Scholar Stories: Portillo Hub Leads to Savings, Earnings and Unified Messaging
Continuing the series that began in 2016-17, each Wednesday MGoBlue.com will spotlight a Michigan student-athlete and his academic pursuits. Here are our stories of scholar-athletes, brought to you by Absopure.
By Morgan Wagner
Growing up as a young boy in Gothenburg, Sweden, a future of playing college hockey in the United States wasn’t always on his radar. University of Michigan ice hockey goaltender, Erik Portillowho has a .926 save percentage with 830 saves on the season, once considered quitting the sport altogether.
Around the age of 15, while playing for Frölunda Hockey Club, Portillo found himself at a crossroads, wondering if he should continue playing the sport he loved. Playing with and facing Sweden’s best goalkeepers made it difficult to stand out from the crowd that usually plays for the Swedish national team.
It wasn’t until Portillo was connected with a former Canadian hockey team coach that he re-evaluated quitting hockey. He taught Portillo the ins and outs of North American hockey and the college recruiting process which completely changed Portillo’s mind. Suddenly he had a purpose again [with] goal in mind,” as he described it, refocused and decided to play college hockey.
Portillo’s trip to Michigan was unlike most of his teammates. Typical concerns of an incoming freshman aside, Portillo was preparing his life to travel 4,000 miles to Ann Arbor to live, study and play in an unfamiliar country at the height of a pandemic.
“I was nervous about coming to another country, studying in English, and doing it at a top university,” Portillo said. However, he noted that Michigan gave him a sense of promise and security regarding academics. The resources offered by the University marked him during his visit.
During his official visit, he was informed of the available tutors and educational advisers who assured him that they would adapt his lesson schedule to hockey. He compared Michigan’s proactive mindset of setting it up for success favorably to other schools he was considering. For Portillo, this was the “big difference” that set Michigan apart from other universities.
Portillo noted that academics were always extremely important growing up, and the University of Michigan was a perfect fit for him. He was offered a high level of competition both at the Ross School of Business and on the hockey team, with each program being nationally ranked.
Somehow, between juggling his rigorous course load at Ross and his demanding athletic schedule with team meetings, practices and workouts, Portillo always finds a way to give back to the community. local community.
Dualete is an athletic mentoring app created by a group of business and engineering students from Michigan. Portillo jumped on board as a consultant to provide insight and expertise into the world of Division I athletics. Between breaks in his busy schedule, he meets young athletes via video chat, one-on-one and as a group, to mentor them and help them excel on the ice. All proceeds are currently donated to the local Ann Arbor hockey community.
One of Portillo’s fondest hockey memories so far was when he made his collegiate debut for the Wolverines on Dec. 3, 2020 at Penn State, where he made 15 saves on 17 shots.
“When I finally got to play, I realized how much I really love playing hockey and how much fun it is,” he recalled.
Although the Wolverines lost that game to the Big Ten, it sparked a fire in Portillo and rekindled his love for the sport. This season, the Wolverines shut out Penn State 4-0 in the series with Portillo in goal, racking up a total of 140 saves on 148 shots.
Ever since he was young, Portillo has always looked up to former New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He and Lundqvist are from the same hometown and played on many of the same teams growing up.
Portillo isn’t quite sure if his future will play out like Lundqvist’s, but he’ll likely have to make a decision soon between pursuing his lifelong dream as an NHL goaltender or entering the business world. He was selected as the 67th overall pick by another New York team, the Buffalo Sabers, in the 2019 NHL Draft, but if a career in professional hockey doesn’t pan out, Portillo mentioned he would be interested in eventually becoming a consultant and maybe even starting his own business one day.
“I’ve always thought it was important to have multiple paths available,” the sophomore commerce student said. Although this life-changing decision may be difficult to make, Portillo has two big choices on his hands.
“I’m in a position where I have to decide my next career move in the near future,” he said. “That decision will be between playing professional hockey or starting to work after finishing my degree at Ross. I’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out, but I’m excited about the options available to me.”
• Home to stories of scholars and athletes