From Summit to the Rogue Valley: Cooper Pederson signs with junior hockey team, joins Bobby Ruddle
One of the biggest dreams of a young hockey player is to get the opportunity to play at the next level. After hours upon hours spent at the ice arena — taking shot after shot and acquiring bone-crushing bruises — the opportunity is often the reward for years of dedication and perseverance to the sport.
For Summit County native Cooper Pederson, his dedication to the sport has paid off. He recently signed with the Rogue Valley Royals of the U.S. Premier Hockey League in Medford, Oregon on Friday, July 1.
The U.S. Premier Hockey League is one of the biggest junior-level leagues in North America and spans from coast to coast. The league consistently acts as a stepping stone for players to improve their game and advance into college or semi-professional hockey programs.
Pederson’s signing occurs after he’s spent the last 14-years skating and playing in Summit County — spending many hours under the lights at Stephen C. West Ice Arena.
The 19-year-old started playing when he was around 5 years old, learning to skate and eventually falling in love with the game of hockey. In high school, Pederson played for the Summit High School boy’s hockey team.
Pederson contributed to the team his junior season when the team sported a record of 14-6 and made the playoffs. The feat continues to be the best record the program has seen in the last 10 years. The second best record occurred this past season when the Tigers went 11-9-1.
After graduating from Summit High School in 2021, Pederson spent this past season with the hometown Breckenridge Vipers — an opportunity Pederson says he’s truly cherished throughout the course of the season.
“Playing for them helped me a lot,” Pederson said. “It felt great. I honestly didn’t know that we had that big of a hockey community in Summit. It made me happy to see everyone come together for one team. Not many places have it like that.”
Pederson says that growing up playing hockey in Summit has played a huge role in shaping him into the player and man he is today.
“Lots of discipline, not only from my parents but from coaches in the Summit organization, growing up playing hockey,” Pederson said.
Signing to the Rogue Valley Royals is a dream come true for Pederson and an opportunity to continue to develop as a young forward who wants to continue to play hockey.
“I am excited to play for them as well as work hard for them and opportunities coming out of juniors (hockey),” Pederson said. “I am also looking forward to meeting new people.”
Besides the prospect of playing for a junior-level hockey team, Pederson will be met with a slice of home once he reaches Oregon ahead of the 2022-23 hockey season.
Bobby Ruddle, the head coach and owner of the Royals is from Breckenridge and, like Pederson, grew up playing hockey.
“I’m ecstatic,” Ruddle said of signing Pederson. “It was really cool to give that Summit County kid a shot.”
In a way it is a full-circle moment for Ruddle because 12 years ago he was given a similar shot when he played for the junior-level Southern Oregon Spartans.
Ruddle became aware of Pederson through Cory Dekoven, who Ruddle coached under while coaching for the Breckenridge Bolts.
Ruddle decided to sign Pederson in large part because of the review Dekoven gave of Pederson and Ruddle’s familiarity with the Summit hockey program.
“Cory coached Cooper, so he knew that he was a great character kid —somebody that I don’t have to worry about being a good teammate or lifting our other players up,” Ruddle said.
Entering his first year as the owner and head coach of the Rogue Valley Royals, Ruddle is already in the process of setting goals and expectations for his team ahead of this upcoming season.
“I am expecting all of us to work extremely hard and have a positive attitude and do the little things that matter,” Ruddle said. “I like to think that if we accomplish those things we will not only get good kids coming out of our program but we will also find ourselves getting wins. Doing things that produce success — just not asking for success.”
For Pederson, signing with the Royals is the first step to some of the bigger dreams he has planned for himself in the sport of hockey — dreams he has had for himself since he began playing when he was 5 years old.
“It gives me an opportunity to get better,” Pederson said of joining the Royals. “Hopefully in a few years, I am out at school playing somewhere after juniors. After college hockey — if everything goes right — I would love to be paid to play in the NHL (National Hockey League), AHL (American Hockey League) or overseas somewhere.”
Pederson will join Ruddle in Medford, Oregon at the tail end of the summer in order to prepare for the upcoming hockey season and start his rookie season campaign with the Royals.
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