Sometimes it pays to live by the motto that it’s easier to gain forgiveness than it is to receive permission.
At least that’s the case for Dunk Abbott’s hockey career.
“My mom didn’t want me to do it,” Abbott says, reflecting on his sign up for hockey when he was 5. “She was out of town during the sign ups. My dad took me down and signed me up. Once they both saw it, they fell in love with it.”
That launched the hockey career of the Butte boy with a name tailor-made for a basketball legend. That career continues this season as Abbott, 19, stars for the Dells Ducks in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
Recently, the 2011 Butte High graduate earned the JuniorHockey.com Fivestar Performance of the Week award for scoring four goals in the Ducks 5-1 over the Steele County Blades.
“That night it just seemed like everything I shot went in,” Abbott says. “It was one of those nights,”
Abbott, is continuing a career that included playing for the Butte Blues, the Butte Roughriders and the Missoula Maulers.
It is a career that almost never happened for so many reasons, and that has nothing to do with a name you’d assume he earned on a basketball court.
Abbott was named Douglass, after his father. His life-long nickname is thanks to a priest who was hard of hearing.
“When I was getting baptized there was a deaf priest,” Abbott says. “He asked what my name was, an my said ‘Doug.’ He said ‘Dunk, now that’s a good name for a Butte kid.'”
He was Dunk ever since.
The first threat to Abbott’s hockey career, Abbott’s father says, came in the form of a figure skating flyer handed out in schools. Abbott’s daycare provider was a “hockey mom,” and she influenced Abbott’s desire to take up the sport. He was all about hockey until he saw that piece of paper.
“On the day of signups for hockey, the figure skating club handed out flyers to all the kids in Butte to sign up for figure skating,” Doug Abbott says. “He sat down in the middle of the floor and said ‘I don’t want to play hockey, I want to figure skate because they get to do a show every year at the Civic Center.’ Dunk’s hockey career got off to an inauspicious start because he wanted to figure skate so he could be in a show at the Civic Center.”
Abbott’s career was also threatened by his success from other sports, most notably football.
When he was in junior high, Abbott had to pick hockey over basketball. He still played football, and he was so good that he had to give college football a try.
The 5-foot-11 Abbott will go down as one of the best receivers in the history of Butte High School. His name is littered throughout the school’s football record book.
Abbott is No. 1 in school history with 17 touchdowns. His 12 TDs in 2010 are the most in one season in school history.
He is No. 2 all time behind former teammate Jake Dallaserra with 100 catches for 1,314 yards. Abbott caught two touchdown passes in a game five times during his Bulldog career. His best game saw him haul in 13 passes for 231 yards — both school records — against Missoula Sentinel in 2010. He also caught 11 passes against Kalispell that year.
As a senior, Abbott ended with 71 catches for 890 yards. Bryce Armstrong broke his school record with 72 catches during Butte High’s 2012 championship season.
Abbott, who also stood out in track for the Bulldogs, was just too good at football not to sign on when the Montana Grizzlies came calling after that senior season. He walked on because he had academic scholarships — the kind of scholarships a 4.0 GPA and a 30 on the ACT will get you.
So, for the first time since Abbott reluctantly chose hockey over figure skating, Abbott wasn’t a hockey player. His only sport was football, and that wasn’t easy.
” I had to give up playing hockey for something else for the first time since I started playing when I was 5,” Abbott says. ” I thought I liked football. Once I quit hockey I realized how much I missed it.”
So, Abbott walked away from football after one season as a redshirt with the Grizzlies. He joined the Missoula Maulers, a Junior Hockey team, after the football season.
It was the same team Abbott considered playing for instead of going to Butte High as a senior.
The Maulers won the American West Hockey League championship and played at nationals. Abbott produced 24 points in 43 games, including the playoffs during the championship run.
That came a year after Abbott earned a reputation as a gritty defenseman in 37 games with the now-defunct Butte Roughriders in the NorPAC. There, Abbott Produced 14 points.
“Dunk is a very good two way d-man with a lot of grit to him.” Dells Ducks head coach Bill Zaniboni told Jr. Hockey News when Abbott signed with the Ducks in August. “Dunk is going to be a great addition to the back and with his grades he will be very marketable to move up to the next level.”
So far, the coach’s words have proven true. Abbott is No. 1 on the team and No. 6 in the Minnesota Junior Hockey League with 16 goals. He’s No. 2 on his team with 24 points.
The Ducks are 18-9 on the season and in third place in their division.
Abbott, who works part time at the Nike Factory Store in Wisconsin Dells, says he’s having fun playing for the Ducks.
“It’s different,” he says of living on the road in a team house with several players and an assistant coach. “But with the group of guys I’m with it’s fun. I’m enjoying it.”
Abbott says he also had a blast playing in Missoula in front of some rowdy crowds.
“Missoula gets some of the best crowds,” Abbott says. “We averaged about 2,000 people last year.”
The crowds are only about 150 to 200 for home games at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena in Wisconsin Dells, which is only about 50 miles from Madison. The hockey, though, is better.
“I like it a lot,” Abbott says. ” It’s a different kind of hockey than in Missoula. It’s a lot more physical. It’s a lot faster and a lot more skilled.”
Abbott’s ultimate goal is to play college hockey. His dream is to play in the NHL, but he isn’t sure that’s feasible.
“I don’t think that’s realistic,” Abbott says of playing in the NHL. “I’d love to, but I don’t think that’s realistic. I want to go to college, get a good education and play hockey.”
He says he’s had contact from seven or eight schools, but so far there’s been no commitments.
Until then, Abbott is going to give it his all for the Ducks, who are 18-9 and sitting in third place in their division of the Minnesota Junior Hockey League.
“Our coach pushes us and expects us to win,” Abbott says. “Everyone just bought into the team. We’re just trying to make it to nationals and compete. Once we get everybody on the same page, we’ll be tough to beat.”
If every night can go anything like it did for Abbott on the night of Nov. 10, nationals is a definite possibility for the Ducks. That’s when Abbott recorded a hat trick and then some.
It was an accomplishment Abbott took in ho-hum fashion.
“They gave me the game puck. Otherwise it was just another game,” Abbott says. “We had a game the next night, so I couldn’t get hung up on that.”
It wasn’t just another night for his parents, who were watching the game over the internet. In particular, it was a very big night for his mother, Mary, who has certainly come around after her initial reluctance to letting her young son play hockey.
“I had four different texts from my mom,” Abbott says. “She was saying ‘Nice goal!’ ‘Great job!’ and ‘What a game!'”