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

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

West Kelowna candidates discuss new city hall

This week learn about how your candidates feel about a new city hall in West Kelowna

Science teachers converge on Kelowna for conference

Exposing new instructional classroom tools for science teachers

Okanagan competitors to be featured in arm wrestling documentary

Arm Nation, featuring competitions from Kelowna and Penticton, will air on Oct. 20 on APTN

Former Vernon man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Cough cough: Kelowna MLA gets flu shot to prep for the cold season

Steve Thomson got his flu shot from Lakeside Medicine Centre Friday

Watch it again: Kelowna mayoral candidates square off

Missing the LIVE Kelowna mayoral debate watch now

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Black trucks figure prominently in Shuswap thefts

Chase RCMP investigating stolen vehicles from several communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Most Read