A local hockey player is making the move up to the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) this season joining the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“I’m excited,” said the sixteen-year-old Chestermere defenseman Ryan Conroy.
A physical hockey player who likes to check and play a high energy game, Conroy, who is 16, will be amongst the youngest players in the league.
Earning a spot with the team is all the more impressive given the position her plays.
Conroy’s dad, W. George Conroy, said that most sixteen-year-olds in the league play offense and that last year, the youngest defenseman on the Oil Barons was 18.
“Obviously they’re rather impressed with him because they normally don’t take seventeen-year-olds even,” he said.
When competing for his spot on the Oil Barons’ roster at the spring camp, Conroy enjoyed competing against the older players and seeing what the level of play will be like in the AJHL.
“It was a lot of fun actually,” he said.
“Playing against more mature guys you see the skill level you’re going to be playing against,” said Conroy.
Some of the challenges he faced in getting on the team included keeping his fitness up and being able to compete against the much bigger veteran players.
“Being able to battle in the corners with a six foot three twenty-year-old,” said Conroy.
Just as he is one of the youngest players, Conroy is also one of the smaller defenseman, standing five feet eight inches where most defenseman are at least six feet tall.
Conroy credits his success to his focus on the details during his tryouts.
“You had to make sure you did the small things right,” he said, “the things other people didn’t pay attention to.”
“That little small things that make you stand out,” he said.
It wasn’t just the coaching staff that Conroy impressed. In selecting this year’s rookie players, The Oil Baron’s head coach asked his veteran players who they wanted to play with this year.
Now that he has made the team, Conroy is shifting his focus to where he wants to improve his game.
Conroy hopes to improve his offensive capabilities to become a better all-around player.
“I think my scoring ability will be a big focus this year,” he said.
He is looking forward to continuing his hockey career with a team the team he chose.
One of the reasons that Conroy and his parents like the Oil Barons is the reputation for volunteerism and involvement in the community by the players.
“We’ve heard good things about the team asking the players to volunteer, they’re very involved in the community,” said Conroy’s dad.
Conroy is also looking forward to playing on a team with a big contingent of veteran players who can mentor him.
“There’s lots of older guys I can learn from and gain experience from,” he said.
The move up to Fort McMurray will be Conroy’s first experience of living on his own.
He is looking forward to seeing how he can handle life’s challenges without the support of his parents.
“A mature step…in my life,” he said.
Conroy will be billeted with a family in Fort McMurray, most likely along with another player from the team.
He will be enrolled in high school in the city, with his specific schedule and course load developed in coordination with the Oil Baron’s education coordinator.
“I plan to take about two classes a semester so it not too heavy a workload, so it’s pretty flexible,” he said.