Ezekiel looks to keep climbing in his hockey career

Chris
Chris Quigley
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Norm Ezekiel is shown as a member of the St. John's IceCaps last season. — Submitted photo

CORNER BROOK  As a self-described “half-Newfie,” Norm Ezekiel was thrilled to sign an American Hockey League deal with the St. John’s IceCaps last season.

He just wishes it would have continued into this year.

“I saw myself being there for a little bit longer,” he said. “But it’s part of the business, this is how things work.

“(He and the IceCaps) talked earlier in the summer, but nothing really developed,” he said. “The fans were amazing, the group of guys I was with were awesome ... it was a good first year of pro. I definitely don’t have any regrets.”

The 22-year-old Ezekiel was born in Innisfil, Ont., but his grandparents — Pat Ezekiel and Phyllis Stratton — both grew up in Corner Brook, with Phyllis still living in the Massey Drive area. Pat now resides in Barrie, Ont.

Ezekiel still recalls family outings to Marble Mountain when he was a kid, so he naturally jumped at the chance to play hockey in this province.

When he became evident the situation wasn’t going to last longer than the one-year contract he signed, he inked a similar deal with the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals.

With the IceCaps, he only played nine games in the AHL, spending most of the season with the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles. Likewise, he suited up for three AHL games with the Admirals, but has been with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL most of the season.

With the Grizzlies, he has a goal and an assist in 20 games, with 48 penalty minutes. He didn’t record a point his three AHL games, but spent seven minutes in the sin bin.

The five-foot-eight, 190-pounder would like to up his offensive output in the ECHL, but realizes it’s his gritty, grinding style that will punch his ticket to wherever it is he ends up in his hockey career.

“That’s one of the things they told me,” he said. “‘Do what you do and just keep working on that, because that’s what’s going to get you back here.’”

The Eagles are first place in the Mountain Division of the Western Conference, with a 17-8-3-2 record and 39 points. The Admirals are third in the AHL’s East Division of the Eastern Conference, sporting a 16-12-1-4 record.

He believes he can play at the AHL level, but understands his game still needs a little refining.

“I guess everyone can always do a little more work, but that’s where I want to be,” he said. “I think with my skillset, it’s a matter of finding the right place or situation to be in.”

Of course, the biggest goal is the National Hockey League. It may be a longshot, but like many minor pro players, the thought of achieving that dream fuels every shift he takes.

“If I can break into a regular spot in the AHL in the next year or two, I think that goal will be very achieveable,” he said.

Ezekiel got to spend a few days with his family in Barrie for Christmas, but there was no chance of a surprise pop-in on his grandmother in Newfoundland.

That will have to wait until the hockey season ends.

“I’ll probably be back there this summer,” he said. “to visit my grandma and maybe see a couple of aunts and uncles.”

Organizations: American Hockey League, IceCaps, Utah Grizzlies National Hockey League

Geographic location: Innisfil, Corner, Massey Drive Marble Mountain Newfoundland

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