Cyclone Hockey captain seeks thrill, championship as decorated career winds down


Iowa State’s Cory Sellers, senior, watches for the puck Friday evening. The Cyclones hosted the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Cougars, where they won 9-0.

Austin Anderson

Cory Sellers walks leisurely down the hallway past the locker room at the Ames/ISU Ice Arena after a typical Monday practice.

He has 40 minutes to leave the arena, change clothes, find something to eat and be back on the ice to coach little league hockey — but his body language shows no indication that he’s in a rush.

He’s calm, collected and as cool as the ice he has skated on for the last four years as a defenseman for Cyclone Hockey.

His roommates are sitting in their car in front of the arena patiently waiting on Sellers, the last player out of the building. He has a classic T-shirt and shorts on to go along with his two signature items of clothing.

His flip-flops would never leave his feet if it he could help it, reminiscent of the times he’s lived in Hawaii and California, which are sandwiched between his birth and high school graduation when he called Florida home.

The second signature item of clothing is a hat that rests on his head nearly every day.

“Whatever works with my outfit,” he said.

On this day, a black, Chicago Blackhawks cap is his hat of choice, revealing his Chicago roots that originally connected him with the sport he now loves. Many nights were spent in front of the TV watching his beloved Blackhawks with his father when Sellers was a boy growing up in the Chicago suburbs.

His dad signed him up for roller hockey when he was 6 years old, and Sellers played until he gave up hockey at the age of 12. The itch to get back into the sport was apparent not long after though, and Sellers found his way to the ice for the first time two years later.

Sellers and the sport of hockey, much like Sellers and his headwear, quickly became inseparable.

After graduating high school, Sellers moved on to the junior leagues, where he played in Ontario, Canada. He was named an all-star and team captain for the North Bay Trappers. His teammate, J.P. Kascsak, decided to play hockey at Iowa State and let Sellers know he would be a great fit for the program.

“I came on a visit and I loved it,” Sellers said. “I decided right there [to come to Iowa State].”

Sellers has been a key contributor since he arrived in Ames four years ago and has worked his way to a selection as a co-captain by his team this season.

“He’s a leader by example,” said Cyclone Hockey coach Jason Fairman. “He’s not the most outspoken leader but when he does speak, guys know it’s important, and they listen.”

Sellers isn’t the most vocal leader but that allows him to work perfectly together with fellow co-captain Alex Stephens. The two have been roommates for the last three years.

They share a room, a passion for hockey, captain duties and even a hat collection that, among Sellers, Stephens and their two roommates Chase Rey and Derek Moser, comes close to 100 total hats.

Stephens has a front-row seat to the humble and laid back life of Sellers on and off the ice.

“He’s a stay-at-home defenseman that pretty much does the right thing every single time,” Stephens said. “He’s a coach’s dream player.”

Sellers has everything his coach would want, but he is also a bit of a walking contradiction. He’s a defenseman who admits his favorite thing to do on the ice is score.

In a game where smashing your opponent into the boards with extreme force is cheered loudly by a rowdy crowd, Sellers has happily given tours of the campus to players he will be facing off against later that night.

He’s a guy who spent most of his childhood on the beach, but now voluntarily goes to school in the middle of Iowa.

He is also a straight-faced, even-keeled, laid-back ISU student who loves to jump out of planes, off of cliffs and shred waves on his surfboard all summer long.

“It’s a weightless feeling,” Sellers said. “It’s an adrenaline thing. For the plane, I couldn’t stop laughing for two hours.”

His thrill seeking started with a small 15-foot bridge by his house in Florida that he would jump off of as a kid. He kept progressing as he got older, and when he lived in Canada, he jumped off a cliff 70 feet in the air.

The bridge turned into the cliff, which then turned into an airplane thousands of feet above the ground. His next goal is to get certified to jump out of a plane on his own.

From afar, one wouldn’t expect free falling in the air and playing hockey to have much in common. When dealing with Sellers, the safest bet is to expect the unexpected.

“I get a rush from both. It’s not the same rush, but it’s almost like a high,” Sellers said. “It gets you away from everything else. You’re focused on yourself.”

The rush from hockey has been comparable through the first two weekend series of the season.

The Cyclones outscored Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Missouri State by a combined score of 35-4 in the first four games of the season but now turn their attention to the increasingly difficult games ahead.

The Cyclones travel to Central Oklahoma, the reigning national champion and the team that ended Cyclone Hockey’s season just six months ago, on Oct. 2.

“If we would’ve beat them, I think we would have won it all,” Sellers said. 

Only two official games have been played so far this young season but Sellers, Stephens and the rest of the team haven’t been shy about announcing their goal for this season: winning a national championship.

Unlike last year, Sellers doesn’t have a year of eligibility remaining. Whenever and however this season ends, Sellers plans to move on to graduate school. Despite his undeniable talent, this season will be the final for Sellers as a hockey player.

In the 18 years since he was skating around in his driveway playing roller hockey as a 6-year-old boy, he’s never won a championship at any level.

This year has a chance to be different.

“Winning a championship would be a dream come true,” Sellers said. “Every year you start the season with the hopes of winning the championship. If I could get a championship my last year … that would cap off a pretty good hockey career.”

As Sellers leaves the Ames/ISU Ice Arena in his signature beach flip-flops and Chicago Blackhawks hat, it’s easy to see where he came from.

The senior has his back turned to the ice now, and Cyclone Hockey will soon be a part of his past. Before that, however, there’s potential for a third signature item for Sellers to wear to match his flip-flops and hat — a championship ring.