If hockey ever returns following COVID-19, there will be at least two players from Yellowknife suiting up in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) next season.
Ethan Anstey will be one of those players as he signed on to play with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on March 16. He joins Jack Works of the Okotoks Oilers as the Yellowknife contingent confirmed to rosters for 2020-2021.
Anstey, who turned 18 on April 4, said Fort McMurray was the best fit for him.
“I had another offer from a team in the AJHL and I waited to see what (the) Nanaimo (Clippers of the BC Hockey League) was going to do,” he said. “Fort McMurray asked me and it was a better fit for my style.”
Anstey could have stayed in B.C. and played with the Clippers. He was an affiliate player for the team this past season and did dress with them for one regular season contest.
That style, said Anstey, features a hard forecheck and a lack of fear of getting his nose dirty should the situation call for it.
“I like playing that style,” he said. “The coach in Fort McMurray (Gord Thibodeau) is old-school and I like that because I love battling for the puck and playing with a hard intensity.”
Anstey has been playing his trade at Shawnigan Lake School in B.C. for the past four years, where he’s played with the school’s varsity and prep teams at both the bantam and midget levels.
He said while the hockey has been important, the school has developed him in more ways than just athletics.
“It’s taught me about growing up to be a good person and balance out my life,” he said. “Hockey is a big part of why I went there but it’s prepared me for life.”
Anstey was set to come back home and play with the Arctic Winter Games midget boys hockey team in Whitehorse before the Games were cancelled. The midget boys were set to defend their gold ulu from two years ago when they defeated Nunavut in the championship contest.
He said it would have been great to get back together with a lot of friends he hasn’t seen in a while.
“Hockey is all about proving that you’re the best and defending that gold would have been fun but being with my friends was the big thing,” he said. “I’ve been away at school for four years and I haven’t really had a chance to spend time with my friends. The Games would have been the chance to get together with them and catch up and just hang out in between games.”
But there’s one thing he’s really looking forward to and that will happen next season: going toe-to-toe with Works in an actual game.
The pair were teammates during their Yellowknife Wolfpack days and Works was one of the first to call Anstey after he signed.
But the friendship will be all out the window when the puck drops between Okotoks and Fort McMurray.
“I’ll be out to prove something and I’ll be playing my best against him,” said Anstey. “I’m hoping to match up against him and compete. That should be fun.”