SAINT ANDREWS – Last year, Gabe Smith of Saint Andrews was honoured with the New Brunswick U15 AAA Hockey League high scoring title for scoring the most points in the province. Not to be outdone, younger brother Gavin Smith, also a hockey player, earned himself a spot on the New Brunswick U14 male hockey team this year, and he will be competing with the team at the 25th Atlantic Challenge Cup in Moncton on Thanksgiving weekend in October.
One of only three young men in Charlotte County to have earned this honour in the past ten years (the others being Sam McGaw and older brother, Gabe), 12-year-old Smith said he is “really excited” to be playing on this team, because only the best players are chosen.
“They took all the best players from New Brunswick and put them on a team, and we’re going to play against all the other provinces in Atlantic Canada,” said Smith.
Smith, who has been skating since he was three-years-old, began playing hockey when he was five. Throughout the years, Smith, who plays forward, has played on several teams, moving up as his skills improved. He said it took a lot of hard work to get to this point, and he is very happy to know that all that work has paid off for him.
“Quite a lot of work,” said Smith. “A lot of practices, a lot of work with the team to get this point. It takes a long time to get to this point. Last winter I played for the EDZA South AAA Warriors out of Saint John. Before that, in Atom I was just playing for the Charlotte County Whalers, it’s more local. As I got older I moved up to the higher levels.”
Smith, a Grade 8 student at Sir James Dunn Academy in Saint Andrews, said his parents received an email with the team roster about three weeks ago. There are no actual team practices, and the team will get together for the tournament. Later, there will be tryouts for next year’s team. The tryouts for the New Brunswick U14 team were held in Moncton, where 64 players were chosen for the first round. The second round took place in Quispamsis, where the team was narrowed down to 20 players.
Hockey isn’t just a seasonal thing for Smith. In addition to playing on teams throughout the winter, he also plays during the summer at hockey summer camps. Smith said he doesn’t get to play as much in the summer as he would like, but he is thrilled to take part in those camps and any other opportunity to play during the off-season.
Smith’s father, Gareth Smith, said this tournament is an “entry-level for the kids” to get them to the next step, which would be “prep schools and junior”. He added that many famous players coming out of New Brunswick have played in this tournament, and he is thrilled and proud that both of his sons are able to follow in those footsteps.
“Jake Allen played in this tournament, and Sean Couturier,” said Gareth.” Most of the major players who have ever done anything from New Brunswick, this would be the entry point for them. With all the hockey that all the kids play in Charlotte County, there’s only been a few kids through the years make this time. It’s kind of a big thing. When you look at that trophy, which I did when Gabe’s team won it, it has Sidney Crosby’s name, it has Brad Marchand, Nathan MacKinnon, Jake Allen, Sean Couturier, just all these guys that are playing in the NHL. It’s kind of special for me.”
Smith said he loves the sport of hockey, and he thinks everyone, no matter how old they are, should give it a try at least once.
“It’s very difficult to learn,” said Smith. “Once you get a start, once you get into it, it’s really good. Everyone should try hockey because it’s really fun. Everyone will love it.”