49ers tight end Kittle coaches Da Beauty League hockey game

EDINA, MN — George Kittle may have grown up to be a football player, but you could say hockey made him tougher on the frozen ponds of Iowa.

“I was usually the goaltender and people were throwing pucks at me,” Kittle said Wednesday. “I’m not really a skateboarder.”

Kittle, a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers and three-time Pro Bowler, was behind the bench as honorary coach of Team Tradition in Da Beauty League, a 4-on-4 summer hockey league with rosters made up of NHL , American Hockey League and college hockey players from and living in Minnesota.

A lifelong hockey fan, Kittle appeared in several games for the Nashville Predators and one between the Minnesota Wild and the Boston Bruins thanks to his relationship with the former Wild forward. Nick Bjugstadwho signed a one year contract with the Arizona Coyotes on July 13. Bjugstad and Kittle share a physio doctor located in the Twin Cities.

“He came after me (to the doctor) and said he was a big hockey fan, a big Preds fan, a big hockey guy,” Bjugstad said. “We were trying to put him on skates, but no luck. Too close to the (football training) camp.

“I’m writing [Kittle] every year (in fantasy football), so it’s fun to meet him and get to know him a bit.”

Video: George Kittle drops the first puck

Kittle (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) was a fifth-round pick by the 49ers in the 2017 NFL Draft from the University of Iowa. While Iowa produces its fair share of football players, Kittle said he’s amazed to see so many Minnesota natives reaching the pinnacle of hockey.

“I didn’t realize how many Minnesota guys were playing in the NHL,” Kittle said. “All the guys were great. I met a bunch of great players.”

Arguably the best tight end in the NFL with blocking and receiving ability, is there an NHL future for the 28-year-old?

“I don’t know about that,” Kittle said. “But I love it. What a fun sport.”

Catherine J. Martinez