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

Impaired driver blows twice the legal limit

Kelowna RCMP are reminding drivers that counter attack road checks are underway

Kelowna radio hosts aim to get 10,000 items for those in need

B Mack and Karly’s Cold Weather Clothing Drive kicked off Dec. 10, getting cold-weather donations for those in need.

The Rockets are fueled up and ready to win

Rockets kick off four-game trip ahead of Christmas break

UPDATE: Sagmoen to stand trial

Curtis Wayne Sagmoen will appear on all three Vernon matters this week

More snow to kick off the week

The Okanagan and Shuswap will see a light dusting of snow Monday night

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Most Read