Allen Americans rookie Hank Crone leads all ECHL rookies with 60 points (23G, 37A) and will likely break Allen’s all-time rookie scoring record of 76 points set by Alex Lavoie in 2013-14. Hank is also tied with teammate Jack Combs for second in the league in points. ECHL Rookie of the Year and even ECHL MVP are within Crone’s grasp with 35% of the regular season remaining.
I had a chance to sit down with Hank last week for an in-depth interview. I came away from the interview learning a lot about what makes him tick. First and foremost is the strength he derives from his family. He is a proud Texan who loves playing pro hockey close to home in front of so many friends and relatives. I also learned a lot about all the bumps in the road he incurred along the way after he left home at 16 to play hockey until he returned at 24 to play pro hockey for the Allen Americans. I appreciated his openness and honesty to help tell his story and how adversity has given him the drive that makes him successful. I hope you enjoy this story of Hank Crone.
The first thing you find out when you sit down to interview Hank Crone is he is a proud Texan, born and raised in Cedar Hill which is a suburb southwest of Dallas and 40 miles from Allen. Hank was born February 19, 1998, as Henry Crone but has never been called anything but Hank. As he told me, “My mom doesn’t even call me Henry when she is mad at me.”
Hank’s parents, Ray and Kristie Crone, still live in the same house in Cedar Hill they built the year Hank was born. Ray and Kristie are high school sweethearts who met while attending Waxahachie High School. The Crones are a family of four. Hank has a younger sister (20), Anna, who attends TCU and is about to graduate. Another Hank quote, “She got the brains, she is about to graduate almost two years early and I always joke with her she also has a little bit of a Denver University degree because she helped me out a lot.” Hank’s dad played a couple of years of minor league baseball and is a long-time baseball scout, currently working for the Detroit Tigers. He worked as a scout for the Boston Red Sox for 15 years.
|The Crones – Anna, Ray, Kristie and Hank
In addition to his immediate family, Hank has an aunt (Mary Ellen Crone) who attends every Allen game and his grandfather, Ray Crone Sr. is his biggest supporter. Ray Crone Sr., a right-handed pitcher, played major league baseball for the Milwaukee Braves (1954-57) and New York/San Francisco Giants (1957-58). After retiring from the mound Crone was a long-time scout, based in Texas, working for the Montreal Expos, Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Here is a great synopsis of Roy Crone Sr. and his baseball career from coming up in the minors with Hank Aaron, to the ups and downs of professional sports, to his post playing days as a scout. This is a great read, especially if you are a baseball fan. https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ray-crone/
|Hank and his grandfather, Ray Crone Sr., 91 years young
– With all of that baseball DNA how did Hank become a hockey player? His dad did play youth hockey when he lived in Connecticut before his family moved to Texas when he was 12. His dad was always a hockey fan. When the Minnesota North Stars moved to Texas Hank’s parents got season tickets, so he was always at Stars games as a kid. There are two answers to why Hank chose hockey. First, he loved hockey from a very early age and was very good at it. Second, he realized at a young age (12) he wasn’t nearly as good at baseball. Hank lived close to a Dr. Pepper Starcenter that opened in Duncanville in 2000 in the wake of the popularity of the Dallas Stars after they won the Stanley Cup in 1999. The rink was close to Hank’s home. Another Hank quote. “I tried to skate when I was three and was hooked. It was immediately my new daycare. At first, I never wanted to put on the gear, I just wanted to skate. My parents finally told me I couldn’t play if I didn’t put on the equipment. It took me a bit to get the message as I am a little stubborn, but once I figured out how to skate around with the equipment it was game over.” Hank tells stories about his parents dropping him off at the rink in the summer at 10:00 am and picking him up at 5:00 pm and the rink lady made sure he was fed.
