By Gord Montgomery
Spruce Grove Examiner
While the rest of his teammates are enjoying some well-deserved time off over the Christmas break in the Alberta Jr. Hockey League (AJHL), Brandon Hickey of the Spruce Grove Saints will be lacing up the blades to challenge the world.
Hickey, 16, is a first-year defenceman with the Saints but has already shown signs of being a top-end player after being named to Team Pacific for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
To make the roster of this elite squad he had to survive a number of camps featuring the best players in this age bracket from Alberta and B.C.
Hickey, who is 6-foot 1 and 176 lbs., said that sort of training camp grind is difficult, especially since you’re fighting against eventual teammates for a roster spot.
“It is tough. Everyone’s battling for a spot. You can’t take anything lightly. You have to play your game, play to your strengths and not try to do too much. The coaches don’t want all these high-scoring guys, they want role players, too.”
Apparently the coaches liked what they saw in Hickey, who was one of only two players from the AJHL to make the final grade. That majority of players, 18 of 22, on Team Pacific are from the Western Hockey Leauge (WHL).
As a rookie in the AJ, Hickey said he’s received lots of mentoring from his Saints teammates and in particular Corey Chorneyko and Dustin Fostvelt. He credited them for preparing him for what lay ahead at the start of the Team Pacific tryouts.
“They got me in the right state of mind. They gave me little tips and tricks to help me get through the camp and those helped out a lot in the long run; made me a better player.”
Hickey’s coach, Jason Mckee, said the young product is fully deserving of the nod to play on Team Pacific and he sees his defenceman playing a large role on the elite club.
“Brandon’s a very good hockey player. For the last month and a half, with all the injuries we’ve had, he’s probably taken that next step earlier than we expected.
“He’s very deserving of the opportunity to play there. He defends well, skates well, and in my eyes he’s an elite player and deserves to be on that team and I anticipate him playing very well there.”
Even though he’s had some international experience in the past with Team Brick in Novice hockey, Hickey said he’s looking forward to the event even though it will cut into his holiday time, which needless to say, he doesn’t mind.
“This is a pretty big tournament for me. I’m pretty excited,” he ended.
The 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge will feature five area teams from across Canada and five international teams including Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, Finland and the U.S.A.
All the games will take place in Drummondville and Victoriaville, Quebec.
Team Pacific has included some of the top hockey talent in the past including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Brent Seabrook, Dion Phaneuf, Mike Green, Jarome Iginla and Joe Sakic and the Grove’s Stu Barnes.