him on their 18U team as a six-year-old – that’s how good he was.”
At nine, Wolthers decided he was done with it. Football became the next focus and he starred as a safety. He dabbled in lacrosse. Then he found hockey, or it found him.
“His brain is wired to focus on something and dedicate all of his energy to it,” Marcel said.
The leap to AAA hockey is also a source of pride.
“When I first made the team, I was so excited to play my first AAA game,” Wolthers said. “It was really fast compared to high school hockey. I’ve adjusted to the speed, the skill level.”
Said Tiveron: “It’s pretty amazing how he plays for the limited experience he has. You watch his reads and there is something there. I see it as a coach and I hope others notice it.”
— Chris Bayee