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Roy Radke’s journey from NHL draft pick to Bradley golfer

Dave Eminian
deminian@pjstar.com

PEORIA — Bradley University has a former Chicago Blackhawks NHL Draft selection on one of its athletic teams.

And no, it's not the club hockey squad.

Roy Radke is a 23-year-old sophomore at BU and now a member of the Braves' golf team.

He has made the transition from a right wing in pro hockey to a collegiate golfer.

"I'd played golf growing up for fun," Radke said. "When my dad bought a house in Arizona and I went there to help him renovate it, I started golfing every day. I went from a -10 handicap to a -1.3 in three months. I knew I had something going. I loved the tournaments, it filled a competitive void for me that hockey had occupied."

The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Geneva grew up playing hockey. He was on skates at age 1, and at 1½ could turn in a lap around the rink. By 2½ he was on a house league hockey team for kids 5-under.

"My parents would go to the rink to skate, and I'd walk around on the ice with them," Radke said. "Then the security guard said I was getting too big to do that, so I had to put on skates. It just kind of took off from there."

His hockey pedigree kept growing, playing junior hockey for Team Illinois, the Chicago Mission, Culver Military Academy and Shattuck St. Mary's as he worked his way up through age 18.

Then he played three seasons for Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League, one of the game's three foremost junior circuits.

He notched 51 goals and 42 assists in 175 games in the OHL and was drafted by Chicago in the sixth round in 2015.

"I had been talking to the Blackhawks and knew they were going to pick me," said Radke, who was there at the 2015 NHL Draft hosted in the home venue of the Florida Panthers. "When I heard my name it was so exciting, just a great experience to have that jersey handed to you, put it on, meet all those people."

He suffered a high ankle sprain in his final OHL season, and the Blackhawks did not offer him an NHL Entry level contract.

Chicago asked him to go to AHL Rockford for the final seven games of that 2016-17 season, with the premise the NHL deal would follow. But when he got to Rockford, he was discovered to have a torn labrum and had to have surgery. Rockford never signed him.

He was invited to the Blackhawks Prospect Camp later that summer, but saw the depth and the writing on the wall. The kid who grew up in a family of Blackhawks season ticket holders headed for Europe.

The next two seasons were spent playing for SaiPa in Finland's Elite League. He scored seven goals and added five assists in 46 games as a rookie there.

"Then I suffered a concussion in the first game of my second season with them," Radke said. "I couldn't get cleared to play again. I officially retired. It was really hard to accept that, left me in a difficult place and faced with changing my plans."

So he came home and started working with professional golf instructors and playing all those rounds out in Arizona.

"I got accepted to go to school at Arizona State and I tried to get on the golf team, but the coach there never responded to my attempts to reach him," said Radke, who instead joined the school's club golf team.

The pandemic shut down his school in 2019 and he headed back to Chicago, where he spent the summer working with golf coach Dave Impastato, who operates golf academies in Illinois, Florida and Texas.

Impastato knew Bradley golf coach Jeff Roche, and sent Radke's swing video and Trackman data to BU.

And now he's a 23-year-old sophomore emerging as a leader on the BU team, anxiously awaiting a chance to play college golf.

"It’s a good fit for me, I’m excited to be with this team,“ Radke said. ”Our fall season is canceled and the campus has been on COVID lockdown. We can begin practicing pretty soon. And we can enter as individual players in independent tournaments. Hopefully, we'll be able to get a season in the spring."

Asked what players he’d pick to join in a dream PGA round, Radke said: "That would have to be Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Brooks Koepka. What an experience that would be."

Radke is gaining experience and now has a plus-2 handicap as his development continues.

Hockey players often become excellent golfers, the swing mechanics being similar. Former Peoria Rivermen and NHL defenseman Darren Veitch went on to a pro golf career.

NHLers like Grant Fuhr, Jeremy Roenick, Dan Quinn, Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux and Ray Whitney have had notable golf careers after hockey.

"It's the same work ethic I can apply from hockey to golf," said Radke, a finance major at BU. "The same focus needed, too. I always liked to give my cousins crap about playing basketball because they had to go to school to do it.

"Now here I am, back in school."

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.