Rapid City Rush

A Three-On-One Rush, Rhett Kingston's Journey

December 5, 2023 - ECHL (ECHL)
Rapid City Rush News Release

(RAPID CITY, S.D.) - There's one thing in life that most people take for granted. Whether it's the two feet underneath them, or three meals every day, or four corners on the local city block - it's familiar and fits comfortably like an old glove.

Maybe it's five o'clock and time to go home to family or the roar of the crowd when six points get scored on Sunday afternoon. Not always euphoria or seventh heaven, but something constant, expected to be there every single day.

It's 8 a.m. at The Monument Ice Arena and Rhett Kingston arrives at work. There is no pomp and circumstance surrounding his morning coffee and the reddish handlebar mustache he sports. As he changes into workout clothes and heads for his shin pads, socks, and pants, there's not much difference between the life of Rhett Kingston and any other minor leaguers... until he goes to tie his skates.

Hockey is a numbers game. As Kingston scored 23 goals last season with the SPHL's Macon Mayhem, that number is made exponentially more impressive as he grabs his skate lace with only three fingers on his right hand.

What would be a hardship for many has turned into an incredible story for Kingston, playing affiliated hockey in the ECHL while missing two fingers and letting few be any the wiser for it.

"I was born like that so I've never known any different," said Kingston. "My dad just gave me a hockey stick and said go for it."

After a junior career in Canada, Kingston was an NCAA prospect at Western Michigan University where he scored 17 points his sophomore season. After transferring to finish his college career, he made his professional debut in the SPHL last season.

"The last two years of college were a bit of a struggle," admitted Kingston, "but then I got to Fayetteville (SPHL) and I was ready to go."

It took just two games for the rude awakening of professional hockey to set in, Kingston was promptly traded to the Macon Mayhem in the middle of Georgia, to a squad coached by Nick Niedert.

"He gets out of the car, long hair, big mustache, yellow crocs, and that's it," recalled Niedert. "My wife looked at me and said you're going to love this kid."

After settling into the deep South, Niedert had no choice but to fall in love with Kingston, who led all SPHL rookies in goals last season. Sometimes, it was a tough love though.

"I was very hard on him when he was forechecking. I made sure he went through the guy,[1] " said Niedert, who coached Kingston to play physical. "He had to take away the most time and space to make it."

"Playing in the SPHL was a good challenge for me last season. I got a lot of ice time and a chance to show my stuff," said Kingston.

That included a hat trick in Quad City where he removed his right hand from his glove and saluted the crowd with all three of his fingers - a celebration he first debuted in college.

"I mean, hopefully, I get the chance to do it this year 'cause you'll definitely see it," smiled Kingston, remembering his viral video moment.

"He's a known goal-scorer," said Rapid City Rush Head Coach Scott Burt. "He's going to get the chance to move up the lineup if he keeps playing the way he did. The biggest thing for him is building his aura as a player."

It's an enigmatic aura for Kingston. Cruising through Black Diamond, Alberta, Kingston will give out that unmistakable wave with his original recipes from the service window of the food truck he owns. He'll even give a tip of his flat-brimmed ballcap as he collects his morning joe from Essence of Coffee, his favorite local spot in Rapid City.

"He's a quintessential Western Canadian kid," said Niedert.

A kidwho is making an impact on the game like no one else in the ECHL.

"I had a kid who reached out to me who was playing in the NA3HL at the time," remembered Kingston. "He just said, 'Hey, I kind of look up to you,' and it was a cool experience. I don't consider myself an inspiration, but definitely a role model."

It's a normal 8 a.m. day for Rhett Kingston as he arrives to The Monument.It's a day like any other, wanting to finish atop the seven-team Mountain Division by being the best contributor to the six-man unit on the ice.

"I don't think there's any issue," said Kingston. "I just go out there and do my best and wherever the game takes you, it takes you."

Most minor league players get five years to make an impact, for some even fewer. Wherever the journey takes him from here, Kingston has already left a unique handprint on the ECHL.

Three fingers on his right hand is a challenge and there's no two ways about it.

But if there's one man who wears it well - it's Rhett Kingston.

• Discuss this story on the ECHL message board...

ECHL Stories from December 5, 2023

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

Other Recent Rapid City Rush Stories

Sports Statistics from the Stats Crew
OurSports Central