Arcadia Magazine Spring 2024: Finkeldey Travels from Namibia, Africa, To Attend, Play Hockey At Arcadia

By John DeRosier | March 15, 2024

Max Finkeldey ’26 first came to the United States with a few bags and no idea who was going to pick him up at the Philadelphia International Airport. 

The Namibia native came to the country looking for an opportunity – any opportunity – to play ice hockey, a rarity for someone from the sub-saharan African country that prides itself on its prowess in inline hockey. 

Finkeldey, a former member of the Namibian national inline hockey team, was looking for a new challenge – this time, on the ice. 

A year and a half later, Finkeldey is now a member of the Arcadia University men’s ice hockey team.

“I always like a good challenge, I’ve been that way all my life,” said Finkeldey. “Doing something where other people have a head start is definitely hard, but I just love it.”

A Later Start

Finkeldey was a teenager when he first started playing inline hockey. Already a standout in tennis, swimming, soccer, and volleyball, Finkelday was ready to play inline hockey, but his mother wasn’t ready to give him permission. 

“My mom never wanted me to play roller hockey because it was too hot outside–we lived towards the center of the country–had too much equipment, and was too expensive,” Finkledey said. “Then I moved into a new school near the coast, where it’s a lot cooler than the middle of the country, and all the boys played roller hockey. I finally convinced her to let me try it.”

Using roller skates his parents previously had, Finkeldey immediately fell in love with the sport. Soon, all of his time dedicated to other sports was overtaken by inline hockey. 

“I was practicing over two hours a day,” Finkeldey said. “Starting as a newcomer on a team where the guys had been playing for several years was a challenge, but a lot of fun.” 

His hard work paid off. 

Just a few years after beginning his inline hockey career in 2013, Finkeldey was invited to be part of the Namibia national team. 

Brian Sobel, a Philadelphia native who moved to Namibia to be the national team’s head coach, said Finkeldey’s talent was always there, but it was the work ethic that really caught his eye. 

“I met Max when I moved to Namibia in 2013 when he was 11 years old,” Sobel said. “He was a solid player back then in his age group but he had a great work ethic and continued to improve.”

Finkeldey worked his way up from being a reserve player in 2017 to traveling with the team the following year. “Traveling overseas to play for your country is not something you can ever replicate,” he said. “It was just so much fun and I was really proud.”

Sobel said Finkeldey’s determination and work ethic led him to be placed into the starting lineup and, eventually, become one of the greatest players in the country, not to mention assistant captain.

“Through the years Max became one of the best players Namibia had ever produced,” Sobel said. “He was dominant in Namibia and a force at Worlds.

“The great thing about Max is that he stayed humble, always willing to help younger kids as they were coming up and always reaching out to new national players and helping to show them the ropes,” he added. “Max shows up and does the work – he asks questions and gives everything he has every practice and every game. You can’t really ask for more than that as a coach.”

Coming to America and Hitting the Ice

After traveling around the world playing inline hockey, Finkeldey decided he wanted a new challenge – one that would require him to trade in his roller skates for ice skates. 

After an opportunity to play in Michigan fell apart, Finkeldey asked his coach to talk to some of his connections in the Philadelphia area. Sobel agreed and reached out to the Pennsylvania Huntsmen, a junior ice hockey team in the Eastern Hockey League Premiere. 

“I spoke to someone with the Huntsmen and asked if there was a chance they would be willing to give a good kid a chance to pursue a dream of trying to play ice hockey,” Sobel said. “They loved the idea and gave him a month to see how it worked out. The rest is history.”

At first, Finkeldey struggled with the shift to different rules – five players for each team instead of four, offsides and icing penalties, and checking – and skating on ice instead of roller blading on a dry surface. Still, he played well enough to earn an extension after the first month. After countless hours practicing at the rink, Finkeldey found himself in the starting lineup. 

Playing in the junior league led him on the path to his next goal: playing ice hockey for an NCAA affiliated school. 

“When the playoffs started with the Huntsmen, I started playing at a different level,” Finkeldey said. “I had seven goals and five assists in five games. Once that happened, I started getting all of these letters and offers from schools all over the country.”

Commitment to Arcadia

There are several different ways a junior hockey player can get in front of college scouts to show their talents. One way is through showcases, which are a combination of players from several teams playing in front of scouts. Another way is scouts attending individual team games or practices. 

That’s how Arcadia first started recruiting Finkeldey to play in Glenside.

“I was at a regular skate with the Huntsmen, and the coaches from Arcadia came up to me and said they saw potential in me. They didn’t promise any playing time, and I didn’t know anything about Arcadia.”

“But when I did the research and saw they were NCAA members and looked at the program, I knew I wanted to join and come here,” he added. “I committed without ever visiting.”

Finkeldey arrived on campus in Glenside for the fall 2023 semester. Since then, he’s been playing hockey with the team working to get adjusted to college life. 

“The ice hockey season is the toughest season in college sports,” Finkeldey said. “You get to school for two weeks and then you start preseason practices, then you get into the season and you have practice every day and games every weekend… that goes until about March.” 

The schedule every day is rigorous – practice at 6 a.m., classes beginning at 9:45 a.m., lunch at 1:30 p.m., a team workout at 4:30 p.m., schoolwork until 7 or 8 p.m., and then bed. 

Still, there’s nothing else Finkeldey would rather be doing. The early start time allows him to talk to his family before they go to bed on the other side of the world, and being on the team has led to friendships and opportunities here at Arcadia. 

“You really have to love hockey and enjoy everything about this experience to be successful at the collegiate level,” Finkeldey said. “Getting back into the rhythm of school has been tough because I graduated high school three years ago. The transition to college hockey, however, has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.”

“I just need to keep my grades up and keep getting better at hockey,” he added. “It’s a process I’m still getting used to, and I lean on my teammates a lot. Overall, it’s been a great experience and I’m so happy to be here.”