There's much more to life than hockey for Grand Rapids native Avery Peterson, a 2013 sixth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Wild.
For Peterson there's his older brother, Evan, who is battling an extremely rare and terminal genetic brain disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD).
To be closer to his brother, Peterson left the University of Nebraska-Omaha in December after 1-1/2 seasons and confirmed Tuesday he is transferring to Minnesota Duluth to finish his college hockey career.
Peterson, who is enrolling for the 2016 spring semester, will begin practicing with the Bulldogs on Jan. 13 when classes resume and be eligible to play again in January 2017. He'll be a junior at that time, unless the NCAA grants him another year of eligibility under a hardship waiver.
"My brother has a terminal brain disease and he's a big part of my life. Being close to home was something that was special to me," said Peterson, 20, who could have finished the season playing juniors in the United States Hockey League but won't because it would keep him away from Evan.
"It's all internally," Peterson said of his brother's MLD. "Physically you look at him and you wouldn't be able to tell. It's a progressive disease that things eventually just deteriorate and it takes control of your body. It's a pretty ugly disease, but he's a positive kid and things are going all right for him."
Evan, now 22, was diagnosed with MLD in January 2013 after several years of battling an unknown ailment. He underwent a bone marrow transplant later in April that year, with younger sister Annika being the donor. Avery, who wanted to donate but wasn't a perfect match like Annika, was then selected No. 167 overall by the Wild in that year's draft.
Peterson said the Wild organization has been very supportive of his decision to transfer to UMD, which features another Wild draft pick in junior defenseman Carson Soucy.
"They were definitely excited about the opportunity when (UMD) came calling as well," Peterson said. "With the circumstances and everything, they thought that was a good fit.
"They are a part of it and they realize there are things outside of hockey that matter even more."
Peterson said he's looking forward to being closer to his family and being able to help his brother while still playing college hockey. He said it was tough being away from his brother while in Omaha and it was difficult for his parents to attend Mavericks games.
Peterson, who was named Minnesota Mr. Hockey in 2014 as a Grand Rapids senior, was a key part of the Mavericks' program as a freshman last year. His 11 goals and 10 assists helped the team reach the Frozen Four for the first time in school history.
As a sophomore with the Mavs, he went 13 games without a point before tallying an assist Dec. 5 at St. Cloud State - his last game in uniform.
Peterson will be one of two transfers joining UMD in 2016-17 along with former St. Scholastica forward Luke Simpson, who will be a junior.
The Bulldogs also have signed four incoming freshmen in Blaine High School senior forward Riley Tufte, U.S. National Team Development Program forward Joey Anderson of Roseville, Minn., Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) goaltender Hunter Miska of North Branch, Minn., and Fargo Force (USHL) defenseman Jarod Hilderman.
UMD will graduate at least eight players from this year's team and could lose more to the pro ranks, but Peterson says UMD still will be strong.
"The Bulldogs are a powerhouse. They have so many good players this year and I have a lot of good friends on the team," Peterson said by phone as he rode to Grand Rapids with Hermantown native and current UMD sophomore center Jared Thomas to Tuesday's prep showdown between the Hawks and Thunderhawks. "It's a place that will be fun to play at for sure. I'm just happy they called."