Hank played in house leagues until he was around eight and then started playing travel hockey. He played with an older AAA team until one was created for his age group. It was called the Texas Attack and then became the current name, the Dallas Stars Elite. Hank traveled the world as a youngster playing hockey. When on a Bauer Selects team he played in a tournament in Moscow, Russia when he was 10 and in Stockholm, Sweden at 11. Hank has also been to Germany for the Five Nations Tournament and to Slovakia for the Ivan Hlinka Tournament.
|The Younger Version of Hank Crone circa 2002
Hank gives a lot of credit to the many great coaches he had growing up in the DFW area. One of them, Jordan French, has been his mentor since he was six or seven. Hank lives with French and his family for part of the summer (in Nashville). French has his own business helping players at all levels, from the NHL to youth hockey, in skills development and training.
If you can characterize Crone’s amateur (junior and college) career, I would describe it as one where he was constantly trying to prove himself and feeling he was not always given a fair shake. He admits he uses that as a chip on his shoulder for motivation. Hank’s dream was always to play for the US National team. He went to its top forty camp but did not make the team. His first stop after leaving home at 16 was to play junior hockey in the USHL for the Omaha Lancers. In his second year he was traded to the Fargo Force which turned out perfect for Hank. As he told me, “I had played for the coach (Cary Eades) in Germany in the Five Nations Tournament, so he knew me and knew what I was capable of doing.” Hank ended his career in Fargo as the all-time leader in points (164). goals (58) and assists (106).
Hank’s college career was unique as he attended three different schools. He committed to Boston University when he was 15 years old. As Hank tells the story, “Boston University was my dream school. My dad worked for the Red Sox for 15 years and we went to Cape Cod every summer. I always loved the BU guys and the whole vibe at that school. I wanted to go to BU more than anything. The fact that I only went there one year, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the school. It was probably the most fun year of my life.” In his one season at BU, Hank played in 35 games and had 12 points (2G, 10A). The plan was for him to return to the USHL (Fargo) for one season and then return to BU. However, a couple of months after his first season at BU there was a coaching change and things went sideways.
As planned Hank went back to Fargo (USHL) for the 2018-19 season and then decided to make a switch to Denver University. Hank played two years in Denver and had 25 points (11G, 25A). He also earned his degree with a major in communication and minor in marketing while at Denver. The 2020-21 season was the bubble year because of COVID, and it was not going very well for Hank. He was at a point where he wasn’t sure what was going on and what he should do. He had a year of eligibility remaining and was debating if he wanted to be the guy that goes to three different schools or go to Europe and enjoy hockey. After talking to a lot of people close to him, they told him this is an example of adversity, and you have to stick with it and show if you really love hockey, this adversity isn’t going to bring you down. He got through the end of the 2020-21 season but played in only 13 games and had nine points (5G, 4A). Hank finished fourth on the team in average points per game, so he knew he was doing something right.
After the 2020-21 season at Denver, Hank was about to sign somewhere in Europe when he got a call from the assistant coach (Byron Pool) at Northern Michigan University (NMU) who was his assistant coach in Fargo. As Hank described it “We had been close for a long time. He put me in touch with NMU head coach (Grant Potulny) and I can’t thank him enough for not only believing in me but coaching me and being a real figure in my hockey career.” It proved to be a great decision for Hank as he led NMU in scoring with 44 points (13G, 31A) in 32 games and was nominated for the Hobey Baker award.
How did Hank Crone end up in Allen after he completed his collegiate career? Another story of timing. Hank was within hours of signing to play for a team in the Austrian league when he got a call from Chad Costello. Hank had met Chad four or five years ago during the summer. Twice a week all the local players that were playing at a high level or used to play at a high level would get together at Valley Ranch and scrimmage. Chad was playing in Germany at the time but joined the Valley Ranch group when he was in Dallas in the summer. Here is how it went in Hank’s words, “We were line mates at one of the scrimmages and had a lot of fun together. I remember picking his brain and asking him questions. It turned into a relationship where I could lean on him if I had a question or needed some advice. He was a big part of me deciding to go to Northern Michigan. I called him and told him I was thinking of going to Europe and he advised me to go to school and light it up and show people I was capable. So, when Chad called me after he got the Allen coaching job, he explained how he saw my career panning out and what I could make of my career whether it was in Allen or in Europe. I saw a lot of similarities in myself to him. I thought to myself I can either move across the world to play for not that much money or I can stay at home and get an experience not a lot of guys get, while playing for someone who really values my game.”
