By Charlie Pinkerton
Three of the city’s budding hockey stars will lace up for Ontario at the Canada Winter Games, in an attempt to make history by winning consecutive gold medals at the event, a feat that the province has never accomplished.
Leading the way are former Ottawa Junior Senators teammates and friends, Brandt Clarke and Connor Lockhart.
Clarke, the brother of Ottawa 67s winger Graeme Clarke, started playing hockey at four years old. He and Lockhart played together on the Jr. Sens before Clarke moved to Toronto with his brother three years ago. That’s when Clarke said he seriously started thinking about a future in hockey.
Now, Clarke is widely expected to be the first defenceman selected in the OHL draft that’s less than two months away.
He told the Sportspage that it’s not something he thinks about while he’s on the ice.
“I’ve just been playing my game, so I think that I may as well just stick to it since it got me to where I am so far,” Clarke said.
The Don Mills Flyers defender says he’s looking forward to playing with Lockhart again, who he says he has “really good chemistry with,” from their years together playing for the peewee Jr. Sens.
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Unlike Clarke, Lockhart says he didn’t get any “hockey genes.” His father immigrated to Ottawa from Scotland and mostly played rugby throughout his life. Yet when his son was only three years old, he enrolled him in a local CanSkate program. That led to the younger Lockhart quickly developing a passion for being on the ice.
“Today it’s really become a lifestyle for me,” Lockhart said.
Prospect Pipeline, a hockey scouting website, ranks Lockhart as a potential top pick in the upcoming OHL draft. The site also praises his skating as his top on-ice skill, which the 16-year-old agrees with.
For a period when he was younger, Lockhart was taught by figure skaters in CanSkate, while at the same time playing hockey.
“I was doubling up, just always trying to get better,” Lockhart said.
“(CanSkate instructors) taught us how to use our edges, how to do crossovers forwards, backwards and kind of just work on default skating and it really kind of helped me to develop.”
Lockhart is second in Hockey Eastern Ontario’s minor AAA (HEOMAAA) league in scoring at the moment, having tallied 77 points for the Kanata Lasers midget team in 40 games.
He told the Sportspage that part of the reason he’s looking forward to the Canada Winter Games is because of the rich history of players who have used it as a stepping stone in their hockey careers.
“You look at the names of the players who have played in this before and a lot of those guys were just in the World Juniors representing Canada, so you know you’re in good hands when you’re at an event like this,” Lockhart said.
Carp-native Mason McTavish is the third Ottawa-linked player who will lace up for Ontario. McTavish is the son of Eganville’s Dale McTavish, who played nine games for the Calgary Flames in 1996-97 and had a lengthy professional hockey career in Europe. The elder McTavish bought the Pembroke Lumber Kings in 2013 and currently serves as its head coach. His son is a member of the Lumber Kings’ midget AAA team and is the only player ahead of Lockhart in points in HEOMAAA, a lead that he holds by two points, at the time of publication.