Glovertown’s Stephen Hunter had to go through a few downs before experiencing some big-time highs.
The 17-year-old knows what it’s like to be cut from Central AAA hockey teams, and he knows how deep that feeling goes.
However, Hunter was named to last year’s Central AAA Midget IcePak squad, which was one of the highlights of his young hockey career.
Well, once the momentum ball started rolling, it quickly started to pick up speed.
As a member of Central’s AAA midget team, Hunter was eligible to attend a hockey showcase in Prince Edward Island.
Being a rookie AAA player, he didn’t have any major expectations.
For example, he didn’t expect to be approached by a Division 1 Nova Scotia high school team, and he didn’t expect to be moving to Windsor, Nova Scotia.
“It put a smile on my face as soon as I heard it,” said Hunter with a laugh. “That was my first year playing midget AAA hockey with the IcePak, so I wasn’t able to attend the showcase prior to last year. All AAA players get invited, so I put my name in and just hoped for the best.”
The former Tornadoes goalie was home during March break, so he took in the School Sports Newfoundland and Labrador Central East Ball Hockey Regional Tournament, which was held in his old school gym.
The hockey there was obviously a little different than what he’s used to while competing for the King's Edgehill School, which competes in Division 1 of the Nova Scotia High School Hockey League.
However, Hunter was only too happy to cheer on his now long-distance friends, and visit the gym where he played countless hours of badminton and floor hockey.
Also with him was his mother Darlene, who couldn’t be happier for Stephen, and the success he’s earning at such a young age.
“There’s not enough words to describe how proud I am,” said Darlene. “When he was invited to play for this team, we told him whatever he decided to do we would support him. He made the decision on his own, and we supported him 100 per cent.”
Unknown to the goalie at that point was how his parents would support him in the beginning. He left for King's Edgehill School in early September, and discovered early on that being in a different province on his own would take some getting used to.
“It’s pretty normal now because I’m used to it, but I really missed home when I first got there,” said Hunter.
“The first two weeks were hard, and we knew there were times when he wanted to come home, but we had to tell him, ‘We’re supporting you in this, and this is a part of it,’” said Darlene. “When he comes home for a visit, it’s hard to send him back.”
Unfortunately for Darlene, she had to wave goodbye to her son when he left again for his King's Edgehill School team, where he’s getting the bulk of the starts due to an injury to the other goaltender.
For Darlene, knowing he’s doing well athletically is only half the reason why she can still smile when he’s gone.
“He’s maintaining high grades, and his report cards and comments from his teachers are extremely encouraging,” said Darlene. “I’ve seen such a big change in him. He’s matured and he’s taking on new responsibilities, and all of this is going to help him with his plans for the future.”
Indeed, the young goalie has a lot of goals he would like to reach, but he isn’t jumping into those dreams headfirst.
He wants to play NCAA hockey someday, but he knows there are many roads to cross before he can suit up for an American college team.
First, he plans on attending a Junior A evaluation camp, and if everything goes according to plan, he wants to play a few years of Junior A hockey before attacking his NCAA dreams.
“Hopefully, somebody will notice me,” said Hunter of the Junior A camp. “I would love to play Junior A hockey for a few years, and if I’m successful there, and if it’s possible, I would love to play NCAA hockey. I also got an invite to go to a camp that’s run by NCAA coaches, which will be held in Michigan this summer.”
He still has friends in Glovertown who play minor hockey and school sports, so Hunter knows when teams travel to regional or provincial events, as well as minor hockey tournaments.
Although he loves playing for his new Division 1 school, he still misses taking road trips with his friends.
“Whenever I hear they’re going away on road trips to compete in tournaments, yeah, it hurts a little inside,” said Hunter with a grin.