skip navigation

Storm's Coming

10/12/2015, 5:00pm CDT
By Jessi Pierce

South St. Paul native and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk is taking the NHL by storm as one of the game's top young talents.

JUSTIN FAULK HAS NEVER BEEN SATISFIED WITH BEING JUST GOOD ENOUGH. Since picking up his first stick and stepping on to the ice at age 6, he would remind himself that good enough wasn’t going to cut it.

 

Why should it? 

A product of South St. Paul Youth Hockey Association, the 23-year-old Faulk showed grit, determination and overall skill early on. His hockey prowess led him to Ann Arbor, Michigan where he spent two years with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. There he helped Team USA to a gold-medal finish at the 2010 Under-18 World Championships, and a bronze-medal finish at the 2011 World Junior Championships.

He returned to the State of Hockey and steered the University of Minnesota-Duluth toward its first-ever NCAA championship before joining the Hurricanes at age 19.

In 2014, another Faulk first occurred when he was named to the U.S. Olympic team. At just 21, he was the youngest member of Team USA in Sochi, and one of the youngest to compete for the team since they started sending NHLers to the Games in 1998.

And despite his already hefty résumé that would impress even the hockey gods, Faulk says his best is yet to come.

“You’re never satisfied with being just good enough,” said Faulk. “You can’t have that mentality. For me, I’m thrilled to have worked to get to the place that I am at, but I know I can always reach and work to be better.” 

SOUTH ST. PAUL SUPPORT

Faulk has quickly added his name to the list of hockey notables coming out of South St. Paul. He’s in good company:

            Phil Housley.

            Doug Woog.

            Warren Miller.

            Alex Stalock.

            Adam Wilcox.

            Dave Palmquist.

            Zach Palmquist.

That list continues to grow thanks to the direction of the South St. Paul program.

“It’s exciting to see where hockey is going in South St. Paul,” Faulk said. “We now have a few players playing pro and with Housley getting inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, it’s another way we’re putting ourselves on the map.”

Even more exciting for Faulk is seeing his former teammates and childhood friends break their way into the show. Alex Stalock, another former UMD Bulldog, is the man between the pipes for the San Jose Sharks. Wilcox, Stalock’s cousin, is one of Faulk’s best friends and is currently playing in the American Hockey League with Tampa Bay’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

“Adam and I stay in touch pretty well. He is currently in my kitchen, so that’s about as in touch as you can get,” Faulk said with a laugh. Wilcox stayed with Faulk this past summer. “I’ve been best friends with Adam since I was 5 or 6 years old, so it’s something that will never go away. We stay in touch through the season and then obviously I talk to Alex every time we play each other. It’ll be fun when Adam gets his turn in Tampa Bay, too.”

Faulk anticipates that number of hockey elite will only continue to grow. If he could predict the future of the South St. Paul hockey: “It’s going to keep getting bigger and better.”

FROM HOCKEY TO HARDWOOD

College was always in Faulk’s plans — hockey or not. When it came to the hockey side, there was little doubt in his mind that it would be the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“I think I made the right decision for college,” he says with a smirk.

The NCAA championship trophy on display at AMSOIL Arena would agree. As a freshman on the title squad, Faulk led all Bulldogs defensemen in goals (8), assists (25) and points (33) through 39 games. He ranked first among freshmen blueliners in scoring and made his way on to the All-Rookie Team.

But the stats aren’t what Faulk remembers. He admits even the championship trophy was just the cherry on top of a great season with a great group of teammates.

“Being able to win a championship at any level is something you’ll never forget,” he said. “But what really made it special was that we had a pretty fun group of guys. That’s what I’ll remember the most about that season; those 26 guys on the team that year. We pretty much all keep in touch and when we see each other, we don’t miss a beat.

“That’s the biggest thing about playing sports at any level is the friendships we were able to create and the amount of fun we had, whether it was on the ice or off.”

In Raleigh, North Carolina, home to the Hurricanes, college hockey isn’t the NCAA sport of choice like it is in Minnesota. Instead, college basketball reigns king. Raleigh is home to North Carolina State. Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina are little more than 30 minutes away as is Duke University in Durham. The three schools have basketball rivalries similar to Minnesota’s showdowns at the North Star Cup.

“Obviously hockey is a pretty big sport in Minnesota and that’s how basketball is out here, so games can get pretty intense,” Faulk said. “You have 18,000 people in the stadium for a UNC-Duke game or N.C. State-UNC game — sold out every time. It’s a pretty big event for the whole triangle area, one that’s probably comparable to the Minnesota high school tournament or our in-state college rivalries.”

Faulk finds the time in between NHL games to take part in the statewide basketball excitement. Who’s his favorite North Carolina team?

“If I have an allegiance, it has to be to N.C. State. Being based out of Raleigh, we share our arena with their basketball team and their football stadium is right in our parking lot, so I’ve been able to check out both of those quite a bit.”

THE FAULK FILE

Hometown Association: South St. Paul Youth Hockey Association

College: University of Minnesota-Duluth

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes

Hidden Talents: None actually. I know most athletes have at least one, but I honestly don’t have one. It’s hilarious. All my buddies always tell me, “You literally are just a hockey player.”

If You Could Be on a Reality TV Show: Definitely not Keeping up with the Kardashians or Real Housewives — those shows drive me crazy. Any of the ones where there’s a competition. The Amazing Race or anything like that where you are competing for something would be pretty fun.

Favorite Disney Movie: Mighty Ducks, D2 was my favorite.

If You Could Travel Anywhere in the World: Alaska, that’s my next adventure. I like the outdoors a lot. I’d rather be in the woods than on a beach.

Favorite Flavor Ice Cream: Gotta go with cookie dough.

Favorite Video Game: I don’t get to play too much, but when I do, it’s Call of Duty.

ONE PROUD CANIAC

Coming from Minnesota where the weather averages below zero on any given winter hockey day, Faulk knows he’s spoiled while enjoying 50s in Raleigh during the NHL season. Even though it’s a non-traditional hockey market, Faulk says the fans and organization have been unbelievable.

“The fans (in Carolina) are pretty loyal to us,” he said. “We’ve had a few tough years, but the fans are still coming to games. They’re loud and they know how to get into it. They tailgate the games, so when we arrive to the rink the fans are already there with their barbecues and games. It makes it a pretty fun atmosphere to be a part of.”

Faulk adds that he’s noticed having the strong NHL presence in the area is paying dividends for the youth hockey market.

“We’re starting to see younger kids who are starting to play more, which I think is one of the reasons the Hurricanes put so much time, effort and money into the Raleigh community for hockey. They’re starting to see some progress and it’s great to be a part of that.”

Helping youth players love the game reminds Faulk of that little boy who never gave up. Who worked to be better than good and better than great. Even after being named a U.S. Olympian, NCAA champion and NHLer, you can be sure of one thing: he’s not done yet. Storm Justin has just begun. 

Tag(s): Home  October 2015