For Alex Little, 17, hockey is a passion. The West Ferris Secondary School (WFSS) student was selected as a prospect earlier this year by the North Bay Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League’s annual OHL Under-18 Priority selection, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Little moved to North Bay last year, he chose WFSS because of the increased program offerings, sports complex, and the positive atmosphere.
“Honestly I heard West Ferris was one of the nicest schools around. It has great people and I wanted to surround myself with a great atmosphere because I moved to North Bay and away from my family,” he explained that the weight room and sports complex is topnotch. “The weight room here is amazing. [The sports complex] has everything that you need from bikes to cardio to weight racks, dumbbells…it’s a very great setup.”
The Grade 12 student currently plays for the Powassan Voodoos, a Junior “A” team in the NOJHL (Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League). He was drafted 41st overall by the Battalion as they work to build a contender.
“I think they have a great shot at winning in the future. They’re building up a young roster right now.”
Little said hearing his name during the draft was really cool since it is the OHL and the fact that it was the Battalion. For him, it’s one step closer to having his dream come true.
“Right now, I’m training and trying to make the Battalion’s camp, so I can show them what I can bring to the team in the future.”
As he waits for training camp and exhibition season to begin, Little said staying personally fit during COVID-19 could be a challenge for some, he’s actually improved his workouts.
“I was actually able to work out harder to increase my strength and endurance,” explained Little.
He also acknowledges that having a good support system is key.
“Everyone that I’m surrounded by is always pushing me to be my best, it’s great.”
The Haliburton native ventured further north last year because there were more opportunities in hockey; the North Bay Trappers, the Powassan Voodoos, and ultimately the OHL’s North Bay Battalion.
“I’m hoping to] have a good year with Powassan and then hopefully get on the Battalion roster and move onto higher levels of hockey in my life,” he said.
The 6’1” defender said some of his interests outside of hockey include being in weight rooms, playing video games, and hanging out with his billet brothers.
“My billet brothers and I shoot pucks, shoot baskets, play golf. Really anything to keep us busy and outside.”
Billet families are members of the community, screened by the teams, that invite junior players into their homes to be a part of their family during the hockey season, when the players are on teams that are not close to home.
As with any athlete, managing education, sports, and training is always a balancing act.
“I just try to make sure that I’m focused in class and get everything done during the school day, so that when we have a lot of practices or go on the road that I have everything done,” Little stated.
WFSS is able to offer a blended mode for all players and students who participate in extracurricular activities.
Echoing Little, Battalion General Manager and former professional hockey player, Adam Dennis said being a good student is transferable to be a solid player.
“As a hockey player, it is very important to understand that being a good student can be a big asset to your on-ice game. The ability to follow instruction, solve problems and work hard are things we expect from our players. This expectation needs to be carried over into all aspects of your life. To achieve that, players must prioritize their time with what’s important.”
Any hockey player has their own idol and for Little, it’s Alexander Ovechkin.
“He’s a great leader, plays hard, and is just somebody who enjoys the game. He shows to everyone how amazing of a career it is and if you put in the hard work, you can have the great life that he does.”
The dream for Little, who has been playing hockey since the age of six and on the ice since three, is to make it to the National Hockey League (NHL).
“Ever since I started playing the game, I loved it … just everything about the sport is amazing.” Little added that even though the chances of making it to the NHL are slim, it shouldn’t be a deterrent to have fun and enjoy the game. “I keep pushing through and enjoying what I’m doing, that’s a big thing because if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not going to push yourself to the next step.”
Dennis says Little is a smart player and that’s what makes him great at the game.
“Alex is a very composed defenceman that can affect the game at both ends of the ice. His smarts are his best asset.”