Two local hockey players are seeing their lifelong dreams to be NHL players come closer and closer. Last weekend, the NHL Draft took place, and both Jesse Gabrielle and Ethan Bear were drafted to NHL teams.
This is following the NHL Scouting Combine, which took place in early June, where both players interviewed with a number of NHL scouts, and had a chance to showcase their physical strength. At the combine, Gabrielle broke three scouting combine physical endurance records.
Gabrielle was picked up by the Boston Bruins in the fourth round, 103th overall and Bear, who is from Ochapowace First Nation, was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round, 124th overall.
Jesse Gabrielle grew up in Moosomin, and played his minor hockey in Minnesota before coming back to Canada to play WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings. In January, Gabrielle was traded to the Regina Pats, where he had a competitive season, scoring 10 goals and nine assists in his 33 regular season games with the team.
For Gabrielle, who has had his eyes on the Bruins for a long time, hearing his named called to head up and pick up his Boston Bruins jersey was an exciting and relieving moment.
“It was like the weight of the world was off my shoulders,” Gabrielle says. “This past month has been really stressful with all the scenarios going in your head about where you’re going to get drafted or if you will—just to hear your name called was a big relief. All the stress and worrying is over and now you can focus on training camp.”
Gabrielle says that of the teams he met with during the scouting combine, he felt confident about his interview with the Bruins, and is glad he has been drafted to a team that fits his playing style.
“Getting drafted to Boston is pretty fitting with the style that I play, and playing for a team like that plays pretty gritty will be good,” he says.
Gabrielle is among five Regina Pats picked up in the draft, along with Colby Williams, Connor Hobbs, Austin Wagner, and Sergey Zborovskiy, Gabrielle will be heading to the Boston Bruins training camp on July 13, and then heading back to Saskatchewan after his training to rejoin the Pats for the 2014 season.
Gabrielle says he is excited, but he’s focusing on continuing to work hard and prove himself to the Bruins.
“It’s a milestone and I’m happy about it, but, there’s so much work to do, so I am trying to focus on having a good day today celebrating, and then just get back to training,” he says. “This gives me a sense that my hard work is paying off, so it gives me a boost to just keep going.”
Ethan Bear has been playing with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL for two seasons now. In his two seasons, Bear has racked up 19 goals and 38 assists. In addition, Bear was selected to play with Team Canada in the U18 World Championship in Switzerland this year.
Bear says his mind went blank when he was called up for the Oilers.
“It was definitely a nerve-wracking morning, but I knew they had interest in me, and every time the team name came up, I was really hoping to hear my name. When they did call my name, I was pretty shocked. I think I blanked it out for a few seconds, and I hardly remember hugging my mom, I was too excited,” Bear says. “It was a cool experience, and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The best part of the moment for Bear was having his family’s support. His sisters, big brother, and parents were by his side in Florida.
“I remember I hugged my dad and he was patting me on the back, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy in my life. My mom was crying too, and it was the cutest thing ever,” Bear says.
His time for celebration was short however, as immediately after the draft, Bear had to pack his bags again and head to Edmonton for the start of the development camp.
“It’s been a hard working week, it’s a good chance to help yourself as a player to get better and stronger and learn everything the development coaches have to teach,” Bear says. “Being in Edmonton, I get the chance to get a good feel of what the guys are like and what the feel is like around the room.”
In addition to the skills development, Bear says he is enjoying the team building activities, including a cook-off that his team won on Thursday.
“I was pretty surprised that we actually rigged up a good dish,” he says. “That was definitely a lot of fun.”
Having the Oilers jersey on his back and being at the development camp, Bear says, has made him realize how close his NHL dream is.
“It opened my mind up of how close the NHL is and how hard I want to work for it. Actually getting drafted and actually coming here makes me want to play on this team and work even harder, it’s a really good thing for me,” he says. “I still have a long way to go, but definitely the hard work I put in for the combine and during my hockey season, I think it really helped me out and I’m happy for that—but this is only one step.”
For the summer, Bear will be coming home to Ochapowace Nation to be with family before heading to Regina for his summer hockey training. While back home, Bear knows he wants to give back to his fans, especially the young hockey players.
“I like having home support and knowing they are there for me, because in the end, I want to give back and teach all those kids back home what I’m learning,” he says.
Bear will also have a chance to play his second favorite sport, softball, at the Saskatchewan First Nation Summer Games which will be held at Ochapowace Nation from August 9 to 15.