Over the years, Riley Hunt has had offers to leave Revelstoke to play hockey. Big hockey programs in bigger cities have invited him to play but instead he’s stayed in town to play his minor hockey here. Until now.
The 16-year-old is off to Vernon this coming hockey season to play for the Junior A Vipers and he’s already committed to go play hockey at Harvard starting in 2014.
“Everyone’s always told me to move to Salmon Arm or Vernon or go to one of the hockey academies,” said Hunt “I just stayed the course, stayed in Revelstoke and things started to happen. It just goes to show it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
Hunt has been one of the stars of Revelstoke Minor Hockey since he started playing 10 years ago. His father Earl coached him every one of those years. Last year he played one game for the Grizzlies and in July he attended the provincial under-17 camp in Salmon Arm.
His initial plan was to play this season for the Grizzlies in Revelstoke but when he got called by Larry Black, the director of scouting for the Vernon Vipers and a former minor coach in Revelstoke, and invited to join the Vipers, it was a no-brainer to join one of the most dominant Junior A teams in Canada.
“Revelstoke’s obviously got a great Junior B program and it would be nice to play at home but to say no to an organization like that would be ridiculous,” said Hunt, adding that Black helped with his development since he was in Atom hockey.
Hunt, who said he is 5’5”, has always been dogged by questions about his diminutive size but it hasn’t held him back from physical play. He’s used to being the smallest player on the team and said he’ll make some adjustments to his game but will continue to play a fast, aggressive game.
“There’s going to be some big guys, 20-year-olds who are a lot stronger than me so I’m just going to have use my advantages to beat them out for loose pucks in the corners,” he said. “For me I have to pick my time and place. I can’t go running 6’4” guys in open ice but for sure I want to be a physical, aggressive player.”
Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson said that while Hunt may be small in stature, he will give the Vipers a dynamic edge on offence.
“He’s been recognized by some higher-level programs and when you have a player like that, you’d be crazy not to have him in yours,” he said. “He’s a smaller player so it’s going to take some adapting to get used to this league, but we’ll get through that.”
Hunt skated last week with a group of Revelstoke Grizzlies vets and hopefuls, though he did not take part in the main camp. He’ll be off to Vernon soon to meet his billet family and settle in before hockey season starts.
“Going in there my goal is to win a national championship and improve every day on and off the ice as a player and a person,” he said.
With files from the Vernon Morning Star.