Encinitas’ Cattivera flying high with Jets
By Matt Mackinder
California Rubber Magazine
After wrapping up his final season of Midgets with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings in 2009-10, Chris Cattivera had his sights set on playing high-level junior hockey.
After researching a host of junior leagues across the United States and Canada, the Encinitas native decided the North American Hockey League (NAHL) was the best place for him to continue his development as he eyed a college hockey opportunity.
Cattivera ultimately landed with the Janesville (Wis.) Jets, whose ownership group includes respected community leader Bill McCoshen, as well as San Jose Sharks forward and Wisconsin native Joe Pavelski.
“I was blown away by Mr. McCoshen’s dedication to serving Wisconsin, as well as the involvement of an extraordinarily-gifted player like Pavelski,” he said.
The start to Cattivera’s junior career didn’t exactly go according to plan, however. The forward sustained an ankle injury during a Jets’ tryout camp in 2010 that forced him to miss half of the season. He returned to Janesville for the remainder of the year and was offered a spot to return this season as a 19-year-old veteran on the Tier II Junior A club.
“Coming back has been awesome,” said Cattivera, who praises Jets head coach Dane Litke for the team’s early success this season (the Jets had 22 wins after 31 games at the Christmas break). “I feel very comfortable here and share a strong bond with my teammates, the coaching staff and even the owners.”
Cattivera grew up skating for the California Wave from Mite A to Midget 18U AAA before playing his final Midget season with the Jr. Kings. He credits Jack Bowkus and Mike Lewis, both of whom coached Cattivera with the Wave and Jr. Kings, for much of his progression as a player.
“Both coaches helped me develop an intense work ethic, passion for the game and prepared me mentally to be competitive at the next level,” said Cattivera, who also noted the influences of then-Wave coaches Rick Kelly and Jeff Turcotte.
Cattivera also recalls his favorite Southern California hockey memory, which was winning the Pacific Region championship during his 16U AAA season for the Wave under Lewis.
“We had a great team with a great group of guys and I still stay in touch with all of them to this day,” said Cattivera. “They’ve become lifelong friends.”
Like many of his peers, Cattivera had plenty of role models to emulate as a kid, including California-born players Brett Sterling, Jonathan Blum and Bobby Ryan – all of whom have cracked NHL lineups in recent years.
“Those are guys who grew up playing in California and have left a legacy for me and other aspiring players from California to follow,” said Cattivera. “When I went to player development camps as a kid, these guys would help local youth hockey players realize the tremendous amount of dedication, perseverance and hard work it takes to compete at the next level.”
“Watching them succeed has motivated me to follow in their footsteps and also help give California more credibility when it comes to hockey.”
For Cattivera, relocating to the Midwest to pursue his dreams meant leaving the comforts of home. He admits it was an adjustment at first, but has since settled in to his new – and colder – surroundings.
“Ending up under the roof of a supportive billet family helped foster a smooth transition,” Cattivera said of packing his bags for Janesville. “My family and I understood that moving away from California was a logical progression that was necessary for gaining exposure and, ultimately, realizing my ambition to play college hockey.
“Living in Janesville has been a remarkable experience and it’s nice to get a taste of different cultures,” he added. “It feels like a second home to me.”