When Team BC competes at the 13th annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships near Montreal, Que., the name on the back of one player’s jersey will be a familiar one to Ladysmith and the Stz’uminus First Nation — Harris.
Earlier this month, Darian Harris, a 5’7”, 160-pound forward from Stz’uminus First Nation was chosen as one of 20 aboriginal youth to play for British Columbia at the national championships, which take place April 27 to May 3 in Kahnawake, Que.
The 15-year-old took part in tryouts for Team BC at the beginning of April in 100 Mile House. One hundred and 31 youth from across B.C. tried out for the male and female teams.
Harris, who has friends on the team, says it felt really good to make Team BC.
It was a goal he had set for himself after being cut last year.
“I tried out last year, and I got cut last year, so that motivated me to make the team for this year that came up,” he said. “Last year, when I got cut, they said I needed to get bigger and get more strength on me, and when they did the first cuts this year, they said I did exactly what they told me to do.”
Team BC’s first game at the nationals is today (April 29) against Saskatchewan.
“I’m excited and nervous at the same time,” Harris said a couple of days before leaving for the tournament.
Harris says he doesn’t really know much about the coaches, but they seem really good, and he knows two players — Keenan Eddy, who played on his team last year, and Darryl Coon from Port Hardy.
The team has only had one practice as a team, but Harris was headed to Vancouver to meet the team for another practice late last week.
“It was really fast-paced,” Harris said of their first practice. “It was good.”
Harris will spend one week in Montreal with Team BC, and he says he is most looking forward to meeting new people and new teammates and getting to know the coaches better.
“It should be just a good experience going to Montreal and playing hockey there,” he said.
Harris has spent this year playing hockey at the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy (PCHA) in Victoria.
He is one of 17 elite Vancouver Island Minor Midget hockey players training with the PCHA through its first year in operation. He and his teammates spend a minimum of 12.5 hours each week honing their skills on and off the ice. Harris spends Monday and Wednesday mornings studying Grade 10 math, science, English and socials at the WestShore Centre for Learning and Training. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, meanwhile, are spent completing assignments either from home or at the rink, he said, and the remainder of his week is devoted to hockey.
When Harris returns from the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, he and his PCHA team will compete in the Challenge Cup in Vancouver.
Harris says the PCHA season is going really well.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of new people and different teammates.”
Harris feels he’s improved a lot from last year to this year.
“I feel like I just know where the puck is more and all that stuff,” he said. “And I’m still learning too because our season ends in June.”
A former member of the Cowichan Valley Bantam Tier 1 AAA Capitals, Harris has been playing hockey since he was a little boy, and he’s been on rep teams since he was in novice hockey.