I guess you can say that I have always loved the game of hockey. My parents say that when I was just over a year old I would sit on their lap as they looked through the newspaper and point at every hockey picture and say "hottey."
Growing up in Wawota, a small Saskatchewan town that is home to about 600 people, all I ever did was play hockey. The first time I was ever on the ice was when I was 5 months old. My mom was teaching my older sister how to skate and she let me roam the ice in my walker. Not long after that, at the age of 2, I was on skates. At the rink I would be on ice skates, and at home I would be on roller skates. Everywhere in the house was a hockey rink for me — the kitchen, the living room, but especially the basement. My parents had to paint the basement floor three times in one year because my brother, sister and I wore through it playing so much floor hockey.
Having only 600 people in my town meant that there was only 1 hockey team per age group — which in turn meant there was a lot of open ice for us to play "shinny." Shinny is just a pick-up game of hockey. There are no rules, no scores, no refs etc., it is just the game of hockey being played and enjoyed by all — and I believe it is hockey in its purest form. We would play shinny for hours upon end, and that is where I learned the fundamentals of hockey. Little did I know that those hours spent having fun playing shinny were actually hours of practice and development. Skating, stick handling, passing, shooting — all basic fundamentals of hockey developed through hours of endless fun. I am so grateful to have grown up in Wawota and had the chance to play hockey every single day, I was the luckiest kid in the world.
At the age of 5 I was old enough to begin playing organized minor hockey. My dad was my coach all through minor hockey, and taught me everything about the game. In addition to the ins-and-outs of the game itself, he taught me other valuable lessons that would be vital to my success. He taught me to be unselfish and share the puck, to hustle and work hard every practice and every game, and also he taught me to be a good teammate and look out for others. The game of hockey continues to be a great bond between my dad and I.
My mom's role, though very different from my dads, was no less important in my development as a hockey player. Although she was the one to introduce me to the ice, it was her influence on me away from the rink that was most important. She taught me to be mentally and emotionally strong, to always believe in myself and never give up. Also she taught me to never forget how much fun I have playing hockey, and in her words "have hockey inside your heart and let it come out" and "play every day as if you were playing road hockey." She always was and continues to be my biggest supporter.
I played hockey in Wawota until I was 15 years old, when it became evident that if I wanted to improve as a hockey player I had to play in a better league and against better players. So after a tryout I joined the Esterhazy Bantam AA team, which meant a 140-mile round trip for every practice and every game. It was a huge commitment from my parents, but like always they were there for me. For me, the travel didn't matter; I was doing what I loved.
The next year, at the age of 16, I left home to move to Tisdale, Saskatchewan to play Midget AAA hockey. Leaving home, my family, and friends was hard, but I was chasing my hockey dream. After that I was on my way. Next came the Western Hockey League, followed by getting drafted to the National Hockey League, playing in the World Junior Championships, and finally playing my first NHL game. I will never forget my first game, I recall skating around in warm-up with a smile on my face for the better part of 15 minutes, that experience was the coolest thing in the world. I had achieved my lifelong dream of playing in the NHL, but was not even close to satisfied.
Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal. I dreamt about hoisting it as a kid, drew pictures of it, had posters of it on my wall. In my mind I've won it a million times, but have fallen short so far in my NHL career. So I continue to practice and play every day with that goal firmly entrenched in my mind. The dream of winning the Stanley Cup is the driving force behind all my efforts, day in and day out, and the pursuit is relentless.
I have many people to thank, as I did not make it to where I am today on my own. I was fortunate to have great coaches throughout various levels of hockey that took the time to share their knowledge and passion of the game with me. I have had many teammates to share the game with, and have remained good friends with to this day. The great community of Wawota - it will always be my home. All my friends, what can I say you are the best in the world. And finally to all my family, but especially my sister, brother, mom and dad, I am forever grateful…