By Darren Lum
Published March 13 2018
Likemost Grade 4 students Ty Rupnow of Wilberforce isn’t that muchdifferent from other boys his age except for his exceptional hockeyskills and sophisticated knowledge of the game.
Hecouldn’t hide his smile when asked about earning a spot withToronto Pro Hockey team to play in this year’s Brick InvitationalHockey tournament from July 2 to 8 in Edmonton. This is the 29thannual tournament and is similar to the Little League World Series inits importance to children up to age 10 playing AAA hockey in NorthAmerica.
Theminor Atom aged player for the Central Ontario Wolves loves hockeyand is excited for the opportunity to play with some of the best inhis age group from all over Canada and U.S.
Abonus for Ty is being able to share this experience with close friendand Wolves teammate Caleb Mitchell who also earned a spot on the 17player roster. Mitchell will play in Edmonton as a defenceman. He waspicked by Lindsay Hofford. Hoffard has 25 years experience in hockeythe founder of Toronto Pro Hockey development and is a scout for theToronto Maple Leafs.
Thistrip is going to include some firsts for the Grade 4 J. DouglasHodgson Elementary School student. This will be the first time Ty hastaken an airplane and his first trip to Edmonton.
Ty’sfather Mike said his son is a hard worker and looks to always makehis teammates better.
Heexpects this experience can only help his son develop and get closerto his dream of making the NHL.
“Youhave to be prepared and this will go until July so basically it’sadding a whole other season on top of it. His winter season will end… at the end of March. Spring hockey is another three months” hesaid.
Therewill be four tournaments before the Brick tournament. To prepare forthe tournaments the players will meet up to practice at variouslocations in Toronto.
Inaddition to the time on the ice there are countless hours Ty spendsgetting driven around.
It’sa sacrifice that is part of the process Mike said.
“I’mproud of him and proud of how hard he works” he said.
OrinLitman his coach for the spring league the past four yearsrecruited the Wilberforce hockey player to go to the tryouts.
Litmanhas known Ty for close to five years. He first saw Ty when he wasfive-years-old playing for another team in Oshawa.
“Hejust had this real sense of the game and awareness that was justbeyond what anybody at that age had” he said.
Litmansubsequently contacted Mike about recruiting Ty to join the TorontoPro Hockey Development team for his spring hockey team the followingyear. His son and Ty who are close friends have played togetherever since then and will continue to do so when they will cap offthis spring by playing in Edmonton.
Itwasn’t just qualities on the ice including vision and instinctsmaking other players around him better.
“Firstand foremost he’s a great kid. He’s a coachable kid. He’sunselfish. Great family. Those are very important factors for theBrick tournament. The Brick Tournament is more than just atournament it’s really an experience throughout the spring season.We’ll be spending a lot of time together. There are lead uptournaments. There will be practices and sleep overs and all thatstuff so just the personality of the kid and the parents are veryimportant factors” he said.
Theoverall experience making this team gives players something none ofthem will ever forget.
Litmanremembers speaking with the mother of Montreal Canadiens draft pickand Canadian junior hockey player Victor Mete about how he fondlyremembers playing in the Brick tournament.
Litmanmade sure he was getting a hard look by the Brick tournament boundteam’s coaching staff who had to evaluate an estimated 100 or soplayers determining the 17-player roster.
“Tywas absolutely on the top of my list. At the end of the day Ty hadto perform. People went out to watch him play. Lindsay [Hofford]watched him play. There were tryouts. Did I have any influence? I maynot have had any influence but you know I made sure they werekeeping their eye out for him” he said.
It’sa homecoming of sorts for Litman who is from Edmonton.
Heappreciates this opportunity to go to the tournament as a parentsupporting his middle child who will be playing.
“Itry to draw the parallel to the Little League World Series. If you’rea sports fan at all at some point in the year you’re going to turnon TSN or Sportsnet and the Little League World Series is going onright? It’s that same age group every year. One time in a kid’slife where they have this tournament. This tournament is not yetinternational but within North America it’s really the same thing.Every kid who plays AAA hockey anywhere in North America knows aboutthe Brick Tournament. Most of them have aspirations to play in it”he said.
Thepast tournaments include teams from all across Canada and severalteams from the U.S. and a who’s who of past and current NHLplayers including Dion Phaneuf Alex Pietrangelo Steven StamkosKyle Turris and Auston Matthews.
Playingfor this spring team gives Ty an opportunity to play against playersand teams he would not be able to otherwise play against duringwinter hockey under the auspices of Hockey Canada.
“Thelevel of competition is just that much better” he said referringto the approximate statistic of the top four players of other AAAteams join this team. “The level of play is that much betterbecause when Ty is playing – when other players can do somethingwith the passes he makes – it just makes the game that much better.It’s similar to when you go to the NHL to the Olympics.”