‘It’s easy to love that your kid wants to be just like Zach’

December 13, 2022


Matt Sindt

Iowa forward Zach White races for the puck during a hockey game at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. The Idaho Steelheads defeated The Iowa Heartlanders, 6-2.

When Damon called White for the first time a year ago, he said the Heartlanders needed a goal scorer. White replied he didn’t know if he could score in the ECHL — but he found out the answer in his first game. 

“He gives you everything he’s got every day,” Damon said, who now serves as Iowa’s head coach. “That’s the best part about Whitey is he’s a great guy to have in the locker room. He fit in well last year with Kuff and Benny, and he’s finding his way this year.”

Though White isn’t a Heartlanders captain or alternate captain, Iowa defenseman Riese Zmolek mentioned the 27-year-old is a leader in the locker room, bringing good energy and spirit every day. Heartlanders defenseman Kevin McKernan sees White as an outgoing guy.

“He’s always chatting and talking and joking,” McKernan said. “So, that’s the best thing you can have in the locker room, and he works very hard. He’s a good little role model for everyone else.” 

When one of White’s teammates was cut in 2022-23, he didn’t see it as another transaction. Instead, White followed through on the characteristics he’s possessed since his childhood. He called his mother to tell her he felt bad for the released player and needed to take him out to dinner.

Zmolek noted the 5-foot-7 forward doesn’t play to his size and is willing to be physical. The average Heartlander is 6-foot-1.

“He’s quick, fast,” Zmolek said. “He’s a good playmaker. He’s always around the puck.”   

When White matched up against the Kansas City Mavericks on Dec. 27, 2021, he recorded a Gordie Hawk hat trick — a goal, an assist, and a fight.   

Contributed photo of Zach White at Cole Gugliano’s seventh birthday party. Gugliano’s father, David, is the team’s dentist.

“I haven’t had many fights, but the ones I’ve been into, it’s a little nerve racking seeing as I’m a smaller guy,” White said that night. “It was fun. It’s good energy. I know the boys like it when the small guy fights.” 

It’s not just with hockey players White makes a positive connection. When Backpocket Brewing — a brewery across the street from Xtream Arena — hosted a meet and greet event with Heartlanders players and hockey operations staff, White made himself comfortable with multiple fans. If the franchise has an event at a local Pizza Ranch, White shows up.   

Emily Meyer, who claims she is White’s biggest fan, talked to him multiple times last season at Backpocket Brewing after games. She said White made it easy for her and her husband to learn the game of hockey as new fans.

 “Sometimes with athletes, they kind of have a cocky attitude, but I really don’t get that from him,” Meyer said. “He’s just really down to earth and I think especially for Iowa, Iowa kind of embodies that. So, I think he fits right in.”  

Contributed photo of Zach White greeting fans after a game.

The franchise’s dentist, David Gugliano, invited Dash — the Heartlanders’ deer mascot — to his son Cole’s birthday party during training camp. While White wasn’t required to show up, he still did because he wanted to give back to young fans.

“My son asked me if he could be like Zach White when he grew up,” Gugliano wrote to The Daily Iowan. “And honestly, you look at everything Zach is on and off the ice, and it’s easy to love that your kid wants to be just like Zach.”  

Now as the SPHL’s Macon Mayhems bench boss, Niedert checks Iowa’s box score every game to see how White performed. They touch base when they can throughout the season.   

“Zach did so much stuff I was doing when I was a player,” Niedert said. “Just being there for the teammates and team-first mentality. He really gets it. He really gives a s— about his teammates. That being said, that’s why I was pushing so hard for him to get an opportunity at the next level, because he does all the right things. He’s a go-getter. He deserves everything he’s gotten.” 

The ECHL may be the end of the road for White — he’s unlikely to progress to a more prestigious league. He’s planning to marry his fiancé, Gabi Marhoffer, in 2023. Dawn White said her son was considering becoming a Massachusetts state trooper after college, though White isn’t sure if he wants to join law enforcement yet.

Instead, the skater who was told he would never make it in hockey suggested he may try to become a coach whenever he steps off the ice the last time as a professional. Over the offseason, he earned extra cash by working with children on their skating.

“It’s just that you get so used to a routine and a schedule, and I love that,” White said. “To get away from that, it gives me anxiety.”  

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