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Senior sensation: Neiv Gupta

Delving into the successes and future of a senior ice hockey pheno
Senior Neiv Gupta prepares to intercept an opponent’s pass to his teammate. Photo courtesy of Neiv Gupta | Used with permission

Ever since he was six years old, senior Neiv Gupta found himself infatuated with ice hockey. He has been playing ice hockey for approximately nine years and has participated in many competitive tournaments, including the CCM World Invite, United States Hockey League Frosty Cup, National Hockey League Youth Cup and the International Silver Stick.  

“When I was really young, I had a friend whose brother played hockey and that got me initially interested in it,” Neiv said. “And then I [started seeing] hockey on TV and I saw the physicality, the speed of the sport, and it was something that I really wanted to give a try.”

As Neiv refined his skills, he set his sights on playing at the highest level of ice hockey. He previously played on two AAA teams (the highest tier of youth hockey played in the country): the Anaheim Junior Ducks and the San Jose Junior Sharks, but he is currently off the roster since he is playing on the MVHS Varsity Football team. Neiv recognizes how his ice hockey coaches have contributed to pushing him to be a better athlete and person.

“[My coaches] also made sure that I knew my place in [the] teams that I played for where I was the best player on the team, [and] I kind of felt like I [could] slack off a bit here and there,” Neiv said. “The coach put me in line and said, ‘Hey, the player right next to you is no different than you are. You need to put in the same amount of reps, dedicate the same amount of time. Just because you have the best stats does not give you any privilege.’”

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Neiv finds himself continuously revisiting this philosophy in hopes of carrying it into other aspects of his life. He values becoming  a better person and recognizes the importance of avoiding arrogance, instead focusing on uplifting the people around him. However, he acknowledges that having the right amount of confidence is essential, since ice hockey is like “football on skates” — a very dangerous sport that can lead to serious injuries. 

“I have really focused myself on building my strength, building my flexibility off the ice and also making sure that I’m playing safe, but I’m also playing physical,” Neiv said. “I’m not playing reckless [where] I could injure myself [or where] I could get a concussion. I am making sure that my head is up [and] always on a swivel, and that is a skill that I have developed over the years.”

Despite the daunting stories regarding the dangers of playing ice hockey, especially at a highly competitive level, Neiv says he would never give up ice hockey, no matter what setbacks and injuries he witnesses.

Daphne Huang

“I have never backed down from that,” Neiv said. “A lot of my teammates have gotten injuries: broken wrists, concussions and messed up their knees, but I have never felt scared [of] that aspect. It just motivated me to build my strength up even more, but I was never scared — it [has] only motivated me.”

Although Neiv is passionate about playing ice hockey, both he and his father Sanjay Gupta feel that the time commitment to playing ice hockey at the highest youth level may take away time that Neiv could allocate toward other extracurricular activities. 

“It’s been challenging [for him], balancing hockey travel and academics, especially when [he has] to complete assignments in hotel rooms and on airplanes after playing a game or two of hockey,” Sanjay said. “To play a sport at the highest level with future NHL draft picks and D1 level players is not easy and requires extreme discipline to stay in top athletic condition. It also means that there is very little time besides sports and academics for entertainment or relaxation.”

Neiv shares that his current aim is to play NCAA Division 1 ice hockey. He has already heard from college coaches expressing interest and has been invited to prospect camps from several universities.

“I’m taking the walk-on route, where I would get admission into a university based on my academic merit and then I could decide whether [or not] I want to play at the Division 1 level for that university,” Neiv said. “But the coaches that I have talked to, they’ve expressed their interest; they said that I’m good enough [and], with a little bit of development, I’ll definitely be good enough to play on their team. They have already invited me to tryouts and prospect camp [and] they said that I performed really well there.”

Through the ups and downs, Neiv’s mother Geetika Gupta recalls becoming engrossed in the specific plays of each game. However, as she started attending more games, she learned to take pride in other aspects of the match instead of just the wins and losses.

“With sports, there are always frustrations, whether it is related to personal [or] team performance or just dynamics in the locker room,” Geetika said. “When Neiv started playing hockey, I also used to get caught up in the moment and feel the highs and lows equally. But over time, I have come to realize that it’s a sport after all and one side will always lose, so we can’t have half of the people being depressed after each game. We now enjoy the game, win or lose, forget the frustrations and cherish the good moments on and off the ice.”

Likewise, Neiv learned that despite all the wins and losses that have accumulated in his career, such as his team winning the CCM World Invite and becoming runner-ups in the International Silver Stick tournament, the most impactful moments of his journey have been with his teammates.

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“I would say my best memories have not been from winning or losing,” Neiv said. “But it’s more of the minor things: the team dinners [and] the funny moments in the locker room. Those are the memories that I cherish more than just winning a championship, winning games or going [to] tournaments. It’s those little things that I really cherish.”

While ice hockey has offered Neiv a variety of different experiences and set forth plenty of challenges, he identifies that one of the most valuable things that came out of his athletic journey were the morals he developed and the strength in character he gained along the way.

“[Even if it] is a risk, you just have to have faith that eventually things will work out, that eventually your hard work will be rewarded,” Neiv said. “My parents always say that I should just do my duty but [not] concern myself with the results. Do your best, put [in] your best effort [and the] results will be what they are. You should have satisfaction in the fact that you did your best, rather than in the results that you get.”

This story was originally published on El Estoque on November 2, 2023.