Without a doubt, 11-year-old Isak Thilander travelled the farthest to attend the Sicamous Hockey School this summer.
All it took was a half-hour drive to Stockholm from his home in Sigtuna, Sweden, a nine-hour flight to Chicago, a two-hour flight to Calgary and a six-hour drive to Sicamous. The reason for this arduous journey to participate in the hockey school: it offered an opportunity to finally meet his hockey idol – Nashville Predators’ star defenceman and Sicamous’ own, Shea Weber.
Travelling with his mother, Jane, father, Claes, and sister, Vilma, this was Isak’s first trip to Canada, and one the up-and-coming defenceman will never forget.
“It felt strange, but it is a big thing for me. A great thing,” says Isak of meeting Weber at the camp last Wednesday, adding that he will likely have some jealous friends back home. He didn’t, however, forget to grab an autograph for his good friend Adam.
Isak says the Olympic gold medalist was not like he expected, commenting that Weber was very humble and easy to talk with.
“He was much nicer and he spent more time with the players,” he says, laughing when he recalls Weber giving his best shot at Swedish, saying “huré läget?” or “what’s up?”
Weber says meeting a player like Isak is a rewarding experience for him as well.
“It’s special to get to meet an aspiring hockey player who wants to play in the NHL and has come all this way,” says Weber. “It obviously means a lot to Isak so I hope this is a good experience and he wants to come back again someday.”
If there is any advice Weber can give to Isak, or any young player, he says it is to “work hard.”
“Obviously, all the kids here love to play hockey and if you work hard and stay determined, you never know what can happen,” he says, adding the Sicamous Hockey School is an outstanding camp to attend.
“The instructors are great, the players get both time off-ice and on-ice, as well as get to have a bit of fun at the same time. The best part for me is that, I used to come here every summer, and now I get to come back to see the kids and be a role model. It is a pretty great feeling.”
As for what Isak will take away from the past week, he says it will be the skating and shooting techniques he learned in Sicamous.
“It will help me to be a better hockey player and I will remember this experience for a long time,” he says, adding that it was “awesome” to take shooting tips from one of the best.
“He said you have to practise a lot before you can get good at it,” says Isak of Weber.
And what else will Isak take away from the camp? Claiming the title of “hardest working player” on Wednesday and the very hockey stick Weber played with out on the ice.
When he talks about this, he simply grins ear to ear.