Kelowna Minor Hockey product and Seattle captain Justin Hickman is in his fourth season with the WHL's Thunderbirds.

Playoff series a homecoming for T’Birds captain

Kelowna hockey product Justin Hickman always excited to return home to face his favourite team growing up, the WHL's Rockets

Justin Hickman’s first couple of visits to Prospera Place as a member of the Seattle Thunderbirds were, to say the least, a little unnerving.

More than three years later, the butterflies are pretty much gone, but not the anticipation the 19-year-old forward experiences every time he steps on to the ice in his hometown.

“It was pretty nerve wracking my first few times here, but I’ve been there enough now that I just go out and play and don’t think about it too much,” said Hickman, a product of Kelowna Minor Hockey. “But it’s always pretty special to come home, especially with the family and friends I have there. I grew up a big Rockets fan, and always dreamed of playing there.

“Coming back as a Thunderbird is different, but it’s exciting. We have developed a really good rivalry with (the Rockets).”

A second-round bantam draft pick of the T’Birds in 2009, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Hickman didn’t waste time busting on to the roster, making the team as a 16-year-old in 2010.

With each passing season, Hickman has become increasingly more valuable, on and off the ice.

In addition taking over the captaincy of the T’Birds this season, Hickman netted career highs for goals (22), points (46) and penalty minutes (154).

Still, Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said there is far more substance to Hickman’s value than statistics.

“He’s a natural leader and the guys just gravitate to him,” Konowalchuk said. “He competes and works hard everyday, and puts the team first. The Thundebirds getting the win is most important. He plays a well-rounded game and, as captain, we look to him to be one of the guys to take charge and lead us through.”

It’s the second spring in a row Hickman and the Thunderbirds have battled his hometown Rockets in the playoffs.

Last season, an epic first-round struggle saw Seattle win the first three games, before Kelowna rallied to win the next four game and the series.

With an older, more experienced team than last year Hickman expects his team to put up a good fight—but at the same time knows toppling the Canadian Hockey League’s No. 1 team will be a formidable task.

“They’re very good and have a deep lineup that can put the puck in the net,” Hickman said. “It’ll be a tough task. I feel as a group we’re a better team. We’re coming in as underdogs, and I think it’s going to be a heated battle.”

Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal series between Hickman’s Thunderbirds and the Rockets will be played Saturday night at Prospera Place. Face off is 7:05 p.m.

 

Just Posted

Casa Loma residents petition to halt proposed Blackmun Bay project

West Kelowna City Council grants second reading for what would be the city’s largest development

Lakestone Grand Opening set for this weekend in Lake Country

MP Stephen Fuhr, MLA Norm Letnick and Mayor James Baker will all speak at the event

West Kelowna RCMP search witnesses in assault

A man was attacked in the early morning on July 16

Small business spotlight: Kelowna’s master tailor

Sam Galvez started his business in Kelowna 6 years ago

Kelowna ranks fifth in where Canadians will move to buy a home: study

‘The study suggests that the dream of homeownership is very much alive and well,’ said Finder’s editor

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

Summerland clinic will be closed on August long weekend

Medical office assistant needed at Rosedale Medical Clinic

Driver who killed Shuswap motorcyclist receives absolute discharge

Chase family speechless following decision by BC Review Board

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Anglican Church to review governance structure after same-sex marriage change fails

Some say the current system to change doctrine gives too much voting power to a smaller class of bishops

B.C. adding fast-charge stations for electric highway trips

Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Kootenay stations ready for use

Comedian Gerry Dee ready to lighten things up at BC Hockey Hall of Fame

Canadian actor and stand-up comedian Gerry Dee is hosting the event in Penticton

Most Read