Hockey Star Rises From The Dust Of Payson

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A Payson-born teen making good on the collegiate and professional hockey scene seems a fable few would believe.

Doing well in rodeo is a possibility, but not hockey. After all, nary a soul in the Rim Country plays hockey.

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Dusty Collins is a three-time letter winner at Northern Michigan University and a draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But Dusty Collins has shattered that delusion by becoming a three-time letter winner at Northern Michigan University and a draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Collins was born 21 years ago at Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital, now Payson Regional Medical Center. He resided in the Rim Country before his parents moved to Gilbert. His grandfather, Tom Collins, continues to live in Payson.

In 2004, Dusty Collins became the first Arizona native to be drafted into the National Hockey League. He was a fifth round selection by Lightning.

Collins, now a junior at Northern Michigan, has played in almost 100 NCAA Division I hockey games.

Although he underwent surgery to repair a broken wrist this season, Collins has scored seven points in 29 games.

As a teenager growing up in Gilbert, Collins played in the Desert Youth Hockey Association and on the Junior B Polar Bears traveling club team.

His expertise in the sport eventually captured the attention of scouts from USA Hockey's National Team Development program.

The scouts convinced him to move at the end of his sophomore year in high school to Ann Arbor, Mich. and live with a USA Hockey host family.

Tom Collins admits the move was tough on the family but in the end it was the right thing to do because it allowed the teen to play against better competition and year-round with more exposure.

"By going back there, he was able to play on Team USA and travel all over the world. He even played in Russia," Tom Collins said.

His exploits on Team USA eventually earned him a full ride scholarship to NMU where he is now a junior.

Dusty's eventual goal is to wrap up his collegiate career and then fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NHL.

That's a lofty goal for a teenager born in a hockey wasteland where few even know the rules of the game.

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