Local AAA hockey player earns spot to play Brick tournament
By Darren Lum
Published March 13, 2018
Like most Grade 4 students, Ty Rupnow of Wilberforce isn’t that much different from other boys his age except for his exceptional hockey skills and sophisticated knowledge of the game.
He couldn’t hide his smile when asked about earning a spot with Toronto Pro Hockey team to play in this year’s Brick Invitational Hockey tournament from July 2 to 8 in Edmonton. This is the 29th annual tournament and is similar to the Little League World Series in its importance to children up to age 10 playing AAA hockey in North America.
The minor Atom aged player for the Central Ontario Wolves loves hockey and is excited for the opportunity to play with some of the best in his age group from all over Canada and U.S.
A bonus for Ty is being able to share this experience with close friend and Wolves teammate Caleb Mitchell, who also earned a spot on the 17 player roster. Mitchell will play in Edmonton as a defenceman. He was picked by Lindsay Hofford. Hoffard has 25 years experience in hockey, the founder of Toronto Pro Hockey development and is a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This trip is going to include some firsts for the Grade 4 J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School student. This will be the first time Ty has taken an airplane and his first trip to Edmonton.
Ty’s father Mike said his son is a hard worker and looks to always make his teammates better.
He expects this experience can only help his son develop and get closer to his dream of making the NHL.
“You have to be prepared and this will go until July so basically it’s adding a whole other season on top of it. His winter season will end ... at the end of March. Spring hockey is another three months,” he said.
There will be four tournaments before the Brick tournament. To prepare for the tournaments, the players will meet up to practice at various locations in Toronto.
In addition to the time on the ice, there are countless hours Ty spends getting driven around.
It’s a sacrifice that is part of the process, Mike said.
“I’m proud of him and proud of how hard he works,” he said.
Orin Litman, his coach for the spring league the past four years, recruited the Wilberforce hockey player to go to the tryouts.
Litman has known Ty for close to five years. He first saw Ty when he was five-years-old, playing for another team in Oshawa.
“He just had this real sense of the game and awareness that was just beyond what anybody at that age had,” he said.
Litman subsequently contacted Mike about recruiting Ty to join the Toronto Pro Hockey Development team for his spring hockey team the following year. His son and Ty, who are close friends, have played together ever since then and will continue to do so when they will cap off this spring by playing in Edmonton.
It wasn’t just qualities on the ice, including vision and instincts, making other players around him better.
“First and foremost he’s a great kid. He’s a coachable kid. He’s unselfish. Great family. Those are very important factors for the Brick tournament. The Brick Tournament is more than just a tournament, it’s really an experience throughout the spring season. We’ll be spending a lot of time together. There are lead up tournaments. There will be practices and sleep overs and all that stuff so just the personality of the kid and the parents are very important factors,” he said.
The overall experience making this team gives players something none of them will ever forget.
Litman remembers speaking with the mother of Montreal Canadiens draft pick and Canadian junior hockey player Victor Mete about how he fondly remembers playing in the Brick tournament.
Litman made sure he was getting a hard look by the Brick tournament bound team’s coaching staff, who had to evaluate an estimated 100 or so players, determining the 17-player roster.
“Ty was absolutely on the top of my list. At the end of the day, Ty had to perform. People went out to watch him play. Lindsay [Hofford] watched him play. There were tryouts. Did I have any influence? I may not have had any influence, but you know I made sure they were keeping their eye out for him,” he said.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for Litman, who is from Edmonton.
He appreciates this opportunity to go to the tournament as a parent, supporting his middle child, who will be playing.
“I try to draw the parallel to the Little League World Series. If you’re a sports fan at all at some point in the year you’re going to turn on TSN or Sportsnet and the Little League World Series is going on, right? It’s that same age group every year. One time in a kid’s life where they have this tournament. This tournament is not yet international, but within North America it’s really the same thing. Every kid who plays AAA hockey anywhere in North America knows about the Brick Tournament. Most of them have aspirations to play in it,” he said.
The past tournaments include teams from all across Canada and several teams from the U.S. and a who’s who of past and current NHL players, including Dion Phaneuf, Alex Pietrangelo, Steven Stamkos, Kyle Turris, and Auston Matthews.
Playing for this spring team gives Ty an opportunity to play against players and teams he would not be able to otherwise play against during winter hockey under the auspices of Hockey Canada.
“The level of competition is just that much better,” he said, referring to the approximate statistic of the top four players of other AAA teams join this team. “The level of play is that much better because when Ty is playing – when other players can do something with the passes he makes – it just makes the game that much better. It’s similar to when you go to the NHL to the Olympics.”