Jesse Gartland isn’t the first local teen to hit the ice as one of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, but he’s the only one this season. And the 17-year-old couldn’t be happier.
“It’s the best feeling to come out on the ice knowing most of the people cheering in the stands,” he said. “And being able to skate on the same ice as my dad is a good feeling.”
The six-foot-two, 190-pound defenceman, who tried out for the Thunder Cats for the first time this year, enjoys “the thrill of playing”, and although he doesn’t get many scoring opportunities in his position, has earned 12 points (two goals and 10 assists) in 34 games.
Three of those points came on Dec. 3, when the Thunder Cats defeated the Kamloops Storm — the top team in the Doug Birks Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League — 6-2 at the John Bucyk Arena. His three assists in that game also earned him the position of the game’s third star.
“I had lots of family in the stands, so that was kind of special,” Gartland said.
Playing junior B hockey is a logical progression for the Creston Valley native, who first skated when he was four or five.
“The typical Canadian thing for a kid to do is strap on the skates early,” he said.
And for teens who love to play hockey as much as he does, trying out for the Thunder Cats is the thing to do.
“I’d definitely recommend it,” he said. “Brent [Heaven, head coach,] is really good. He’s a great coach, and treats us better than we ever asked.”