The story of Alyksander Hunter
Born at the base of the Lizard mountain range of the glorious Rocky Mountains to Michael and Dianna Hunter. In his first picture with his dad his father sported a Fernie Ghostriders shirt. From his very first moments in life he was exposed to the game of hockey.
His dad always laughed and joked - "Alyksander was born with skates on. From the time he was a baby and there was hockey on, he was watching. It never changed. Didn't matter who was playing, he wanted to watch and he did."
Since he could walk he could skate. Alyksander strapped on a set of bob skates and stumbled his way around the rink. It wasn't long after he started skating that he had a stick in his hand, slapping at a puck.
By the time he was three years old he was already a keeping up with four-five year old kids despite being shorter than most of them.
Oldest of three boys, two years older than his first brother Jackson and four years older than his brother Zayne. The Hunters had their hands full with a flock of rambunctious children. Michael loved the challenge of three young boys, but he didn't have to look after them 24/7 like Dianna. Michael worked in a local mine about thirty minutes from Fernie, operating and maintaining machinery. His hours and weeks were long, like most things though - Michael took the bull by the horns and accepted the challenge. Dianna was a stay at home mom, someone had to look after the hyperactive Hunterlings. She however never seemed to waiver. Her own sets of challenges, she seemed to conquer tirelessly. Her efforts were never unnoticed. As Alysksander grew older he noticed how seemingly impossible his parents tasks and jobs were, but at the end of the day they always ended it with a smile on their face, always finishing their job with pride, always giving it their maximum effort. This rubbed off on Alyk in a big way. Whether it was his homework, his friendships, relationships or hockey, he took a sense of extreme pride in it and never took a day off of it.
Like any other kid Alyksander loved being outdoors, whether it was skiing at the Fernie lodge, swimming in the lake, playing some ball down at the diamonds he loved it all. He however would try to find a way to make it about hockey. Sometimes to the point where his friends were annoyed. Alyksander was always trying to get someone to play some puck with him. Sometimes they'd become so annoyed they would all tell him it's fine if he went skating by himself, generally he would.
Alyksander was always very privileged, almost spoiled in the sense that he could play most of his youth hockey in Fernie. He made his name known at a very young age. Because of his skating he was able to accelerate himself past his opponents and score piles of goals. His coaches tried convincing him to play forward but that wasn't okay with him. His little brother Jackson was the forward and Alyksander was the defenseman he didn't want to be.
Just after Alyksander's second year of Bantam hockey ended he found himself watching the WHL Bantam draft. His name had been thrown around a hit, he wasn't sure if there was any traction to the rumours. The first round went by and he didn't hear his name. But, midway into the second round the Kelowna Rockets took a chance on the young man.
He found himself in Kelowna with his whole family only a week or so after he was drafted. The development camp was intense, lots of skating, lots of physical testing. Alyksander however loved the challenge and took it in stride. At the end of the week the Rockets development staff took Michael and Alyk off to the side to discuss where he would play this season. Alyk refused to go to any elite-15 leagues, however he was convinced to try out for major midget the season after.
When Midget hockey rolled around Alyksander had to find something more competitive. His dad, Michael and him jumped in his truck and made the hour long drive to Cranbrook BC to try out for the Kootenay Ice in the BCMML. As he lined up in the seemingly endless line-up outside of the Ice's recreational complex on a cool crisp morning his jitters got to him a little. His dad reached over and brought him in closely, saying to him "This is fun, we're here to have fun, if we make it we make, if we don't, we'll just take our fun somewhere else."
Forty-seven other young lads stood with nervous intensity all over the ice surface, split into groups and put through rigorous tests. Alyk emptied his mind and let his second nature take control. quik step here, sharp accurate pivots behind the net, three steps into his full speed and his edgework was perfect.
The young men were sent home all eagerly awaiting the phone call. Alyksander couldn't get the day out of his head. "Did I skate hard enough? Were my passes good enough?"
When he arrived home he grabbed his skates, his stick and his gloves. He smiled at his dad and did what Alyk does best, went skating.
A week passed and Alyk got the phone call, he made the first cuts. He had to go back to another evaluation camp in mid-August.
Going in with confidence, he killed his try-out. Blasting pucks past the goalies, physical on players and his skating was sublime.
Once again he eagerly awaited the call for the next camp.
The phone rang early on a Sunday morning, Dianna answered the phone with a warm "Hello, Hunter residence."
