A Mexican hockey player didn’t know what to expect before arriving in the province NHL legend Gordie Howe came from.
Alejandro Apud de la Fuente, who was born and raised in Mexico City, is currently a member of the La Ronge Ice Wolves in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL).
He started skating around five years old back in his home country.
“They opened a rink by my school when I was little and (dad) just threw my sister and I into skating,” Apud de la Fuente said.
“And then they opened a hockey program and I saw them skating and I was like, ‘They look cool.’ So that’s how it all began.”
After moving to the United States with his family to pursue the sport, he was introduced to Ice Wolves head coach and general manager Kevin “Killer” Kaminksi.
“I played on an (American) team a few years ago that Killer used to coach. … I was like, ‘I would absolutely love to play junior A in Canada. It’s like the dream,’” Apud de la Fuente said.
“(My family) supports me 100 per cent with my goals and dreams so it’s very nice for them to do that. They were like, ‘Yeah, you, La Ronge, go ahead. That sounds like a cool place to be at.’”
Before relocating to northern Saskatchewan, the forward did a bit of research.
“Not exactly what it would be like. I did read a short novel about Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, so I did know about Saskatchewan but it was … not too specific,” Apud de la Fuente said.
“It was a very big cultural shock.
“The lake is huge! Islands and everything. It’s so much different from what I’m used to and I really like it. And everybody here in town is so welcoming.”
According to the Saskatchewan Immigration Ministry, roughly 600 immigrants have come to the province from Mexico over the past half-decade. It added Mexico was among 167 source countries over this period and accounted for about one per cent of newcomers.
“Everybody was so curious … when I got here,” Apud de la Fuente said.
“I’ve never skated on a frozen lake before. That was another one of my childhood dreams and I finally got to experience it up here.”
The 20-year-old is already making his mark in the community using another passion — cooking.
“We started doing this thing with Co-op. We call it ‘Taco Tuesday’ and I cook Mexican food once a week. … We (just) made churros,” Apud de la Fuente said.
“I enjoy teaching all my teammates a little bit about the Mexican experience. They all love it and I enjoy that they like it.
“The boys aren’t very original. They just call me ‘Mexico’ … (but) I love it.”
Apud de la Fuente has been working on developing his skills on the ice to be ready for his 2021-22 SJHL regular-season debut. The Ice Wolves are scheduled to host the Flin Flon Bombers at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Mel Hegland Uniplex.
“He has worked extremely hard and is very dedicated to improve his overall game and why he’s in the lineup tonight! Kid’s a workhorse,” Kaminksi said in a statement.
The town of La Ronge is roughly 345 km north of Saskatoon.