Conor Nicolson, 9, of Saanich will have to wait the better part of a year to compete in the prestigious Brick Invitational Hockey Tournament in Edmonton. The annual tourney is held in June. (Ryan Nicolson Photo)

Saanich youth hockey player will have to wait for Brick tourney

Players stay sharp working on their skills in backyard ‘rink’ due to COVID-19 restrictions

You’ve heard this athlete story before: the youngest of four brothers might be the most competitive.

Nine-year-old Conor Nicolson of Gordon Head played for two hockey teams this year, in his age bracket with the Victoria Admirals atom team (9 and 10) and as a regular call-up, or affiliate, with the Admirals’ peewee (11 and 12) Tier 3 team.

In August 2019, he took part in the preliminary tryouts for the team B.C. Canucks, B.C.’s annual entry to the prestigious Brick Hockey Invitational Tournament in Edmonton. Normally, the tourney happens in June.

READ MORE: Saanich atom player joins junior Canucks for Brick Invitational

At the end of February, Nicolson’s family learned Conor was invited to join the Brick team for this year. He played three exhibition games with the team in Port Coquitlam, scoring a goal and two assists in the last game, said dad Ryan.

Needless to say, the kid was pretty excited.

“Very excited,” Conor said.

Then came the news that school, hockey and everything was shut down.

“I’m kind of disappointed, but I also [know] I [have the chance to] train harder and get ready for the big tournament,” Conor said.

Four years ago another Gordon Head kid, Matt Lahey, suited up for the B.C. Canucks at the Brick tournament, a tournament that has a surprising list of NHL alumni considering it’s for nine year olds. Lahey has skated with Conor’s elder brother Caelan, and the two 14 year olds are gaining interest from WHL teams in next year’s bantam draft.

With no organized sports during the COVID-19 shutdown, Conor has been facing off with Caelan and their other two brothers, Ryan Jr., 12, and Brendan, 16, on the backyard set-up that Ryan Sr. just happened to be making for the summer – before the COVID-19 shutdown was put in place.

“All four play hockey and this is the longest all four have ever been off the ice since they started,” Nicolson said. “I started building the backyard setup, a 16-foot by 16-foot of plywood so they could practice their shooting. Lucky I had already started building it when the rinks were closed.”

For now, the Nicolsons were told the Brick Tournament will hopefully happen in the new year, which is when some expect organized youth hockey to restart.

In the meantime, Conor can sharpen his skills on a pair of rollerblades against three big brothers who also all love hockey.

“I had a great time in the [B.C. Canucks] exhibition games, I like competing at the best level that I can compete at,” Conor said.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Coronavirus

 

Brothers Caelan, 14, Ryan, 12, Conor, 9, and Brendan Nicolson, 16, in the backyard where they’ve played a lot of hockey since the March COVID-19 lockdown. (Ryan Nicolson Photo)

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