While numerous local hockey players received awards at the Burns Lake Minor Hockey Association (BLMHA) Awards night in Burns Lake on April 17, Bryce Cardinal only smiled and posed for photos with his Bantam teammates.
Though his demeanour wasn’t flashy that night, he and Burns Lake can be proud that he is heading to a Western Hockey League (WHL) skills test.
Bryce, 14, plays defense and has accepted an invitation to attend the WHL Skills Combine in Richmond on June 1-2.
“I’m pretty proud of myself, [and] how far I’ve come with hockey,” Bryce told Lakes District News. “I never thought I’d get an invitation to something like that. I just want to go as far as I can with hockey.”
“It’s pretty exciting. We were both excited when we got the email invitation,” his father Curtis said.
Bryce has played hockey since he was 4 years old.
A strong performance at the evaluation in Richmond could make him eligible for the WHL draft, said Steven Bayes, Acting President of the BLMHA.
“As acting president it makes me extremely happy and proud that he’s showing the younger kids that with hard work and commitment you can achieve goals and higher standards,” Bayes said.
WHL Skills Combines are two-day events geared towards helping high-level minor hockey players with their skill development and ability assessment, according to the WHL Prospect Skills Combines website. They also expose players to the WHL by testing them on and off the ice with the latest sports equipment. Professional instructors from the Okanagan Hockey Group conduct on-ice teaching sessions in skating, skills and game performance.
Scouts for the WHL often attend the last session of the event – the End of Camp Competitive Games – depending on the location of the combine.
One combine event was held in Winnipeg in March, and more are scheduled from May in Edmonton, Regina, Calgary and Vancouver, where Bryce will go in June.
On top of his invitation down south, the Lakes District Secondary School student was selected last September out of 57 kids from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert to play Tier 1, the highest level for Bantam players.
He also played in Tier 3, which includes players from Vanderhoof to Houston.
“He’s had good support from all of his family and all of his hockey this past year,” Curtis said. “He himself has put in a lot of extra work off the ice as well. He goes to the gym at school everyday. He’s put in 100 per cent effort.”