Climb­ing the hockey lad­der

Labrador City’s Mark Hil­lier re­turn­ing to Au­rora, On­tario, for an­other sea­son

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Sports - BY MIKE POWER

Any­one who watched Mark Hil­lier play­ing hockey as a kid could prob­a­bly tell he had a pas­sion for the game.

Then again, com­ing from a fam­ily where ev­ery­one seemed to en­joy lac­ing on a pair of skates, you might say he was born to love it.

“My dad played hockey, my mom was a fig­ure skater, my older brother played hockey, so did my cousins and all my friends; I fell in love with the game,” he told The Au­rora.

Hil­lier went through the ranks as most Cana­di­ans do, start­ing on skates when he was four or five, play­ing Tim­bits, Novice, Atom, Pee Wee, and Ban­tam in the Labrador West mi­nor hockey sys­tem.

In 2015 Hil­lier moved to Cor­ner Brook to play with the West­ern Kings.

“It pro­vided me with more com­pe­ti­tion; there were more chances to travel to games and play against re­ally strong players,” he ex­plained, “That’s how you im­prove.”

Those years with Cor­ner Brook pro­vided op­por­tu­ni­ties to travel to tour­na­ments in At­lantic Canada where he con­tin­ued to build his skills; at one tour­na­ment he was named top for­ward.

One of the high­lights of his time with the Kings was scor­ing the goal that clinched the pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship on home ice in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

From Cor­ner Brook Hil­lier moved to Au­rora, On­tario, to play with St. An­drews.

He was in­vited to the school, liked the place and the pro­gram and ac­cepted a schol­ar­ship.

Hil­lier moved there just over a year ago.

In his first year at the school he was the only 15-year-old to play with the grade 11 and 12 team mem­bers.

In that year in 47 games he added 16 goals and 17 as­sists.

“It was quite a change. You have to meet new peo­ple and make new friends, plus get used to a new school and how it works,” he says. “The first cou­ple of months were the most dif­fi­cult, but I slowly gained con­fi­dence in my­self and played well, and cer­tainly made good friends.”

Hil­lier be­gins grade 11 this year, with lots of aca­demic work mixed in with the hockey.

Hil­lier says he gets to play the game at a high level at St. An­drews, play­ing teams at an elite level, and there’s lots of travel, of­ten to Bos­ton and other parts of the United States.

A typ­i­cal week con­sists of prac­tice on Mon­day, Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, rest on Thurs­day and games on the week­end.

Hil­lier stays at the school dur­ing the week, and spends week­end (when he can) with his mom who lives in On­tario.

“She is great sup­port and to have her here makes a big dif­fer­ence to me.”

This sum­mer, in June, Hil­lier climbed an­other rung of the hockey lad­der.

He was drafted by the Monc­ton Wild­cats of the Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League as 64th pick in the 2018 draft.

This year, though, Hil­lier will re­turn to St. An­drews to play hockey there.

“I have op­tions, and with two years left in high school I took the de­ci­sion to re­turn to St. An­drews. Af­ter last year and the tran­si­tion from Cor­ner Brook I think this will be a good year for me at St. An­drews.”

Hil­lier re­cently vis­ited his home­town of Labrador City.

“Meet­ing up with my friends and hang­ing out with them was great,” he says. “I think one of the things I miss most is my friends and fam­ily back home. It was great to get to­gether.”

A num­ber of his friends were also with him this sum­mer as mem­bers of Canada’s na­tional ball hockey team

in the Czech Repub­lic, and the Cana­dian Na­tion­als in Fred­er­ic­ton ear­lier this sum­mer where they won gold.

“I have a lot of peo­ple to thank for this op­por­tu­nity, my fam­ily, friends, and the many coaches who helped me and men­tored me. I’m look­ing for­ward to a good sea­son.”

“My dad played hockey, my mom was a fig­ure skater, my older brother played hockey, so did my cousins and all my friends; I fell in love with the game,”

- Mark Hil­lier

MIKE POWER/SPECIAL TO THE AU­RORA

Mark Hil­lier prac­tic­ing his hockey skills on Tanya Lake in 2011.

MIKE POWER/SPECIAL TO THE AU­RORA

Mark Hil­lier re­cently vis­ited friend and fam­ily in Labrador West.

CON­TRIB­UTED

Hil­lier in a Monc­ton Wild­cats Jer­sey.

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