Per­fect­ing his game in the Prairies

Clarke’s Beach goal­tender in first year with pres­ti­gious Notre Dame Hounds

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Owen Pet­ten had the same re­ac­tion to the Prairies as most peo­ple when he first ar­rived in Wil­cox, Sask., last Septem­ber.

It’s flat and it seems like it stretches days.

“Com­ing from New­found­land, it just takes you by shock,” said the 15-year-old goal­tender.

Grow­ing up in and around Clarke’s Beach, Pet­ten was sur­rounded by ocean, seabirds and a ragged coast­line de­scribed by many as beau­ti­ful. In Wil­cox, there are fields of grain, a train sta­tion and a nary a moun­tain in sight.

“When you get there, you think how can some­thing be this flat,” said Pet­ten. “You see lights in the dis­tance like they’re boats. It’s in­sane. You take things for granted. You look around here and there are trees and rocks. The big­gest thing I miss is the ocean and wak­ing up and see­ing the ocean. You’re there and you’re like, ‘where is ev­ery­thing?’”

Pet­ten is in Wil­cox for hockey and school, but mostly hockey. He is en­rolled at the Athol Mur­ray Col­lege of Notre Dame, an ath­letic fac­tory that has pro­duced past-and-present hockey stars like Brad Richards, Vincent Le­cav­a­lier and Wen­del Clark. Cana­dian rugby play­ers Chauncy O’Toole and Meghan Mutrie and for­mer CFLer Tay­lor Inglis also at­tended the school.

A mem­ber of the Notre Dame Hounds mid­get AA team, Pet­ten has been liv­ing the life of a stu­dent-ath­lete. That means classes by day and prac­tice by night.

“We’re get­ting lots of hockey,” he said. “We have prac­tice five days a week and then we might have a game. So, we’re on the ice six days a week. I love the hockey.”

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To him, it is worth the 9 p.m. cell phone cur­few — 10:30 p.m. some nights — and liv­ing away from his fam­ily back home. He is the son of Lind­say and Colleen Pet­ten.

But, it is not just hockey at Notre Dame. They are re­quired to be stu­dents as well. Apart from reg­u­lar classes, there is manda­tory home­work ses­sions to com­plete in the evening.

“Ev­ery­thing is on com­puter, so you don’t have to worry about los­ing a sheet,” said Pet­ten. “Mon­day to Thurs­day and then Sun­day evening, there is a manda­tory hour and 15 min­utes where you need to have your dorm rooms open, ev­ery­one at a desk and you have to do home­work.”

Get­ting bet­ter

Of course, when an ath­lete trav­els to place like Notre Dame it is to get some ad­di­tional ex­po­sure, but it is also to fine-tune their skills.

Since mov­ing to the small Saskatchewan town just 45 min­utes south of provin­cial cap­i­tal Regina, the young puck stop has watched his game im­prove.

“The train­ers and the coaches are al­ways there if you want to sit down and talk,” he told The Com­pass. “I’ve got­ten in bet­ter shape be­cause the gym is al­ways there. You have team work­outs and you can go by your­self.”

One man who has helped im­mensely has been Louis Guay, a goal­tend­ing coach with the At­lantic Goal­tend­ing Academy who also serves as an as­sis­tant coach for the Univer­sity of Monc­ton men’s hockey team. He flies to Wil­cox once a month and stays for two weeks.

“It is a lot of tech­ni­cal stuff with Louis,” said Pet­ten. “So it is a lot of my move­ments have im­proved, my hand-eye (co­or­di­na­tion), just your ba­sic stuff that you re­ally need.”

Fight­ing lone­li­ness

It is tough for any­one to leave home, whether that is a 25-year-old tak­ing a job in another prov­ince or a 15-year-old kid mov­ing away for hockey.

It can be lonely abandoning the world you’ve known for most of your life. There have been many a promis­ing hockey ca­reers squan­dered be­cause of home­sick­ness.

How­ever, by all ac­counts, Pet­ten will not fall into that cat­e­gory.

“That first week, after my mom left, it wasn’t as bad as I thought,” he said. “But, when you come home the first time and you re­al­ize ev­ery­thing you are miss­ing like your own bed, your own shower, you think, ‘ Do I re­ally want to go back?’

“Then you think, ‘Hey, I’m not get­ting the same op­por­tu­nity here if I was away.’”

Spend­ing time with team­mates and class­mates in the dorm also helps.

“You can’t re­ally get lonely be­cause you’re with peo­ple 24-7,” said Pet­ten. “There are al­ways peo­ple there and you’re with your team so much that you get to know them. “They’re like your fam­ily.” Of course, what would any story like this be with­out men­tion of the hockey Pet­ten is play­ing?

When de­scrib­ing the style of game out west, Pet­ten paints a pic­ture of rapid fans, com­pet­i­tive hockey and reg­u­lar big hits, along with some fisticuffs mixed in.

“It’s like real hockey. It’s great,” said Pet­ten. “Well, when the fans are with you its great, when they’re not with you, it’s not so great.”

nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Clarke’s Beach goal­tender Owen Pet­ten is play­ing hockey this sea­son with the Athol Mur­ray Col­lege of Notre Dame Hounds in Wil­cox, Sask.

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