Siblings from Langdon are pursuing their high-level hockey dream while playing together on the Victoria Cougars team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL).
JC and Nathan Ingram, both defensemen, having been playing hockey for the majority of their lives.
“I thought [Playing hockey] was the coolest thing you could possibly do,” said JC.
He added that when, “I started playing for the Indus Hurricanes, I couldn’t even skate.”
Although the brothers have been a part of a team for many years, playing in the VIJHL rather than in a community league is more intense, and requires most persistence, Nathan said.
The brothers begin their day with online school in the morning, and then heading off to practice, if they don’t have a game.
“Those are the days where we’re really going to the rink to get better, those are our hard work days,” JC said.
In-between two work outs the brothers train in a grueling practice, and then head home.
“Those are the days when you come home feeling 100 lbs heavier. When we come home we’re so dead tired we don’t want to do anything, but just veg out,” JC said.
However, game days are quite a bit different and require preparing the night prior.
“You need to go to bed at a good time, we try to wake up pretty early the morning before the game. You have a job to do that day, you’re waking up and getting ready to do that job,” JC said.
Nathan added, “You’re thinking what I can do to make myself feel the best I can for game time.”
After the duo wakes up, they try to get moving soon right away, by going for a jog to warm up their legs.
“By the time you’re showing up in your suit, you’re ready to go, you’re just waiting until you get on the ice,” JC said.
Although it was difficult for the brothers to leave their family and friends and move to another province, they knew it was the only way they could play hockey the way they wanted.
“We felt like the move would be fitting and it would really help us grow as hockey players and as people.
“We both love the lifestyle, and love hockey, we wanted to play the best hockey we could play.
“This is who we are, there’s no place we’d rather be, this is the lifestyle we chose,” JC said.
The brothers have their own goals which they are working to achieve together, such as JC attaining a hockey scholarship, or Nathan moving on to Junior A hockey.
“This is the right stepping stone to do that, and we thought it was our best option,” JC said.
He added, “Initially it was hard, you get homesick, but when you move to a new hockey team it’s your family.
Although the siblings felt homesick when they first moved, the Victoria Cougars hockey team volunteers around the community, talking in elementary schools, playing ball hockey with younger teams, and helping with Terry Fox Runs, which keeps them busy.
“There’s a real feeling of belonging when you come to a team like this,” JC said.
He added, “It’s a weird thing leaving all of your friends and your family behind, but you’re doing what you love, you’re always feeling included, you’re a part of something that’s bigger than you and it feels good.”
Head Coach of the Victoria Cougars, Suneil Karod said, JC and Nathan are both great kids.
“JC is confident and likes to talk in the room and has a very good singing voice, while Nate is a bit quieter but picks up things quickly.
“They both have good chemistry in the dressing room, having fun, but they also contribute on the ice by playing tough defense and breaking out pucks. They’re reliable and are always team first,” Karod said.
The brothers add depth to the team, and their hard work and dedication make the team better day by day, Karod said.
“Nate has an edge over JC, from being the younger brother and being pushed consistently by JC,” Karod added.
Although the brothers have now found where they belong, it has not always been an easy journey. Both brothers have had to overcome their own sets of challenges throughout the years.
JC has struggled with his consistency as a hockey player, and as a person. Living by himself for the first time last year and learning how to juggle academics, and hockey was very challenging.
“It makes me have to be accountable for myself and keep myself on a schedule that lets me produce the best results.
“It’s put a lot of weight on my shoulders,” JC said.
He added, “I had to realize that nobody was going to help me do it, I had to do it for myself.”
While Nathan has had to learn how to pick himself back up after he’s been knocked down.
“Growing up I wasn’t really the best player, I wasn’t always the best skater.
“Every year no matter what team I ended up on I would train… [hard] in the summer and then I’d come back and put my best foot forward to try to make the team I wanted,” Nathan said.
He added, “It took a while, but I finally found a bit of success. If I hadn’t been so determined to push myself, I wouldn’t be half of where I am today as a hockey player or as a person.”
Throughout the years, Nathan had moments where he questioned himself, and why he was training so hard. However, he knew he always wanted to play hockey.
“At this point, I’m kind of over proving other people wrong, I’m still just trying to prove to myself that I have the work ethic and the ability to be the hockey player I want to be,” Nathan said.
“At this point I’m just trying to prove to myself that my work is worth something,” Nathan said.
He added, “I’ve been kicked down a lot of times, and I’ve just kept working for the past five years to get out of community hockey.
High level hockey has opened so many more doors for me to develop.”
Even though the brothers have dealt with challenges throughout their young hockey careers seeing their improvement throughout the season makes all of the hardships they face worth it.
“It’s hard work, it’s a grind, every day you come to the rink, you feel yourself getting a little bit better, you go in with the intention of getting better, at the end of nine months the improvement is drastic. For me that’s the most rewarding part of what we’re doing,” JC said.
He added, “When I came to the cougars in 2017 it was an instant feeling that I was meant to be here, this is what I was meant to be doing.
“When you hit that as a player it’s like striking gold, it makes you so much more confident as a player. It feels like you hit the spring board and you’re just going up.”
Playing together on the Victoria Cougars is the first time the brothers have played high-level hockey together, and although it has been a learning experience for both of them, having each other to lean on is something that the brothers really appreciate.
“In years passed we’ve had our conflicts, I came to this team last year, I thought this was the place to be, this is the best athletic decision I’ve ever made,” JC said.
He added, “I’m more emotionally motivated to yell at [Nathan] when he makes a mistake.
“Everybody in that room is your brother, but when you have your actual brother there it makes it more enjoyable. I play better with him here.”
Even though every member of the Victoria Cougars is close, for Nathan having his brother playing a sport with him that they both love is special.
“It makes it really easy to go out there, try your best, and have someone to talk to if you make mistakes,” Nathan said.
The siblings have each other to lean on, and to support each other, but none of this would have been possible without the support from their mother, and their sister.
“We couldn’t have got out here without our mom, she’s been our absolute backbone.
“She yells at us when we make mistakes, pushes us to be our best selves, but she’s always there when we need a cushion,” JC said.
He added, “Our support is super important for us, we couldn’t have done it without my mom and our sister.”