by Eric Welsh – Chilliwack Progress
Chilliwack’s Hayden Guilderson is going to be a TV star.
And through that, he hopes his hockey dreams come true.
The 17 year old traveled to Quebec in late July to take part in ‘Hit the Ice.’
Hit the Ice is a television series that features Aboriginal hockey hopefuls going through a National Hockey League-style training camp.
Guilderson was one of 25 players invited to the Chateauguay/Kahnawake area for filming of the third season.
For 17 days he was surrounded by cameras, coached by NHLers and watched intently by junior and collegiate scouts.
Former NHLer John Chabot was the face of the series, a veteran of 508 games with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
Guilderson caught Chabot’s eye captaining Team BC to silver at the 2014 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
“He (Chabot) personally invites some players at the tournament,” Guilderson said. “I didn’t get a personal invite, but a few days later I got an email saying they’d like me to attend. I was so excited.”
Hit the Ice started with four days (two hours a day) of on-ice training, followed by a nerve-wracking experience that every player loathes.
Five of the 25 players were sent packing, and at one point Guilderson was convinced he was one of them.
“We were in the lobby of the hotel, and all the coaches were outside, sitting in lawn-chairs with cameras all around,” he said. “They were calling us out one-by-one, and I was fifth-to-last. None of the guys in front of me were cut, so I was sure I was gone.”
Turns out the coaches weren’t doing cuts. They were providing feedback, and gave Guilderson a vote of confidence.
“They told me they liked how vocal I am, and they liked my work ethic,” he said.
The cuts did come, not long after.
“It was back in the lobby, me sitting there, shaking and biting my nails,” he said. “Even if I think I’m one of the better players, I still get nervous. It’s probably bad, but negative what-if thoughts pop into my head.”
Guilderson and a handful of other players watched the process unfold.
“This is probably a bad thing too, but as you’re sitting there with 10 guys left, and you see a guy go in there and make it, you’re thinking, ‘Uh oh. I don’t know. Is that right? Is he better than me?” he recalled. “We’re all a brotherhood at the end, but it’s a battle. Being cut and not getting seen by scouts, that could be a difference maker for us.”
Hit the Ice included interesting off-ice activities, including a camping trip that was both memorable and forgettable, where each player carries a deer skinning knife for hunting.
“We were thrown out in the middle of nowhere with some water, tarps, food and stuff and we had to rough it for a night,” Guilderson laughed. “I hadn’t done anything like that. I’m pretty pampered. But it was cool.”
The boys, ages 16-18, went cliff-jumping four or five times at a local quarry, leaping off plateaus of 15, 20 and 30 feet.
“We did indoor surfing too, Guilderson added. “There’s this big treadmill, and the water rushes at you. We had a last-man-standing competition and I was third or fourth.”
Los Angeles Kings forward Dwight King was one of the NHLers who stopped by, along with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Alex Killorn.
“We played lacrosse and did a Q&A with Dwight, and I asked him what the biggest obstacle that he’s had to overcome,” Guilderson said. “He talked about growing up in a small town and not getting opportunities to be seen. He had to move away from home to be seen.”
Killorn said something that really resonated with Guilderson.
“He told us how he got drafted into the QMJHL when he was 16, but ended up leaving that team and going the NCAA route with Harvard,” Guilderson explained. “He developed for four years, and now he’s a full time NHLer. That stuck with me because I’m also looking to go the NCAA route.”
Back on the ice, Guilderson played in two games.
This first one was against the Kanata Lazers, a junior A team in the Ontario-based Central Canada Hockey League.
The second one was against the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League’s Kahnawake Condors.
“The first one was all-right, but I thought the second one was a lot stronger,” Guilderson said. “I was more of a pivotal player. I had a lot of chances and I think I got an assist.”
“You’ve got two games to make something happen and get noticed, and unfortunately I didn’t get anyone to talk to me,” he added. “I was a little disappointed, but even if I don’t get something this year, someone who was here and saw me might remember me. Hit the Ice semi-opens doors for me, and I’ve just got to be there to kick them in.”
Chabot gave him good feedback as he left.
“He told me I was fearless and kind of reckless and even though I’m a small player I throw my body around,” Guilderson said. “That was good to hear from an ex-NHL player and it really sinks in. I know I’ve got to work on my strength and get in the gym a bit more.”
Guilderson had never done an on-camera interview before Hit the Ice. That part of it may be what he remembers most.
“They were right in my face, and the first couple were a little wordy and jumbly,” he laughed. “Once I got the hang of it I probably did 20-25, so when the show comes out hopefully there’s a lot of me in there.”
“I tried to be a little bit funny, and I think I’m going to be portrayed as a jokester,” he continued. “They asked me whether I do my own laundry and I said, ‘No, my mom does it for me.’ Stuff like that, I like to keep it light.”
Guilderson will play for the junior B Abbotsford Ice Pilots in the Pacific Junior Hockey League this fall. He hopes to use it as a stepping stone to junior A. He has been invited to the Chilliwack Chiefs main camp.
In the meantime, he’s waiting to see Hit the Ice, which won’t air until January. It will be shown in English and Cree on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network.
“That’s so far way, but I can’t wait to watch it,” he said. “It’s going to be so cool.”
Get more info online at hittheice.tv