Eighteen-year-old Dyllan James flew to Halifax for a national hockey championship in late April and came back with medal, a concussion and a messed-up knee.
The injuries came in the bronze-medal match of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship, played at the 11,000-seat Halifax Scotia Bank Centre.
“We were breaking out of our own end and my d-man passed me the puck and a guy blind-sided me with an elbow to the head,” recalled James, who played winger for Team BC. “I don’t know how I landed but I ended up with a partially-torn MCL in my left knee on the same hit.
“There were only two minutes left in the game, too. It was my last shift and I almost made it out, uninjured. The guy got five-and-a-game but we were already winning and it ended 4-3.”
Their opponents from Manitoba had gotten off to a blazing 3-0 start before Team BC worked their way to the tying goal, which James assisted on. A short-handed goal gave Team BC the permanent lead.
The Dogwood Valley resident said he was in the dressing room when the game ended, so he missed the celebratory dog-pile, “but I heard the announcement and I came out for the medals. I was still in my skates and the adrenaline was still pumping, so my knee didn’t hurt.”
When James and his dad, Jessie, got home, the knee was assessed as a 2.5 out of 3 — with 3 being a complete tear — said his mom, Vanessa.
This is the third year that James has tried out for the team. Last year, he made the 20-man roster from 110 candidates and it wasn’t a shoe-in for returnees this year, he said, as a few vets were sent packing at the final cut. Fourteen players were from the Interior, three from the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland and three from Vancouver Island.
Last year at Kahnawake, PQ, the team was beaten by Team Saskatchewan in the gold-medal match. Saskatchewan’s girls also won gold last year — and both teams repeated as champs in 2015.
“The best teams were from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” said James.
“We didn’t even play Saskatchewan this year, the way the schedule worked out. We lost to Alberta in the quarter-finals and they lost to Saskatchewan in the final.”
James scored twice against Alberta in their first game of the tournament, helping B.C. to a 6-3 win and earning the team’s MVP award. He scored again in the match against Team North and Team BC finished with a 4-and-1 record over the week.
This was James’ first time in Nova Scotia, and they did a bit of sightseeing between games.
“It was a fun time and a good experience. We went to Peggy’s Cove and I tried lobster for my first time,” he said. “I liked it — but the next day, I couldn’t play in the game, I was so sick.”
James, who will be wearing a knee brace when he receives his diploma at this year’s Hope Secondary graduation ceremony, had to take a week off school for the tournament — then another week off to recover from the concussion.
Mom says he doing a lot better now.