For most of the players this year, the season is just winding down, but for Giants’ Captain Dalton Thrower, his final year of junior hockey was cut short because of an injury. Despite this, Thrower looks back at his time in the Western Hockey League as one that has helped shape him into the player he is today, as he looks ahead to being healthy again for a professional camp come August.
The 20-year old Squamish native moved away from home at the tender age of 12 to pursue his hockey career. He elected to join the Pursuit of Excellence in Kelowna, and although it was away from home, it wasn’t as far away as Saskatoon, which is where he would end up playing most of his junior career.
“It was a special moment when I found out I got drafted [to the Saskatoon Blades]. It was early in the morning when I was on the ice for practice. All my friends came running up to the glass to tell me I was drafted by the Saskatoon Blades,” said Thrower. “It took me a couple of seconds to realize what had just happened but it’s something I won’t ever forget.”
Living in Kelowna eased him in for the move to Saskatoon, but being away from home wasn’t easy. “When I was 15-16 years old moving to Saskatoon, it was hard moving away from my family again but I knew the feeling of being away from home which made it easier the second time.”
Moving away from home to follow a dream is a huge sacrifice in itself, but things didn’t get much easier for Thrower. When he was just 17 years old, his Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and at the time he was playing in Saskatoon. “For me, that was the hardest time for me being a young kid and away from my family,” said Thrower. “It was hard to deal with, but I had great support from my family, friends, and teammates which helped me get through that hard time and it helped me not only become a stronger player but also a stronger person.”
Despite the bump in the road for the Thrower family, Murray is at almost every one of Dalton’s games at the Pacific Coliseum with a smile on his face, knowing that his eldest child is home after being away for so long.
Thrower didn’t just play through the adversity, but he played well enough to be noticed, and was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second-round of the 2012 National Hockey League Draft. So far in his hockey career, being drafted by the Canadiens and playing in the Memorial Cup are his top two memories.
Things started to work in his favour, and being traded to the Giants was one of them. When Thrower found out he would finish his career at home, he “couldn’t stop smiling.” He added, “As hard as it was to leave such a great organization in Saskatoon, it was a dream of mine since I was a kid to be wearing a Giants jersey, and to know that it was a possibility of coming true, I couldn’t have been happier. Being close to my family and friends who I had been away from for 4 years, and to know that they would be at every game of mine in Vancouver was something I had only dreamed about growing up playing in Squamish.”
All of his hard work and sacrifices in Saskatoon paid off for him. Not only was he going to end his junior career as a Giant, but he was also named Captain of the team before he even donned a Giants jersey. “Being a 20 year old in the league on any team, you’re expected to have a leadership role. But for me to be named Captain, before even playing a game, was very humbling and it gave me confidence not only with my on-ice play, but off the ice around my teammates.”
When he was in the line up this season, Thrower made an impact on the team and he continued to help the team off the ice when he was injured. He is still pursuing his dreams of playing professional hockey, and will take the summer to heal fully from his injury and be ready for a professional camp in August.
Instead of dwelling on the hardships in his 5 years in the WHL, Thrower looks back on his junior career and counts his blessings and urges his younger teammates to do the same, “It’s a long journey, so have fun with it because it goes by fast. You do a lot of growing through the years of playing in this league. Remember to always take the positives from your experiences because in the long run, that’s what will make you a better player.”