In what has essentially been a month-long quarantine in Red Deer, Alta., former Victoria Grizzlies star Alex Newhook has had to find many ways to kill time.
And it doesn’t include the go-to teenage time burner of video games.
“Not for me, not a big video games guy. I hear the other guys shouting and screaming [from their rooms],” said the first-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
This past month has been the latest test for Newhook, whose patience and hard work paid off on Friday as the 19-year-old was selected to Team Canada’s 2021 World Junior Championships team that will play in Edmonton. The team remains in Red Deer but will head to Edmonton soon for exhibition games and Christmas Day until Jan. 5.
Newhook played for the Grizzlies from 2017 to 2019. In 2017-18 he won BCHL rookie of the year. In 2018-19 he served as the Grizzlies captain and led the BCHL in scoring with 28 goals and 102 points in 53 games. Colorado then picked him 16th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
West Shore’s Dylan Garand, who plays goalie for the Kamloops Blazers, also made Team Canada.
The World Juniors tournament itself is on thin ice as Hockey Canada had two players test positive and sent five home as “unfit” to play. The Swedish camp sent away four players for testing positive for COVID-19, the U.S.A. team three players and Germany two players. Even the International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel tested positive this week.
“In Red Deer the bubble is confined and we’re not taking any chances with the scare we had. We travel to Edmonton on Sunday, then we isolate for five days again. Then the bubble is similar to what the NHL did for the playoffs,” Newhook said.
With everyone under mandatory two-week quarantine and further isolation in Edmonton, tournament organizers believe the event will go on.
It makes for a very happy Newhook who was cut from training camp ahead of last year’s tournament, despite scoring the only goal in an exhibition game against U-Sports all-star players.
“The feeling is crazy. It’s a lot of emotions going through the head and a lot of excitement. It’s been a long year, I’m ready to go and ready to defend the gold medal,” Newhook said.
The bitterness of being cut from last year’s team – and then watching that team win gold – was only fuel for Newhook. He used it as further motivation and turned in a monster rookie season as an 18-year-old with Boston College in the NCAA. He ended the year as Boston College’s top scorer with 19 goals and 23 assists for 42 points in 34 games.
“Last year was a learning experience and I was definitely disappointed. Looking back, it helped me find a new gear with Boston College,” he said.
He left Boston and arrived in Red Deer about a month ago and went straight into isolation and quarantine.
“It was tough. I’ve done some Zoom workouts. The team set up bikes in the room, and we have social hours and team meetings that keep us busy,” Newhook said.
As for food, it’s all hotel room service. Three meals a day and a snack.
Canada opens the 2021 World Junior Championship on Dec. 26 against Germany at 3 p.m. PST. All games are broadcast on TSN.
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