By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Tucson Roadrunners captain Dakota Mermis’ season has been a self-described rollercoaster.
He’s skated back and forth between the Arizona Coyotes and the Tucson Roadrunners this season, as have many of his teammates, when the men of the Valley are injured.
“Obviously, you always dream of being in the NHL and you take any chance you can get,” the defenseman says. “It’s extremely exciting to play there. You start to understand the business, you get used to the players’ perspective and the team’s chemistry. It just becomes part of the routine.”
But as quickly as it the excitement comes, it disappears when healthy players return. Still, hockey is finding its footing in Tucson and Mermis is pleased.
“As much as I want to play in the NHL, I want to play as long as I can for them (Tucsonans) and get more fans exposed to the game,” he says. “There are ones who come every night. You want to win for them.
“There’s a large group of people who watch us. We build off them. Each year, more and more people jump in and buy season tickets. As players, it gets us excited.”
Hockey is in Mermis’ blood. He began skating at age 5, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Jarrod.
“Once I started playing, my mind was set on having a career in hockey,” Mermis says. “I want to see how far it’ll take me. My brother, who’s four years older, was my inspiration when I was younger. I wanted to do what he was doing, so I picked up the hockey stick.”
But there’s more to Mermis than hockey. The Alton, Illinois-born athlete enjoys being outside with his border collie, Kaizer.
“He’s my getaway from hockey,” he says. “We go to the dog park and do some agility stuff, like throw the ball. Golfing in Arizona is great. I like going on hikes and just being active outside.”
As a defenseman, he tries not to get too wrapped up in statistics, as there are plenty of unwritten accomplishments. Mermis knows it’s cliché, but he just wants to improve his overall game.
“And keep a good mindset,” he adds. “I want to be able to help teams win hockey games and be available when needed.”