Paul D'Agostino grew up in hockey-rich New England. The Williamsport Outlaws defenseman won a high school state championship as a junior and played Division I hockey at UMass-Lowell.
Hockey was never very far from his mind.
He continued his hockey career professionally has played for the Mississippi River Kings and the Louisiana Ice Gators, both established franchises in the Southern Professional League.
D'Agostino has never felt like an outsider, even in those southern states where football may reign. The Williamsport community hasn't made D'Agostino and his teammates feel like outsiders, either, but the challenges for Williamsport's new defenseman is different than his previous journeys.
Williamsport is no established hockey hotbed. D'Agostino knows that but is willing to take a few slapshots, make a few hits and block some pucks in hopes of changing that.
"I've never been a part of an experience like this," D'Agostino said recently during the team's first media day in Williamsport. "When I played down South, it may not be considered a hockey hotbed, but down there they had established teams and had fan support. Here it's a new situation."
D'Agostino is just asking fans to give his team and sport a chance. He said fans will enjoy the Outlaws way of hockey - fast and tough. He believes the team can win fans over if given the opportunity.
"People are going to be interested in hockey here," said D'Agostino. "It's one of those things where you have to break down some barriers and introduce them to the sport.
"But as soon as they get hooked on it, that's it for them."
Defenseman Rob Sich shared a smiliar thought.
"We need to get them out here," he said. "It's something new and they may be a little wary, but once you get them here I don't think you'll have any problem to get them to come back."
Sich also has experience in the SPHL and has already noticed a buzz throughout the community. The Outlaws work out at the Fitness Factory and have interacted with curious potential fans.
"We've been talking to a lot of people and trying to get them out there to support us," said Sich. "The community has been very nice, too. Everyone has been great to talk to and it's nice to have your community behind you and it can make for a successful organization and we can carry on four years here."
The new Outlaws have seen a niche of hockey fans build up in the South and think the same can happen in the Northeast where most fans are at least familiar with the sport.
D'Agostino said his new home at Bowman Field will give fans a unique perspective of the game with the majority of the seats so close to the ice surface. He suggests that those that have watched the game on TV need to witness the speed of the skaters, the hardness of the hits and velocity of the puck in person to fully appreciate what the game has to offer.
"This is going to be a good experience for everybody and I think that will definitely help grow the sport here," said D'Agostino.