Garden River First Nation hockey player prepares for international debut

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Owen Headrick will make his international ice hockey debut at the World University Games in Switzerland. – Photo by Janessa Hogan

By Sam Laskaris

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI РOwen Headrick already has an impressive ice hockey r̩sum̩ and the Garden River First Nation member will be added to his list of achievements next month having been selected to represent Canada at the World University Games.

The multisport event will take place December 11-21 in Lucerne, Switzerland.

“It’s my first time representing Canada,” said Headrick, a 24-year-old defender who is captain of the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) Panthers this season. “I’m very glad about that.”

Ten countries will be the icing on the cake at the men’s hockey games.

Canada will host round robin games against Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and the United States. A second league consists of participants from the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Korea and Switzerland.

“We have a really good team,” said Headrick of the Canadian squad. “We have many of the best players from their respective university teams.”

Canada won the bronze medal in the last winter version of the World University Games 2019 in Russia.

Headrick is obviously hoping for a golden achievement this time around.

“I think that’s our goal,” he said. “I think we have a really good team as long as we fit together and find some chemistry.”

Canada’s 23-player roster was announced on November 16.

Headrick said he knew nothing about the world tournament until his sister Jana, who plays hockey for the University of New Brunswick (UNB) women’s squad, texted him about the event and told him to look out for additional information.

“I think she saw the notice about it and said there was a good chance I would be called to the team,” he said.

And it actually happened.

Gardiner MacDougall, head coach of the UNB men’s team, will be head coach of the Canadian club in Lucerne.

MacDougall is undoubtedly familiar with Headricks play since UPEI is attending the same conference – Atlantic University Sport – as UNB.

“He recruited me a few years ago,” said Headrick. “But I don’t really know him.”

But the hockey community certainly knows who Headrick is.

When he was 17, he played an important role in Sault Ste. Marie Thunderbirds, who won the championship in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. Headrick was named the league’s playoff MVP that year.

He then played for a season and a half with Michigan’s Lake Superior State Lakers, an NCAA Division 1 roster.

Headrick dropped out of school in his sophomore season in early 2017 to join the Pennsylvania-based Erie Otters, who are members of the Ontario Hockey League. A few months later, he helped the Otters win their league championship.

Headrick turned pro after finishing the following season with the Otters and appearing in four games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers.

However, instead of pursuing a professional career at the time, Headrick returned to school and opted for the UPEI from the 2018-19 campaign.

In April of this year he completed his studies with a Bachelor of Arts. But he’s now back at school in Charlottetown and enrolled in the Masters of Education program, which allows him to continue playing at university in his senior season.

Headrick hopes to give professional hockey another chance by the end of this season. And he believes the World University Games will give him an ideal chance to get his name out there.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to showcase my skills, especially in Europe,” he said. “There are a lot of good leagues in Europe. I would like to stay in North America, but I am not closing the door on Europe. “


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