Local aboriginal youths 'Hit the Ice' with NHL talent
Local aboriginal hockey players Silas Makokis and Isaih Cardinal recently had the chance to lace up their skates with some of the National Hockey League’s best First Nations players as part of Hit the Ice, a 13-episode reality TV series put on by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.
The boys hit the ice with the likes of Maxim Talbot of the Philadelphia Flyers, Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers, Evander Kane of the Winnipeg Jets and Arron Asham of the New York Rangers over the summer as part of a two-week training camp that culminated with a prospects game with an audience of elite scouts.
“You don’t really get to do that often, meeting NHL players and they’re giving you pointers,” said Makokis. “It really adjusted my game and it’s been looking good from there.”
The 17-year-old hockey players from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, currently playing for the Junior B Warriors, were two of only 20 aboriginal youth hockey players selected to take part in the two-week NHL-caliber training camp, which was filmed in Ottawa over the summer.
Makokis said that if there was one thing he took out of his experiences as part of the Hit the Ice series, it was that becoming an elite hockey player requires an exorbitant amount of discipline.
“They talked about how they got there, the sacrifices they had to make moving away from home,” Makokis said.
The two week training camp features daily skates, including on-ice and dry land sessions, with every player getting one-on-one time with some of the greatest aboriginal hockey talent that Canada has to offer.
Cardinal said it was an incredibly valuable experience getting the chance to skate alongside aboriginal hockey players who reached the top through a long road of persistence and discipline.
“It was really good. I learned a lot and took a lot from what they said. It takes a lot of hard work to really commit yourself to hockey,” he said. “What they really stress out there is a lot of hard work.”
Cardinal added that everyone got one-on-one time with the NHL talent, and every one of the 20 prospects improved their game in a variety of ways.
The series concludes with a high-intensity prospects game that pits the Hit the Ice team, coached by former NHL player and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League coach John Chabot, against “a mystery team under the scrutinizing eyes of real life junior scouts,” as it says on the Hit the Ice website.
Cardinal said the pressure and intensity was unlike anything he’d seen before as the Hit the Ice roster laced up their skates and took to the ice against the highly talented mystery team.
“It was a very intense game,” he said. ”There are about 56 scouts from all over (the NCAA, OHL and QMJHL) watching us.”
Makokis said since his participation in Hit the Ice, he has received interest from a number of Junior A teams from across Canada
“We’ve been getting letters from Ontario and Quebec from Junior A and all sorts of teams,” he said. “It’s been great.”
Fans can watch Makokis and Cardinal on Hit the Ice in episode five of the series, which airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on APTN.
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