Gavin Broadhead has come a long way from hanging out at the arena in Hay River as a child to watch his dad and the Zamboni take to the ice.
Just beginning his second season as a winger with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers in Alberta, Broadhead told The Hub he wants to be more of an asset to his major junior team this year and has stepped up his training to do so.
“You have to keep up the work in the summer to stay competitive,” he said. “I’ve been doing more cardio and speed training this summer. I used to do more weights, but I decided to change it up this year. I feel great on the ice.”
Broadhead started playing hockey in Hay River at age six. His father, Curtis Broadhead, a former Tiger player himself, was his coach until he left to pursue his hockey dreams in a bigger market.
“I was at the arena as a baby watching my dad play and the Zamboni drive around the ice,” the younger Broadhead said. “It’s because of my dad, really, that I got into the game.”
The 18-year-old graduated high school in the spring and said he won’t miss the extra demands of classes during the busy season. He said the toughest times were the nights he would get back late from an away game and still have to get up for school in the morning.
“It was the long bus rides and the demanding school schedule,” he said. “It’ll be a big change for me, and I know it’s tough for the guys who are still in school.”
Making the beginning of the season slightly more complicated this year is the fact that the Tigers’ home arena was flooded in the rainstorms that swept over Alberta earlier this year. Broadhead said the water was up to the boards and work is ongoing to restore the dressing rooms.
“Our pre-season games will be at the local minor hockey arenas,” he said, adding the location of the ice or the number of fans in the stands won’t change how he plays.
Far to the north, minor hockey players in Hay River are also gearing up for another season, with their annual general meeting coming up Sept. 18.
Minor hockey president Vince McKay said, any time a Hay River player advances to a higher league, that player automatically becomes a hometown hero.
“Gavin Broadhead is one example of that,” McKay said. “Last year, we had the Northern Hockey League and all those local players became heroes to the many young kids in minor hockey. I think every kid dreams about making it to the NHL. We have a lot of young, talented boys and girls who go south to play more advanced hockey.”
Broadhead’s NHL dreams are still on track.
“Last season was my first full year and that’s about getting your foot in the door and getting a feel for things,” he said. “This year, I hope to be more of an impact player and help the team more.”
As for coming back to his hometown, Broadhead said it’s not likely to happen any time soon, joking, “Hay River’s got a ways to go before it gets an NHL team.”
— Sarah Ladik