A Hay River goalie is getting the opportunity to develop his skills in what’s referred to as Northern Ontario.
The latitude may not line up with the definition of “Northern” in the NWT, but Owen Pettipas seems to be fitting in with his teammates on the midget AAA Kapuskasing Flyers. The 16-year-old is serving as a backup goalie for six weeks in what is very much a hockey town.
Pettipas has been playing U18 in Hay River. He was connected with the temporary gig by Stephane Millette, Hay River’s recreation director and president of the Hay River Minor Hockey Association, who is from Kapuskasing, which is almost 850 kilometres north of Toronto.
“Owen is a great local kid and very good athlete who was looking to challenge himself further to see if he could play hockey at a higher level of play,” Millette said. “He has been helping the (Flyers) team out for a few weeks while their starting goalie is injured. Owen had his first start in goal (Nov. 28) and he earned the second star of the game.”
Millette said both he and the Pettipas family have been seeking opportunities to open doors for the young player to develop and he is hoping it helps grow his skill set and experience in the sport.
“At a minimum we think this gives Owen an idea of what that level of play means and the practice involved day in and day out and what he needs to work on,” Millette said. “So at a minimum that can help him develop that way and have a better idea of whether he wants to pursue that level of play or whether he prefers the opportunities that are provided in the NWT and our systems here.”
Owen’s father, Keith said that he owed his son’s opportunity to play on the team to Millette’s connections and that the new opportunity is the next natural step for the goalie’s progress.
In recent years, Owen has been having lots of ice time and being exposed to older players as part of the Hay River U18 team which is part of the four team recreation league.
“One thing about playing in Hay River is that he does get a lot of ice time,” Keith said. “He gets to play at a higher level because he gets to play with older people. When he was in town last year, for example, he was able to play rec hockey and he does help out the old timers if they need a goalie or if they’re short.”
Now being able to play in a more established league, Keith said this will be hugely beneficial for Owen’s conditioning.
“It’s just the whole experience for a young kid at 16 years old to go away and take part in a program down there that is basically run like an NHL franchise,” Keith said.
“You have your ice time everyday. You get your workouts every day. You get your meetings every day after games. Every day there is ice time, including on weekends.” That includes games as many as three days a week.
“He also gets to meet new people and learn new ways about how people run their organizations,” Keith added.
Keith said he and the family are also able to follow all of the events he attends through an application called TeamSnap. They are also watching all games through another app called Hockey TV.
“So even if they’re on the road, I get to watch the games right on my TV,” he said.
Keith said after Owen returns for the new year, he does want his son to focus on schooling but he believe there are lots of opportunities for future development. The family received an offer for the young goalie to play Junior B in Fairview, but is more looking toward next year’s tryouts for the 2023 Arctic Winter Games, which are to take place in Wood Buffalo.