With the Zionsville Eagles hockey club in overtime in the 2013 state semifinals, a talented freshman took the ice.
There was no doubt in head coach Aaron Wallace’s mind the freshman would be on the ice for this season-defining overtime period. He had a knack for scoring.
“I can remember the goal without even watching it,” Wallace said.
Behind the opposing team’s net, the freshman stole the puck from the defender, skated around the goal, made the goalie miss and scored the game-winning goal. Zionsville was on to the state championship.
That was only one of the many memorable moments Thomas Warr provided throughout his four years with the hockey team.
“He did that stuff, every year, all the time,” Wallace said.
Zionsville went on to win the state championship that season, led by Thomas and his older brother, Max. Thomas was the team’s leading scorer and captain during his junior and senior seasons, and tied for second in the state with his 50 goals as a senior.
But even with all that success, he chose soccer. Warr is now a redshirt junior at Indiana, a permanent fixture in the Hoosiers’ rotation, mostly off the bench as an energizer. He has two goals this season and four during his three years in Bloomington.
His soccer years have not made him forget his hockey years. In fact, if it weren’t for all of his time spent on the rink, he may not be the soccer player he is today.
“Hockey taught me so much in the game of soccer,” Warr said.
It started young in the Warr family. His dad, Alastair, had Thomas in skates as soon as he could walk. At the age of 3, he was already pursuing a future on the ice.
A frozen pond symbolized an opportunity to skate and play the game he loved. He rarely passed up an opportunity to skate with his friends during the winter months.
As he moved into high school, he continued to balance hockey and soccer, something most athletes don’t do anymore.
He transitioned to the Indiana Fire Academy to continue his soccer path as a junior in high school, but that didn’t mean hockey was finished.
“That was something that was really important to me, playing in academy that I could continue to play hockey,” Warr said. “Obviously it’s really important to me.”
Hockey remained essential for him, so much so that his coach, Wallace, named him team captain for both his junior and senior seasons.
“Even though soccer was his thing, I knew how much he loved this hockey team and cared about this hockey team,” Wallace said.
In soccer, he was fifth in the nation in goals per game. In hockey, he was second in the state of Indiana with 50 goals as a senior.
It wasn’t about the goals though. The state championship, the memories of sharing the ice with his brother, those are the important moments of his hockey years.
“Stats don’t really matter,” Warr said. “I have families for life through hockey.”
Wallace described Warr as “goofy,” always willing to have fun and mess around with the older kids on the team.
“He was never awkward, he’s just a goofball,” Wallace joked.
But Warr did have to get serious around the end of his freshman season when he realized he had to choose a path to take, soccer o
It required a lot of one-on-one conversations with his parents, his coaches, but most importantly, himself.
In the winter, he favored hockey. In the warmer months, he favored soccer. He battled this for some time.
“I liked hockey more when I was in hockey season, I liked soccer more when I was in soccer season,” Warr said.
Wallace was also there every step of the way, helping Warr with whatever he needed. He knew no matter which sport he chose, he would be successful.
“He had every opportunity under the sun in hockey,” Wallace said.
Warr ultimately decided on soccer, and it was his time with the Indiana Fire Academy a few years later that cemented his decision. He realized soccer made him the happiest.
He continued to play hockey with Zionsville all four years, even after moving to the Indiana Fire Academy for soccer as a junior. He's incredibly thankful for his soccer club allowing him to continue playing hockey.
Wallace isn’t sure he’ll ever have a player as talented as Warr.
“I’m extremely lucky to have had him all four years,” Wallace said. “I love that kid.”
Soccer hasn’t taken Warr away from the ice completely. This past winter, he returned home to Zionsville for an alumni game.
He said that he was “terrible,” but that’s hard to buy, coming from a man who scored 50 goals in a single season. He said he had to get the rust off early.
The more important part of the reunion was the people he played with. Former teammates, coaches and friends.
“It was a blast getting back out there, keeping my roots,” Warr said.
He reiterated that there was no contact, making sure his current coach, Todd Yeagley, wasn’t worried about injuries.
“There’s no contact coach, don’t freak out,” Warr joked, looking straight over at Yeagley.
Thomas is the perfect argument against specialization.
So many kids are deciding at a young age what sport they want to play and solely playing that sport. Some kids will start playing hockey as early as four or five and by the time they reach Zionsville’s program and coach Wallace, they’re burned out.
“There’s too much in this life to enjoy,” Wallace said.
Wallace goes as far as to tell his players, once the season is done in March, to do anything except hockey until at least June. Their season starts up again in August.
Even though hockey wasn’t where Thomas ultimately ended up going, Wallace was always there to help however he could, and Thomas was always there to help the team however he could.
And even if soccer isn’t where Warr goes after college, Wallace is sure that he will succeed in whatever path he chooses.
“I know he’s going to do special things, whether it’s on the soccer field or in a job.”