Leav­ing is al­ways the hard­est part

Zachary Ben­nett tak­ing next step in ed­u­ca­tion, hockey

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

On the eve of start­ing high school, Zachary Ben­nett was pack­ing a suit­case rather than a book bag.

Sur­rounded by pic­tures of Toronto Maple Leafs and dressed in the fa­mil­iar work­out gear of the Tri Pen ban­tam AAA Ice, the 15-year-old Bay Roberts youth was mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing was in the right place be­fore he starts his first year of high school at the pres­ti­gious Bishop’s Col­lege School, lo­cated on the out­skirts of Sher­brooke, Que.

Last week, Zachary started his high school ca­reer at the board­ing school. He will con­cen­trate on his stud­ies and skate with the hockey team.

With his leav­ing, Zachary be­comes the latest young hockey star from this province tak­ing his tal­ents to the main­land.

To some, it may seem like a daunt­ing step for­ward.

He’s mov­ing to a new province, a new school and meet­ing new peo­ple, many of whom may treat English as a sec­ond lan­guage.

How­ever, Zachary is ready to go. He points to his ease in a crowd and with meet­ing new peo­ple as one of the rea­sons Bishop’s may just be the place for him.

The courtship by Bishop’s started two years ago, and re­ally started to pick up mid­way through last sea­son. Af­ter weigh­ing of­fers from the school as well as another board­ing school in Que­bec, Stanstead Col­lege, Zachary and his fam­ily made their de­ci­sion ear­lier this sum­mer. “It’s go­ing to be hard say­ing good­bye to ev­ery­one,” said Zachary.

With another year un­der his belt, Zachary felt he was primed to make the leap. He isn’t in­tim­i­dated about play­ing with up­per­class­men when the time comes. In fact, he’s look­ing for­ward to it.

“I’ve been play­ing against the older play­ers my en­tire life,” said Zachary. “I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing where I stand.”

Hockey sec­ondary

Zachary is a tal­ented young ath­lete on the ice. A de­fence­man by trade, Zachary is equally as adept at set­ting up his team­mates at one end of the rink as he is at pun­ish­ing op­po­nents with his body. How­ever, hockey was not his main pri­or­ity when it came to se­lect­ing a pos­si­ble land­ing spot for the young­ster. There are plenty of schools that of­fer a great hockey pro­gram, but lack a strong aca­demic fo­cus. That was what at­tracted them to Bishop’s and Stanstead Col­lege. “Ed­u­ca­tion is re­ally im­por­tant,” said his fa­ther Nel­son, who was also Zachary’s coach for the AAA Ice. “The first pri­or­ity is ed­u­ca­tion and then hockey. Hav­ing the name Bishop’s Col­lege be­hind him can open a lot of doors in the fu­ture.”

Bishop’s has pro­duced stock­bro­kers, politi­cians, lawyers, film pro­duc­ers, brew­ery mag­nates and Sir H. Mon­tagu Allan, the name­sake of the Allan Cup.

“It’s a school first,” added Lisa.

A fam­ily de­ci­sion

The de­ci­sion for Zachary to leave was not taken lightly. The Bennetts weighed the pros and cons of the move, what it could do for their son’s ed­u­ca­tion as well as his hockey ca­reer.

Fam­ily is a big part of Ben­nett’s life. Dur­ing his games last sea­son, it was not un­usual to see a large num­ber of rel­a­tives con­gre­gat­ing in one of the rink’s corners.

The screen­saver on the Ben­nett fam­ily’s com­puter floats through var­i­ous pic­tures – all fam­ily-ori­ented — when it is not in use. “We made this de­ci­sion like we make all de­ci­sions, as a fam­ily,” said mother Lisa.

“It is a move that af­fects all of us.”

Rel­a­tively close to home

A com­fort­ing thought for the Bennetts is the rel­a­tive close prox­im­ity of Bishop’s to New­found­land. By air­plane, Zachary is an hour-and-a-half trip from St. John’s In­ter­na­tional Air­port. For com­par­i­son, he is not the six-plus hours it would take to get to Wil­cox, Sask., the home of Athol Mur­ray Col­lege of Notre Dame. “If Zack calls me on a Thurs­day, I can be there by Fri­day af­ter­noon,” said Nel­son. “For me, per­son­ally, I needed to have that in my back pocket. To know that I could go see him on the week­ends.” Leav­ing home is never an easy thing to do, it doesn’t mat­ter how old you are or where you are in life.

It can be hard on the per­son leav­ing and the peo­ple they’re leav­ing be­hind. Zachary and his fam­ily ex­pe­ri­enced all of this as he pre­pared to de­part home soil.

Mak­ing it eas­ier is their belief that Zachary is ready to take the next step in both his aca­demic and ath­letic ca­reer. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity,” said Nel­son. “We’re stay­ing re­ally pos­i­tive,” added Lisa. “It’ll be hard but you’ve got to sup­port your child.” As Zachary en­ters his first full week at the school, there is still one lin­ger­ing ques­tion. “Who is go­ing to hang up his clothes and his blaz­ers?” his mother won­dered out loud.

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

15-year-old Bay Roberts res­i­dent Zachary Ben­nett makes some last-minute pack­ing de­ci­sions ahead of his trip to Sher­brooke, Que. Last week, Ben­nett de­parted to Bishop’s Col­lege School in Que­bec for the next step in his high school ca­reer.

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