It’s not the off-season that Rylen Roersma would have drawn up for himself, but he’s making the most of training for what he hopes will be his first season in the Western Hockey League with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
“It’s been the longest time I’ve ever been off the ice, this past four months,” Roersma said. “Everything got cancelled — like school and everything — so I kind of set up a home schedule.”
For the soon-to-be 16-year-old, the COVID-19 shutdown has meant getting a little creative with his training.
“I wake up in the morning, hop on the online school, then I’d go into the garage, hit the gym for a little bit,” he said. “We have a little dead-end road next to our house, so I play some road hockey, get the hands and feet moving there, shoot some pucks.”
Roersma’s dad Shane converted the family garage into a gym and training centre, complete with a shooting tarp and Superdeker machine — which is basically a video game to practice puck handling.
With rinks closed and an inability to train with teammates, Roersma took advantage of the family’s tricked-out garage for a couple of months before gyms opened back up.
In June, the Lethbridge native was one of 113 players from across the country named to Hockey Canada’s national under-17 development camp roster. The camp normally serves as an evaluation to compete for sports at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, but the tournament — scheduled for November — was officially cancelled on July 3.
Roersma says despite the cancellation, making a list like that is a step toward one of his biggest dreams.
“Ever since I was a kid, me and my dad would always watch the World Juniors — team Canada — and yeah it’s been a goal ever since I was a kid, to wear the maple leaf,” he said.
“Hopefully that dream will come true one day, but there’s a lot of work ahead of me, and that’s what I’ll be stepping towards.”
Hockey Canada is still hosting a virtual camp for the 113 players in a couple of weeks, but Roersma’s focus is now firmly on making the Brandon Wheat Kings this fall.
The Wheat Kings took Roersma in the first round of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, and after a month in Brandon at last season’s camp he says he’s ready to extend his stay this year.
“I’ve definitely just been trying to build up my strength. There’s a lot of older and stronger players in that league, so I definitely need to get bigger, stronger,” he said.
Roersma has been able to lace up his skates on artificial ice this month, but next week he is set to hit real ice and start intensive training. He says the Wheat Kings have tentatively penciled in Sep. 15, for the start of camp, and the WHL has said that it’s targeting an October 2020 start date for the 2020-2021 season.