Hank’s take on the Allen team, “We have the best group in our locker room. You can ask anyone in the room, and we all knew at some point things would turn around. We are now seeing what we are capable of, and it is great. There are so many guys I knew of and others I actually knew when the season started. Now that we are 40 games into the season it is really like a family, and it is special.”
Some questions to get to know Hank a little better:
Q: Who is your roommate?
A: I live in a house and there are five of us in the house. I room with Finlay on the road. We played together at Denver University and were line mates our first year. He was my best friend at Denver, and I talked to him this summer about playing together for a coach that values our type of game. I gave his name to Costello and told him I think Liam would be a no brainer in this league to help us out. It has worked out pretty good so far.
Q: What is your nickname?
A: I think Hank in itself is a pretty funny one since not a lot of people are named Hank. But last year and this year it has been Croner so most likely that is the one that will stick.
Q: What is the significance of wearing #67?
A: I wear #67 because that was my number growing up. I was one of a handful of players from South Dallas on my teams as I got older. Most were from the northside like Plano and Frisco. I lived off Highway 67 and I have always liked stuff with seven. Growing up there was nobody wearing #67 and I thought it looked good. Once I left home, I was never able to wear #67 in junior or college but tried to do something similar. I wore #7 in Fargo, #37 at Denver. When I signed in Allen, I called Tony (equipment manager) to get #67.
Q: Who is your hockey hero?
A: Being a Dallas fan growing up I always liked watching Mike Ribeiro. I actually played with him a decent amount over the summer. Of the more obvious players I would say Patrick Kane.
Q: What is you earliest hockey memory?
A: All the stuff I did at the rink in Duncanville. I basically lived there.
Q: What do you remember your parents telling you as a kid playing hockey that you still remember now?
A: My dad always used to tell me the game is not fun unless you are good. It means to me you have to always put in the work, nobody is going to do it for you.
Q: How do you describe your style of play?
A: I would say high skill and creative but at the end of the day I would say my biggest asset is my hockey IQ. Being an undersized guy (5’9″ 160), you have to find a way to get around some things on the ice.
Q: Do you have a favorite actor?
A: Will Farrell and Jimmy Fallon
Q: Your favorite actress?
A: My girlfriend is going to give me crap on this, but it is Ana de Armas.
Q; Your favorite genre of music?
A: Alternative, I am not a big music blasting guy. I am more a background music guy.
Q: Do you have a favorite singer or group?
A: I like Tame Impala, but if I hear a good song, I don’t care who sings it.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone living who would it be?
A: Tiger Woods
Q: One thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I am pretty simple, there is not a lot that I need to be happy. Being around positive people that I enjoy is all that I need.
Q: What do you like to do away from the rink?
A: I enjoy golf and I have a friend group of four from Dallas, two still live here, one plays hockey in Bakersfield. We play video games, either NHL or Call of Duty.
Q: What chore do you hate doing?
A: I escaped a lot of the chores growing up with all of my hockey. Now with five players in a house, Peressini is the one getting on us for not being the cleanest. I will say I hate doing anything related to dishes.
Q: What do you have that has great value to you but not as much value to others.
A: I have a lot of baseball memorabilia specifically related to my grandfather and my dad. It has the Crone name on it, so it means a lot. Both my grandfather and father won world series as scouts. My dad was a scout for Boston when they broke the 86-year curse to win the 2004 World Series. We have that world series ring with the Crone name on it.
Q: Who do you admire as a leader?
