Decked out in his running shoes, Mark Hillier stickhandles an orange hockey ball around a paved driveway.
It’s a break from his daily grind of lacing up his skates and shooting pucks at opposing goalies as his rookie season with the St. Andrew’s College Saints prep school hockey team in Aurora, Ont., is now in the books.
It’s also his way of getting ready for the next adventure.
Hillier, a draft pick of the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will play for Junior Team Canada (East) at the 2018 International Street and Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) U16 World Junior Cup June 28 to July 1 in Czech Republic.
A former star with the Western Kings AAA bantam team, the Labrador City native was invited to join the team based on his performance with Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2017 Canadian ball hockey championships in Kitchener.
He admits ball hockey is a little outside of his comfort zone because of his lack of experience, but he has been doing his fair share of running to ensure his fitness level is where he wants it to be knowing the talent pool on the world stage will be pretty impressive.
Trading his skates for running shoes to take a shot at a gold medal is a challenge he’s excited about and he figures his time spent playing hockey at St. Andrew’s will help him adjust to whatever is thrown at him in the Czech Republic.
“Just got to work hard and have confidence, and I think that will be the key for your own success,” Hillier said earlier this week as he prepared for today’s departure from Aurora.
He’s happy to see there are a number of Newfoundlanders on board for the journey, including his two good friends from Labrador City, Brody Chapman and Nick Sexton.
“It’s always good to have really good friends on a team. It makes you feel more comfortable, so it should be great,” he said.
The team will hold a training camp in Czech Republic for the first few days with a number of practices and exhibition games before opening up the tournament with a showdown against USA Red on June 28.
Playing for his country is a big deal for Hillier. He knows it’s not every day an athlete gets to represent their country, so he wants to play hard and seize the moment.
“Wearing the Canadian crest across your chest is going to be just an incredible experience and something I’ll never forget,” he said.
He’s hoping he has a gold medal in his pocket when he goes to the Moncton Wildcats training camp in August.