For most junior hockey players, once their season is over they get to work at a job over the summer or even start their college careers, and most won't spend too much time on the ice. That won't be the case for Kindersley local Ethan Hilbig who's play impressed enough to represent Saskatchewan at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Membertou, Nova Scotia this coming May in a tournament for players born in 2004-05.
"The assistant coach, he called my dad about two months ago and told me that there's this camp and they wanted to see me there and so about two months ago we kind of started talking about it and planned for the tryouts and went to tryouts this past weekend in Dalmeny. Then the coach gave me a call and told me that I'd made the team so it's pretty exciting."
Hilbig, who has Metis heritage on his mother's side of the family, is going to be joining six other players from the SJHL along with a few other familiar faces that he's played with in the past. While there may have been some animosity on the ice at times with Matthew Henry from the Battlefords North Stars for example, Hilbig is excited to throw that aside for a tournament and put Saskatchewan's best foot forward.
"Actually I'm pretty good buddies with Matthew, but I've played with James Venne and Zackery Somers (both from the Melfort Mustangs) both before as well, and I'm actually very excited to play with those new guys that I haven't played with before too. I also played with Kade Johns in Warman this year, I started the year there and he was there for a little bit when I was, so not a whole bunch, but I know him pretty decent now."
Hilbig also played with Rhett Dekowny the year before this past season in Swift Current with the AAA Legionaires.
As for what is to come before he heads out to Nova Scotia, there's a lot of work to do between now and the start of the tournament on May 7. Besides Johns, the players that Hilbig knows on the team already are all forwards and a goaltender, so it may take a bit to find that chemistry with another defenceman for the tournament, but the work to be ready in a month's time is already well underway.
"I'm working out obviously a lot and then getting on the ice as much as I can I will be still here in Kindersley, but we have practices most weekends starting I thin next weekend maybe, and those are right around Saskatoon, so I'll be making the drive lots there too."
The thought of playing hockey in May in one of the most scenic areas of the country has Hilbig excited for the start of the tournament, but the real excitement comes from bettering his game ahead of his next season in the SJHL. After playing his way on the team when he expected to stay in Midget AAA another year, his development already has taken a quicker step than expected and he's looking to keep that momentum going.
"Yeah, I think going playing against good competition still and just going meeting bunch of new guys in our team just creating new relationships and bonds with different guys."