Getting cut from sports teams happens all the time at all sorts of levels and it’s never easy to accept.
Matthew Gillard, though, was happy to go as far as he did, and he knows now what he has to do to stay there next time.
The 15-year-old Yellowknifer defenceman got the chance to cut his teeth with the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals this month, the same team that selected him in the WHL Bantam Draft this past April. His first stop was the team’s rookie camp, which started on Sept. 1. Gillard managed to navigate his way through that hurdle and make it to the main camp, where he was one of 21 players who advanced to the team’s main camp.
Gillard said he was nervous from start to finish.
“I was definitely a bit scared, but I thought I got better every day,” he said. “The coaches weren’t really allowed to say anything to the players on how they thought we were doing, but one of the scouts who knew me told me I looked really nervous out there.”
Once at main camp, he was one of 43 players looking to make an impact on Dan Price, the team’s head coach and general manager, but it would be as far as Gillard would get. He played in the intrasquad game on Sept. 7 but was one of 13 players cut by the coaching staff following the game.
He said he knows what he has to do now in order to get another shot at making the team.
“Just keep working on my game,” he said. “Get stronger, spend more time in the gym, work on my puck management, my stickhandling. All that is going to make me a better hockey player.”
Gillard will be staying in B.C. to play hockey this year as he’s joined the U18 AAA Cariboo Cougars, based out of Prince George. There’s a Yellowknife connection to that as he will rejoin Decker Mujcin, son of former Yellowknife hockey legend Mirsad Mujcin; the Mujcin family moved to Prince George several years ago.
Gillard said he and Mujcin have kept in contact since their days playing together in the Yk Minor Hockey Association and playing on the same team together will be fun.
“We played together on the Weatherby Warriors novice team and he moved away during my second year on the team,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to playing with him again.”