LABRADOR CITY, N.L. — Nick Sexton is training for the trip of a lifetime.
Sexton, Brody Chatman and Mark Hillier of Labrador City are part of team Canada’s under 16 ball hockey team travelling to the Czech Republic later this month.
Sexton was in town recently and available to speak with the Aurora about the upcoming competition. Chatman and Hillier are both attending school and playing hockey in Ontario — the Aurora reached them by phone. One thing all three share is an enthusiasm for the sport, and a sense of pride to have the opportunity to play for Canada.
For 15-year-old Sexton, the excitement of the upcoming trip is obvious as he talks about preparation for the competition. He’s been in constant contact with provincial ball hockey team coach, Tom Walsh.
“He has developed a workout that I do each week,” Sexton said. “For strength I do weight training, and for cardio I do sprints, running is important too. There are drills for agility as well. In all I usually spend an hour to an hour and a half on these routines, five days a week.”
While Sexton plays ball hockey with the local Impact, to keep up his skills he also has been playing with the local men’s team twice a week.
“These players are older, stronger and tougher, so I learn a lot,” he said. “Also I owe a lot to coaches, Wayne Decker and Brian Barnett. They have helped me and guided me over the past years. Their many hours of training and encouragement are the reason I’m making this trip.”
The ball hockey tournament games will be played in Pilzen and Ziln in the Czech Republic. As an added bonus, Nick’s entire family will be there to cheer him and his teammates on.
“My mom Michelle, my dad Dana, and my brother Ethan are so excited to be able to travel to the games, and I’m so proud they will be there to see me compete,” Sexton said. “My parents are so supportive, my mom did a fundraiser, and this opportunity means a lot to me, it gives me confidence and also opportunities to travel. I’m so grateful to the many people who have supported me to get to go to the championships.”
In addition to ball hockey, Nick is very active with his ice hockey career. The Aurora will have more on that in an upcoming article.
“The icing on the cake for this trip is being on the team that has two other Labrador City players, Brody Chatman and Mark Hillier,” Sexton said. “As a matter of fact, 10 of the 22 team members are from Newfoundland and Labrador. It shows we are hardworking and dedicated, I think there’s a lot of talent in this province.”
Hiller, who is currently attending school and playing hockey in Ontario, was recently drafted to the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“I got involved with ball hockey last summer, and ended up with the Labrador team at the provincials along with friends Nick Sexton and Brody Chatman,” Hillier said.
The provincial team made it to the nationals where they won a bronze medal. From there, Hillier, Sexton and Chatman were selected to be part of the national team that is travelling to the Czech Republic.
“My hockey helps a lot with my conditioning, but I still do lots of cardio, the technique for hockey and ball hockey require some different techniques,” Hillier said. “The ball hockey requires a lot more running, there’s no gliding like on skates, both have their challenges.”
He hasn’t had a lot of time to dedicate to ball hockey recently because of the demands of hockey, but Hillier has stepped it up a bit since the hockey season ended.
Chatman, the third Labrador City member of the ball hockey team, has been busy with his hockey career as well. Chatman is at the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland, Ontario.
He was recently chosen for Newfoundland and Labrador’s under 16 team at the Quebec Major Junior Leagues excellence challenge. Chatman has also impressed coaches and scouts at other events this year. He started as AA, but quickly moved to AAA, a credit to his talent.
Although hockey has been a big part of his year, ball hockey is important too.
“Last summer’s ball hockey was a real eye opener,” he said. “I got lots of experience with the team in Labrador City and then moving on to the provincials, and from there to be part of the provincial team, and win a bronze, it was such an honor.
“Then to be chosen on the national with Mark and Nick, how much better could it be?”
For now Chatman has been concentrating on the skills needed for ball hockey.
“I’ve been in contact with the provincial coach and I have a training schedule, lots of conditioning, and running as well,” he said. “Both the ice hockey and ball hockey complement each other, but both have differences.”
For Chatman this will be his first time overseas, and to experience that with two friends from his hometown is amazing, he says. He is also thankful for the support received from his parents, grandparents, family and friends in Labrador West.
“It’s a dream to represent Canada, and wear the Canadian jersey, and to see flags from Newfoundland and especially Labrador in the stands,” he said.
To have three members of a national team from Labrador West, to be part of a national team at an international tournament is quite an accomplishment. The Aurora will provide follow-up reports from the tournament.