For The Community Press
KAPUSKASING – Yes, this concept extends further along highway 11 than Opasatika through Smooth Rock Falls. Kyle Trottier is a Kapuskasing born, Thunder Bay residing athlete who is mature beyond his years. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and can be a decent hockey player.
The Kapuskasing Flyers’ number 4 was the only one of his squad to earn his way to an OHL Gold Cup roster spot with Hockey Northwestern Ontario, an experience he will never forget despite his team going 0-4 in that tournament, all while facing the top minor midget aged players in the province. It started with his love for the game, which led him to come back to his hometown after 6 years away to suit up as a defenseman for his dream team.
“As a kid, I was always interested in playing for the Flyers. When I got to the that age, I got into contact with Glen (Denney),” he explains. “I was in my second year in Bantam and I came down for the tryouts and had an experience of a lifetime. Unfortunately, I got cut. You can’t expect to make the team every year. So, I worked on everything Glen told me to work on throughout that season.”
With hard work comes success, as he made the 2018-2019 edition of the Kapuskasing Flyers. Of all the players on the team, Trottier and Olivier Payeur were the only two to grab the attention of Team NOHA Director of Operations, Mark Seidel. Payeur did not end up playing at the Gold Cup let alone play for Team NOHA at all this past season for personal reasons, but Trottier garnered some interest from both the Northern Ontario Hockey Association and Team HNO.
Being a full-time resident of Thunder Bay, HNO had first pick because the release from his local association and Hockey Canada only allowed him to play for the Kapuskasing Flyers, not Team NOHA. Paperwork aside, representatives for his association got to see him in action ahead of the Gold Cup. Around late December last year, his parents got some news regarding the tournament.
“We just got information around Christmas time that there was going to be a skate and a tryout for all the players that they contacted. I went down for that, and then they had a quick look at me. They said they would come down for some of the games throughout our season.”
After a long period of silence, he was eventually contacted by email a month or two out from the competition, finding out that he was fortunate enough to make the team. By the time he had received the good news, the Flyers’ season was over. He had stayed here to keep studying, but during an off weekend, he took the time to go home and meet with his new brethren.
“We had a training camp a week before the actual event. We had practices Friday through Tuesday before taking the plane to Toronto on Wednesday morning,” says Trottier. Once landing in the Queen’s City, things started to become real for him once he was surrounded by what could potentially lead to a major junior career. “Just getting the phone call, you got really nervous. It was a very anxious time. You just try not to think about it too much and play your style of hockey. […] As soon as you got there, you found out it was a lot more professional. The guys were more professional. They’re willing to give you hand with anything you wanted to do.”
With such a short period of time to get acquainted with his teammates, the HNO coaching staff got creative with teambuilding exercises.
“We took a lot of our time to play specific games, come up with our team motto and what we wanted to be shown as. What we came up with was ‘Fearless warriors. Persistent and proud. United as one’, which was our big motto that we posted up in our room,” he says with a grin. The unique methods didn’t stop there. “We thought of ourselves as the underdog in the tournament, so our coaches really wanted to stabilize that. We got a hat and a dog bone to represent the underdog of the game. We’d have our MVP on the ice and then we’d select three players to be the underdogs.”
It’s a fairly practical concept that not only motivates, but inspires. Trottier would earn this accolade during his OHL Gold Cup adventure.
Over the course of a week, he played in 4 losing games. To his dismay, he never got on the scoresheet despite having some good performances.
“Our team may have not been the greatest on paper, but we always thought of ourselves as the underdog. We wanted to be fearless, we wanted to compete at all times, which I believe we did very well. The score may have differed in a couple of games, but what I took away from is that you have to compete the entire time, no matter what situation you’re in. You never know who’s watching.”
With some newly acquired knowledge and experience, he hopes to make a greater impact with the Kapuskasing Flyers next autumn as a second-year veteran. This summer has some hard training in store for him as he looks to gain some size. The team’s blueline is going to be noticeably smaller next season due to the departure of Cooper Roussy and Blane Boissonneault. He’ll be working with his new head-coach and GM, Sheldon Reasbeck, in preparation for the next GNML campaign.