Even before he could walk, Owen King passion for hockey was evident. When his mum Melissa would bring him along to his dad Jody’s ball hockey games, Owen would sit in his stroller, watching the play with avid attention. Then, for his first Christmas he was given a plastic hockey stick. “He would be out there toddling around, barely able to walk with that stick. He just couldn’t wait to get in the game,” Melissa recalls with a chuckle.
At two, Owen finally was able to hit the ice for real, when his dad signed him up for skating lessons at the local mall. Then by the age of five, with the youngster chomping at the bit to play real games and not just focus on skating skills, Owen and his parents were making the weekly drive to Brantford, to play with the Brantford Minor Hockey Association, selected to play Tyke Select as a under ager with the Brantford 99ers Junior B Hockey Club. “While the club typically was for six years and up, they allowed him to play. It was pretty funny actually. Here he was out there playing competitive hockey with the older kids, and he was just heading into senior kindergarten,” says Melissa.
At seven, Owen returned to his hometown of Cambridge Ontario, where he played AAA hockey for the next three years with the Cambridge Minor Hockey Association.
His skills and playing ability soon caught notice of the Toronto Bulldogs, an elite hockey club offering spring programs for players from ages five to 16 with an alumni group that includes several NHLers including Mitch Marner, Max Domi, Matt Duchene and Dougie Hamilton. Then this summer, Owen and his Toronto Bulldog teammates were invited to the Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament in Edmonton, an event that brings together top 9 and 10-year-old hockey players from across North America. The team made it all the way to the semi-finals.
Starting this August, Owen, Melissa and Jody will once again be hitting the road on a weekly basis, allowing Owen to follow his hockey dreams to yet the next level. Owen, now ten years old, will be playing his Atom triple-A year in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. “It’s not a commute we are looking forward to making four or five times a week,” admits Melissa. “But Toronto is a bigger market, offers a whole other field of play and coaching. We know it will push him more. And he’s super excited about it. In fact, he just got his new team helmet the other day, and is really psyched.”
While the family knows the chances of Owen making the NHL someday are very slim, they are doing all they can to encourage their son’s passion and love of the sport. “We tell him every day, just enjoy hockey, it can always be a part of your life. Jody, Owen’s dad, started his own hockey academy a few years ago, so Owen sees that he will always be able to be involved in some way, either teaching or coaching.
For now, Owen eats and sleeps hockey. “He has the heart and drive to play,” says Melissa. “He loves going to his dad Jody’s Hockey Academy to demonstrate drills to the other kids. He loves feeling the wind on his face when he skates down the ice. He loves shooting on the SportScreen in our driveway. I have told him as long as he loves it, we’re behind him.”
The NHL may still be some years and a dream away, but Owen has already gathered his own fans. At the Brick Tournament, he exchanged jerseys with another young player from Detroit, who played against Owen in the Nation’s Cup. Says Melissa, “His dad told us that Owen is his son’s favourite player. So when they both ended up in Edmonton together, he actively sought him out. I mean, who knows where they’ll both be ten years from now? But right now they’ve formed this very unique connection and friendship through hockey that is really cool to see.”