By Scott Taylor

Anthony Kehrer has options. 21-year-old graduate of Winnipeg's Shaftesbury High School, one of the first players to sign up to play at the RINK Hockey Academy back in 2016, Kehrer is now in his junior year at the University of Wisconsin.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound defenceman is an anchor on the Badgers' back end, has a year left before graduation and has already attended two NHL training camps. A star with the Monarchs, a star at the RINK and a player who could play five years of NCAA D-1 hockey, Kehrer is one of those guys you know will find success whichever direction he decides to go.

"I'm taking it year by year right now, but when I finish up at Wisconsin, I want to play professional hockey," said Kehrer, after a game earlier this season at the University of Minnesota. "I want to get my degree first and then go from there, so I'll finish this season, play next season and because of COVID, I have an option for a fifth year. I learned a lot at both of the pro camps I attended - the LA Kings rookie camp before the 2021-22 season and then with the Buffalo Sabres before this season started - so I just want to keep getting better and go from there.

Anthony Kehrer RHA

"Eventually, I'll get into business. I took the personal finance road here at Wisconsin and maybe, down the line, I'm going to take a good look at real estate. There are a lot of great real estate options in Wisconsin, so I intend to take a few courses on that and hope to go from there."

Regardless of what he decides to do, Kehrer has the combination of nature and nurture that builds leaders both on and off the ice.

"I started playing hockey when I was three," Kehrer said. "My mom and dad said I needed to play a winter sport and a summer sport so because my dad played hockey, I started playing hockey and I fell in love with it."

Kehrer, who grew up in Winnipeg's River Heights neighbourhood, began his hockey career much like any other local kid. He played Timbits, then A1, AA and then AAA hockey with River Heights. He worked his way up through the ranks with the Assiniboine Park Rangers, then got himself noticed while playing with the Winnipeg Monarchs.

"I started at River Heights Community Centre and I have a lot of great memories of that rink and the outdoor rinks in the area," he said. "I just loved it and because of that, I still love the game today."

Anthony Kehrer Wisconsin

After playing my minor hockey in the area, I had a good year with the Monarchs (2015-16) and then the RINK Hockey Academy started up and so I played my Bantam year there in its inaugural season. I played my U18 season there as well and then went to the USHL in Sioux City for two years."

He was recruited by a number of NCAA D-1 schools but chose the University of Wisconsin. By his own admission, it wasn't a tough choice.

"I just loved the place," he said. "Right after my first visit, I sent an email to the coaches there saying that I knew right away that I wanted to be a Badger. With the campus and the history there, everything they had with sports and academics was a fit for me. If I had to choose to do that over again, I'd choose Wisconsin 100 out of 100 times. It's been a dream to play there."

To say Kehrer comes from an athletic family would be a gross understatement.

Anthony Kehrer RHA

“Athletics was always huge in our house,” he said. "My dad, Glenn, played at the University of Manitoba and spent some time with the Norfolk Admirals of the ECHL and even played in Europe's British Hockey League for a bit, too. My dad taught me everything he knew about the game, but my mom, Kim, has also been a huge part as well. She didn't play any sports, but she's always been so supportive and knows a lot more about it than you might think.

"My sisters also played college soccer and now my older sister, Caroline, is playing pro in the First Division (SC Braga) in Portugal. She's doing really well. My sister, Kaitlin, played NAIA soccer at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn. It's always nice to have those two to train with. They've shown me what it takes to compete at this level.” 

When he's not playing hockey, Kehrer is a pretty stereotypical 21-year- old student-athlete.

"I just got a PS5 so I'll be playing a little more, but I haven't been because I'm really busy with school right now," he said. "I spend the off-season in Madison (Wis.) and there are some really nice golf courses in this area. I try to get out on the course as much as I can. I just like to hang out with the guys. That's a pretty generic answer for a hockey player."

One person who knows Kehrer as well as anyone in Winnipeg was his first coach at the RINK, Brad Purdie. A Purdie is not surprised that Kehrer, who wears an A on his jersey at Wisconsin, has been successful. "Anthony is a true leader on and off the ice," he said. "The guy works hard at whatever he's doing. He is a real character guy and leads his team by example. Most importantly, his teammates respect him."

Scott Taylor | Game On Magazine