by James McCarthy
So many young hockey players from the North have had to make the long trip south in order to further their hockey careers.
Bradley Nowdlak-Fraser of Iqaluit is one who will be making that trip in the coming weeks and he's feeling a mixture of both nervousness and excitement.
The 15-year-old will be starting at the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall, Ont., on Aug. 27, his first day of classes and while he's going to school as part of the experience, it's the hockey that he's most looking forward to.
He said he got the invite to go to after attending the Atlantic Hockey Showcase in Charlottetown back in June, an annual hockey combine for some of the top young hockey prospects in North America.
"I played in a few games and someone from the school approached me and asked me if I'd like to go there," he said. "I got super excited and called my mom so she looked into it and she was happy also."
His mother, Kelly Nowdlak, is understandably getting nervous about her son leaving home and living elsewhere for the first time.
"It's 24 sleeps and counting down," she said on Aug. 1.
Nowdlak-Fraser also has a case of the nerves.
"I'm nervous, scared but I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
It's not a cheap venture as tuition at the school can run as much as $44,500 per year depending on where a student is coming from. Nowdlak-Fraser won't be paying near that much but he still had to raise some money to help with the tuition.
"I've done 50/50 draws, Grand In Your Hand, bake sales, I've sold bannock and country food and I had a GoFundMe page," he said.
Before making the trip to Cornwall, Nowdlak-Fraser was part of the Canada Winter Games boys hockey team that travelled to Sarnia, Ont., for a week-long training camp and exhibition series against teams from the Sarnia Hockey Association.
While the hockey was great, it was a reunion of sorts as Nowdlak-Fraser met family he didn't even know he had.
"I met my cousins for the first time," he said. "One of them was the goalie for one of the teams I played against so that was really cool. It's good to know they live in Ontario."
Like any young hockey player, Nowdlak-Fraser has aspirations of going as far as he can, hopefully following in the footsteps of Jordin Tootoo and playing in the National Hockey League.
He said that's the ultimate goal, but using hockey as a way to get into university would be just as good.
"I want to get scouted by junior teams or club teams down there," he said. "I'd like to get a scholarship to a NCAA (American university) school and hopefully get a chance to play pro."