They’re both hockey defencemen, they both shoot left — and they both have the right stuff that will take them to new opportunities, thanks to the experiences provided by Hope Minor Hockey.
Seventeen-year-old Donavan John is closing out his 12 years in minor hockey and heading off to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, where he hopes to mix hockey with his science studies.
Eleven-year-old Brandon Pennell captained his atom A-2 Wildcats team this year, where he was scouted and invited to try out for a Western Canadian AAA hockey exchange team that will be travelling in Europe next summer.
John was selected as Hope’s representative to the Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association’s annual midget C scholarship tournament in March. His team won the four-team event but John didn’t come home with any awards at the time.
“One player from each team got a $500 scholarship for the best overall performance,” said John on Monday. “I didn’t win that — but there were two more scholarships to apply for and I applied for both.
“In the application, they wanted to know about my community service, so I talked about my drumming and singing group that we did in Hope for the Olympic Torch Run and the Paralympic Torch Run and also at the Paralympics in Vancouver. I also helped fundraise for our grad class this year.”
John’s record in hockey helped pad his application. He was captain of the midget C Wildcats last year and assistant captain this year — and his penalty minutes averaged under 20 minutes total for each of his three years in midget hockey.
Academic achievement also stood in John’s favour, as he has been on the Hope Secondary honour roll or merit list for most of his five years at the school.
In the end, John was awarded the $750 Pat Quinn scholarship from the Vancouver Canuck Alumni association.
“That will go toward my first year at Thompson Rivers University,” said John. “I want to take physics, astronomy and mathematics for sure, leading to a Bachelor of Science.
“There are a couple of job options that I find interesting. One is in astrophysics and the other is aerospace engineering.
“I’m definitely going to try out for whatever hockey team they have up there,” he added. “I plan to be up there before September, most likely staying in on-campus housing.”
Pennell has a few more years before he has to worry about university housing. For now, his big challenge is to make the prestigious team he has been invited to try out for.
He and his Hope Wildcats atom rep team were playing in a Christmas break tournament at Abbotsford and — unbeknownst to Pennell — there was a scout in the stands, looking for standout players. Pennell only found out later, after his parents had some time to digest what the scout had told them.
“He was watching me and he asked my brother Justin where my parents were and he talked to my parents,” said Pennell on Monday. “He told them that he liked everything that I did but I had to work on my shooting.”
Through the parents, the scout invited Pennell to try out for the Western Canadian AAA International Hockey Exchange team, which would be touring Europe in 2013.
“It was such a shock to me and Larry,” said Brandon’s mom, Terri. “Brandon was the only one invited from his team and there were only three invited from the whole tournament.
“We were invited out for a pre-tryout camp in Bashaw, Alberta (northeast of Red Deer) in March,” said Terri. Prospective players were run through drills with this year’s team.
“Brandon was on the ice for a total of six hours in one day. It was quite something.”
He’s not there yet — but if Brandon makes the team, he’ll be going to Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland in a two-week whirlwind trip next year, playing select teams along the way.