The winner of the prestigious John Reid Memorial Award for heart and hustle was blindsided by the announcement.
“I didn’t see it coming,” said a surprised Jake Mykitiuk of the St. Albert Sabres.
The award honours the Sabres’ player who exemplifies hard work, talent, determination and sportsmanship at the John Reid tournament. Previous winners were Jed Groenenboom, Josh Winquist, Ryan Harrison, Steve Wall, Blaine Bokenfohr and Nate Fleming.
“It’s such a big award. It means a lot to me,” Mykitiuk said.
John Reid’s dad, Ernie, presented the award at Saturday’s tournament banquet.
“He knows a lot about hockey and for him to think that I resemble somewhat of a player that John was, that made it really special,” said the Grade 9 student at Vincent J. Maloney School. “When he gave it to me I tried not make a scene or do something stupid. I just went up there and smiled and they took some pictures of me. It really felt great.”
The St. Albert bantam AAA tournament was renamed in John Reid’s memory in 2004 and the award symbolizes the person and hockey player he was. The former Alberta Golden Bear and Alberta Junior Hockey League forward with the St. Albert Saints and Sherwood Park Crusaders was an active coach in minor hockey and lacrosse and a big supporter of the local sports community. He died of leukemia at age 41 on Nov. 6, 2003.
“I always try to work hard. I’m also small and I guess John was small too,” said the five-foot-three Mykitiuk.
In five games he scored once and added five assists for the semifinalists in the A-side playoff bracket.
“It wasn’t my most productive tournament. I should’ve done more to help the team out.”
Mykitiuk, 14, is a centre who spent most of the tournament playing left wing with a variety of linemates. In league play he is the fourth-highest scoring Sabre with 29 points, on 14 goals and 15 assists in 26 games.
“With me being small I have to chip in offensively but I also think defence first too. I’m not going to be hanging around the far blue line.”
“We still did pretty good,” Mykitiuk said. “It was probably one of the stronger tournaments ever with the LA team there as well as good teams from all over the place.”
In the 16-team draw, an increase of four clubs from previous years, the Sabres finished 2-0-1 in their round robin pool. They beat the Prince George Cougars 4-3 on a power-play goal by defenceman Jeff Harrison with six seconds remaining, doubled the Calgary Bronks 6-3 as Luke Mahura sniped three goals and battled the Pursuit of Excellence Academy of Kelowna to a 4-4 draw.
“We started out really good. We played good as a team,” Mykitiuk said.
A 4-1 victory over the Leduc Oil Kings in the quarter-finals, highlighted by four assists by Braenden Farge and another Mahura hat-trick, was followed by the lopsided loss to the eventual champions from Los Angeles.
“They could’ve had a lot more goals,” Mykitiuk said. “They were really incredibly strong. They really passed the puck around and were really fast. They outplayed us pretty good. They got a couple of good bounces and we had a couple of bad ones to start off with and I guess it kind of went downhill from there.”
As far as Mykitiuk is concerned the tournament lived up to its advance billing as the very best bantam AAA event in western Canada.
“I’ve been waiting to play in it for a long time. It was real fun and a great experience.”