It’s been awhile since Jason Tapp has played goalie.
But he’s been stopping plenty of shots lately, fired at him by players on the Union College men’s hockey team in practice.
These weren’t vulcanized rubber pucks, though, but Americanized quiz questions.
Then the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) took a few whacks, and Tapp, the Dutchmen’s associate head coach, went 6-for-6 in the shootout.
That was his score in the naturalization exam that serves as the penultimate step toward becoming a U.S. citizen. Tapp, a 41-year-old native of Kelowna, British Columbia, 3 1/2 hours east of Vancouver, will take the final step with the Oath of Allegiance ceremony at the Albany County Supreme Court on Friday morning, a process that one of his players, freshman center Owen Farris from Vancouver, just completed, also.
Besides various residency and travel benefits that come with dual Canadian and U.S. citizenships, both plan to become active voters at a time when the U.S. faces a pivotal year of elections.
“That’s part of the reason why. You see what’s going on politically, and then just being able to vote in your local elections and stuff, too,” Tapp said. “I’ve got three kids that I have to worry about, and trying to make sure you’re voting to your values, that was the biggest thing: My kids.”
“Right after the ceremony, there was a place you can sign up to register to vote, so that’s the first thing I did,” the 19-year-old Farris said. “It was a proud moment. I never voted in Canada because I was never old enough, so this will be my first vote. It’s an exciting experience, and it’ll be fun.
“I don’t want to get too much into my politics, but, yeah, it’s an interesting time,” he added with a grin. “There’s some big decisions in the U.S. right now, and it’s kind of interesting for me to walk into that, and this’ll be my first vote.”
Tapp, a history major at Boston University, was hired as Union’s goaltending coach on a volunteer basis in 2009-10 and has been head coach Rick Bennett’s lead assistant, promoted to associate head coach in 2016-17.
Farris moved with his family from Vancouver to Dallas in 2012, and he and Tapp have lived in the U.S. as holders of the Permanent Resident Card (green card).
Tapp’s was due to expire, and he decided to go the extra yard by becoming a U.S. citizen. He and his wife, Nicol Lally, the ABC-10 morning news anchor, live in North Greenbush with their three children, Ella, 10, Avery, 7, and Kellen, 5.
Through the pile of paperwork, one of the tougher requirements was to list all the instances when he has left the country in the last five years. As Union’s top recruiter, we’re talking “a boatload” of trips, he said, about 100, mostly to Canada.
“Thankfully for us, we have to have a recruiting log, so I had the dates of every time I left, but if I didn’t, I would’ve been in a lot of trouble,” Tapp said.
The exam itself turned out to be the easy part, especially since the roster of 100 potential questions the USCIS will ask is readily available, with answers. During the actual test, the USCIS lines up 10 of those, and you only have to get six correct. Tapp and Farris each nailed the first six they faced.
“If you take a little time and study, it’s a lot of common-knowledge things that are useful to know,” Farris said. “I was fortunate coming to this country knowing English. They give you an English test, and I kind of laughed it off as a breeze for me and coach Tapp. But it’s a serious thing for a lot of people that isn’t quite easy. It was a good feeling when I left. I felt very humbled about coming to this country, having a similar culture from Canada, speaking English, and that’s a big thing that has helped me succeed and feel assimilated into the U.S.”
“It was kind of fun,” Tapp said. “I watched video with the ‘D’ [defense], and we’d sit there and do a practice test together. Then I’d give them a practice test and see how well they would do.
“Some of the guys didn’t do so well,” he said, laughing. “My wife said they did it at work with a few of her co-workers, and they didn’t do very well on it, either.
“It’s stuff on the Constitution, stuff I didn’t know, Senate seats and House seats and how many of each and those kind of things, that was interesting. And learning about the Constitution, especially now, seeing the impeachment stuff going on right now, and you’re reading a practice test on it and seeing it. It was more interesting that way than anything, just to see that stuff and learn more about the Constitution. I was a history major, and it’s all still new to me.”
Among the players who helped Tapp prepare was junior goalie Darion Hanson, a Minnesotan who is one of three political science majors on the team who took a 20-question practice test and scored 19, missing Woodrow Wilson as the President during World War I.
“He and I were both pretty big into the political sphere, and we talk a lot about that stuff, so he wanted to quiz me as much as he wanted to quiz himself,” Hanson said. “It’s a lot easier than you think, but, still, we had three guys at 15 and 17 or so …
“So you’ve got to be a D student in order to get it,” he dryly noted.
Farris said it was “a very proud moment” when he took the Oath of Allegiance, “something that’ll be a big impact on my life.”
Tapp and his family are eagerly anticipating the same impact.
“This is a big deal and something he has worked for a long time to achieve,” Lally said in a Twitter direct message.
“It’ll be exciting,” Tapp said. “I’ve got lots of friends coming in, and my kids will take the morning off from school and come down and see it, so they’re excited and making signs and everything else.”