Chestermere elite hockey prospect Nolan Bailey was named Rookie of the Year for the Dawson Creek Kodiaks.
“Initially I was a little surprised when I got called up to receive the award for the Rookie of the Year, but very quickly I was happy and proud of myself. I knew I had one of the best years of hockey I have ever had but I still did not expect it,” Bailey said. “The feeling to win the award was awesome and it will go down as one of my biggest highlights in all my years of playing hockey.”
To be awarded Rookie of the Year, Bailey needed to impress his coach, team, and other teams throughout the league.
“All the coaches and general managers around the league vote on the award,” Bailey said. “You need to not just put-up points but also be responsible, hardworking, caring, sportsmanlike, and more for the whole season to be able to win the award.”
Bailey has played hockey for 14 years and has played the 2021-22 season in the North West Junior Hockey League (NWJHL).
“I was introduced to hockey at a very young age and always loved playing mini sticks, and I would carry my hockey stick all over the place,” Bailey said.
Before starting organized hockey when he was six, Bailey was put in skating lessons and played ringette to develop his skating.
In addition to winning the Rookie of the Year award, being named team captain, and winning his team’s most sportsmanlike award in his last year of U18AA have all been highlights throughout Bailey’s hockey career.
“Over everything, my biggest highlight was winning the Alberta provincial championship in 2013 when I was 11 playing atom for Chestermere minor hockey,” he said.
Playing hockey has always been challenging for Bailey, as he has been the shortest member on his team since he was about 10.
“Especially when trying out for higher calibre teams it is a lot harder to be noticed when you are small and don’t necessarily score very much,” Bailey said.
To overcome those challenges, Bailey adapted to being more of a team player and being responsible and solid in every area on the ice.
For Bailey now, a typical day is starting with a large breakfast, and relaxing until it’s time to pack his game bag and leave for the rink.
He is usually at the rink about two hours before game time, to check his sticks and see if they need to be re-taped.
He then warms up with his team and then starts to mentally prepare for the game by putting on his equipment the same way every time and doing the same stretches by himself before the game to focus.
Without the support of his family, Bailey wouldn’t be where he is today.
“It takes a lot to be able to play hockey, the time, money, dedication and all that come with it is a lot,” Bailey said. “Being able to have my parents register me for countless years and be my biggest fans is a huge privilege, they have done so much for me, and I greatly appreciate them. I encourage every kid who plays sports to thank their parents for letting them play.”