Climb­ing the hockey lad­der

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

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY MIKE POWER SPE­CIAL TO THE AURORA The Aurora

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, Ont., 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.

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 Mon­day, Tues­day and Wed­nes­day, rest on Thurs­day and games on the week­end.

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

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.

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.”

MIKE POWER/SPE­CIAL TO THE AURORA

Mark Hil­lier re­cently vis­ited friends and fam­ily in Labrador West.

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