Alyksander heard the phone ring, he sat on the stairs leading to the basement, hearing every second word or so.
"Alyksander!" Yelled Dianna. "Please come here." With a shaky sigh he stood up and jogged up the little flight of stairs into the living area. His parents stood there, a little way into the dining area. Michael glanced at Alyk, Dianna never making eye contact. He felt his heart sink, he didn't make it. "No way…" he thought. Tears welling in his eyes, his dad walked over, grabbed his shoulder and said with a whisper, "You made it." Alyksander shoved his father away from him and exclaimed "I MADE SECOND CUT?" "No." Michael said with a chuckle "The coaches and evaluators liked you so much you made the team." Alyksander danced around the house for days, counting down the days until the season started. Doing his daily work outs and skates, like clockwork.
While he had his ups and downs in his first season Alyskander had a stellar season. He placed second in all defenseman scoring with 32 points(9 goals, 23 assists) in 40 games.
The air was heavy and crisp, it was July. Alyk had just finished his 3rd development camp with the Rockets and he felt amazing, the workouts were just as intense as ever, but he finally felt like he was progressing towards his goal of joining the Rockets this season. He was messing around at a local playground with a couple of his friends from school and his phone rang. It was his mom, she needed him to come home right away. Alyk asked for a ride home as fast as possible, he ran in through the front entrance and up the stairs. Dianna was sitting on the couch murmuring to someone on the other end. Confused at what was happening, Dianna quickly hung up the phone and said "it's your dad, he hasn't been feeling well since thursday and he collapsed at work tonight. He has no strength in his legs, he's losing feeling in his hands and his breathing is having issues. He's on his way to the Kelowna hospital right now."
Shocked, flabbergasted, devastated, confused. Alyksander had no idea how to act. He had no idea how to feel. Dianna then mentioned to him "we're driving to Kelowna tomorrow, all of us."
The trip felt like a lifetime, the roads seemed to twist on forever, none of them really knew what to expect when they got there.
They arrived, the receptionist was stoik and emotionless. She pointed to the ICU sign, then began the longest walk Alyk has ever taken. They arrived to his room, machines beeping, lots of wires, Michael laying in the bed. The doctor came in a few moments later and began explaining what happened. "Michael contracted a virus that triggered an auto-immune system attack on his nervous system. It's known as Guillian-Barre syndrome. Due to the extensive damage to his nervous system he will be here in Kelowna for 10 to 12 months." This was the worst case scenario for the family. What are we going to do?
The three boys and Dianns went for some lunch in the hospital lounge. Turkey sandwich and jello, i guess. Dianna sighed, glanced at the three young men. "I'll have to return to work now, I've been in contact with my old boss at the insurance brokers, next Monday I'll get back to the grind."
The wheel got turning for Alyksander. He was going to make something happen, he wasn't just going to leave his dad in Kelowna by himself. He wasn't going to do this by himself.
Alyksander through a few phone calls found a place to live with a family friend for a few months, He found a skating coach and he's arranged a workout schedule alongside his dad at the hospital gym.
Up up and away.
Alyksander received an invite to Rockets camp, his chance to finally prove his worth in the WHL. This year is different, this wasn't just for him this was for his dad, he didn't want to leave Kelowna, he wasn't going to leave Kelowna.
Alyk went to camp with intense purpose, there was a fire in his soul and passion in his game not like before, this was different. He had never been more focused in his life.
He was physical, his skating was superb, his passing was crisp and accurate, he also scored a pile of goals in scrimmages.
He made final cuts, the coaches loved the game he brought to the table.
Alyksander made arrangements so his father could attend all the home games, come to the dressing room and attend workouts to help recovery along.
Alyksander went on to put up a very nice rookie season in the WHL. Scoring 12 goals and 28 assists.
In June of the following year, Alyksander and Michael were able to move back to Fernie. Michael had recovered to 75 percent to full recovery. Alyksander promised to help his dad with workouts and recovery.
Recently Alyksander received a contract offer playing for the San Diego Marlins, he accepted the offer, but he's not in it for the money. He's doing this for the love of the game. The family celebrated Alyksander's accomplishments and his steadfast love for the game by making the trip to San Diego with Alyk.
Half of Alyksander's paycheck is going back home to his parents. In his own words "They gave me everything, they sacrificed their life for me, this is only a small gesture to repay part of that. I'll never be able to fully return to my parents what they gave me. Without my parents I wouldn't be where I am today."