By Darren Lum
The North Bay Battalion fans will soon learn what Haliburton Highlands character and work ethic is all about when Alex Little makes his OHL debut this coming season.
The former Red Hawks hockey player who played for the red and white in 2018-2019 was drafted 41st overall last week by the Battalion in the 2020 OHL under-18 priority selection. He joins Ty Nelson of the Oakville Rangers who was selected first overall.
Little watched the draft from his home in Minden with his parents via a live-stream on YouTube.
“I was in shock at first but my family was quick to congratulate me. It took a little bit to set in but it was a great feeling knowing that a dream since I was a little kid was now real life. This definitely ranks number one for personal achievements so far. It’s what I’ve been working for my whole life up to this point so for it to actually happen it feels pretty surreal” he wrote in a message.
He is excited for the next chapter of his hockey career after he was drafted by the OHL’s North Bay Battalion but isn’t looking past the latest achievement.
“I’m just taking it step by step really. It started first with making a team here and then making a AAA team and then juniors are the next step. Taking it one step at a time and hope for the best really” he said.
Little started skating at three and playing hockey as a goalie at six years old in Haliburton at the local rink. That lasted only a year before he switched to playing defence.
The five-foot-11 defenceman played for the AAA North Bay Trappers major midget team (and played for Trappers’ affiliate team the Powassan Voodoos in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League) this past season after playing for the Hawks and the AAA Central Ontario Wolves minor midget team in Lindsay the year before.
As a member of the Trappers Little was named the Great North Midget League’s most gentlemanly player and was named to the GNML All-Star team as a result of his 29 points (nine goals and 20 assists) tallied in 38 regular-season games.
There have been other Haliburton players drafted to the Battalion such as NHLer Matt Duchene who plays for the Nashville Predators and former NHLer Cody Hodgson who was also drafted a year before Duchene. The last local hockey player to be drafted was Ryan Hall two years ago.
Little said he remembers watching Duchene play for the Battalion in Brampton when he was six – the Battalion has since moved to North Bay.
“I cheered for the Battalion way back then. To see the success that Matt had makes me confident that it’s a good program run in North Bay. It also feels like it was meant to be considering the last three hockey players drafted from Haliburton County were drafted to [the Battalion]” he wrote. The team’s move from Brampton to North Bay suits Little well who said hockey is the night out for people on a Saturday night during the hockey season.
He welcomes the thought that he could be part of another wave of skilled hockey players from the area to advance to the higher levels of hockey.
“I helped out with the Timbits and I just love hockey and to keep it in the community and get more and more people playing it it would be awesome. It’s not a cheap sport at all but if I’m part of helping kids love the sport still [then that’s great. I’m] really just playing for fun. That’s how I got here is [by] playing for fun. If you think of it as a job from when you’re little then it takes away from why you’re really out and a part of the sport” he said.
He is thankful for the support he has received from his parents Chris and Alec and older sisters Erin and Jamie.
“They’ve pushed me through everything whether it was sports or academics. They were there for me to make sure that I’m doing my best and have what I needed to succeed. Really good support” he said. “Coaches of course. They’re always a big part of it. I’ve had great coaches my whole life in Haliburton and moving away I still got that same support so it’s a really big help to where I’ve got so far.”
Without this support he can’t imagine he would have been drafted to the OHL.
Little loves the competitiveness of hockey and the feeling he gets skating with the puck.
“There’s a rush skating around so fast out there on the ice. There’s a bit of physicality … I love scoring. I love contact. The speed. It’s an all-around great game” he said.
Although he only played for the Red Hawks who were coached by Jason Morissette in the 2018-2019 season the experience has stayed with him because of the people he met and the lessons he learned.
“You get people from all categories of hockey out there. From people who stay at home and play to AAA players. And to play with older guys and just learn their ways and learn … new tricks. And how to be not only as an athlete outside of school but somebody who shows good character from older guys like [that year’s captain] Owen Smith and [goalie] Carson Sisson who have been through the program. That was really cool” he said. “Playing for your own school and getting your own fan support. It’s pretty cool because when I played in Lindsay you don’t know a lot of the people. Like here you have people making signs for your school. It’s really awesome.”