A: My grandfather, he lived his life as a professional athlete with the approach you only get to do this once. He never had any regrets and when he was done playing, he showed there was more to life than being a professional athlete. He went on to raise a incredible family and he has been the most supportive grandparent I could ask for.
Q: What would you to do if you weren’t playing hockey?
A: Unrealistically I would be a pro golfer. Realistically, I think I would be good in sales.
Q: Where is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
A: I played in a hockey tournament in Moscow when I was ten. It was quite a culture shock. I don’t remember everything but there are still details that stick with me to this day.
Q: If you could live in another country for two years where would it be?
Q: Do you have any pregame rituals or superstition?
A: I have changed over the years as I have matured. I used to be the guy that if things were going well everything had to be the exact same. Now I keep it more generic, and things can change a little bit. Somethings don’t change like the time I get to the rink, my hydration, and preparation but that is more a routine than anything else.
Q: Who is the funniest guy on the team?
A: I will go with Finlay because I know him so well and I am biased. It is really a tossup because everyone on the team contributes to the laughter.
Q: When was the last time you lost something?
A: The friend group I have has a key chain that somebody always has to have. I have recently misplaced it so when they read this, I will get some text messages. I am not the first guy that has lost it and it always turns back up, so I am hoping it happens to me.
Q: What do you like to do to kill time on the bus?
A: Just hang out with the guys. Obviously, we spend a lot of time on our phones. It depends on the bus. If it is a normal bus and shorter trip there is a lot of talking. If it is a sleeper bus, I likely will take a nap and get through it. I don’t like being on the bus.
Q: Tell me your best bus story?
A: This story is out there on social media, so I don’t mind repeating it. When I was in juniors playing for Fargo, we were going to Des Moines, a seven-hour trip, and our coach, Cary Eades, passed a kidney stone on the bus. I thought that was the most insane thing I had seen in my entire life. We looked at him in a different but good way after he handled something like that on the bus.
As we wrapped up our interview, I asked Hank if there is anything else he would like to share about himself. Here is what he said, “I just want everyone that goes to the games to know how appreciative I am of being in Texas. Even though I don’t have an accent and am not that outdoorsy, I don’t have a horse and a cowboy hat, but I am a true Texan and I take a lot of pride in that. Especially being in the sport of hockey where there are not a lot of Texans. The thought of representing the state at whatever level is something that is important to me. I am very appreciative of playing in Allen. It is so cool to be playing here. I don’t think people really understand it until they are at our games. The fans are just like Dallas Stars fans. I think our entire room appreciates the energy.
I thought a good close to the profile on Hank Crone is to share what his coaches had to say about him:
“Hank has been one our most consistent players. The thing about Hank is he doesn’t cheat the game. He plays on the penalty kill, he defends, and he makes people around him better”….Grant Potulny, Northern Michigan University head coach.
“Hank is an offensive threat all over the ice. Even when we are in the defensive zone, he knows how to time it where he can read the play and know when to jump past the opponent’s defensemen and get opportunities for us. He is a great kid that leads by example. He is a competitor that wants to score. He does what he has to do in the defensive zone to help us, but we have him here for his offense and he has been great for us”…..Assistant Coach Aaron Gens
“Hank is one of those players that surprises you every day whether it is his skill or making big time plays in big time moments. His compete level allows him to out compete guys that are bigger, stronger and faster just by his will. I knew when I signed him, I was getting one of the most skilled players in the league. I did not know I was getting one of the best competitors in the league. We give him a little bit of leeway because we get rewards with his offensive talent so much. He is a competitor, and he is here to win. He is kind of what the Allen Americans stand for as far as skill but also team first decision making. We love having him around and he has a funny loving personality. I connect well with him, and I am sure glad he is here. He plays 22-24 minutes per game which is incredible for a rookie. When I recruited Hank, I told him my plan was to give him the keys to the Ferrari and help him keep it on the road. He has been easy to coach, and I only have great things to say about him as a player and a person. He is perfect for our team and our team is perfect for him.”,,,,,Head Coach Chad Costello
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