Sixteen-year-old Zach Simpson has just finished his fourth season of hockey, and it was a very successful one for the Ladysmith Secondary School Grade 11 student.
As a goalie, Simpson helped the Cowichan Valley Midget B Capitals finish first in their league.
“I’ve always been a huge hockey fan, watching the NHL and younger teams,” said Simpson. “Then I talked to my cousin, who’s a goalie coach, and he suggested I get into it, so I did, and I loved it.”
Simpson has been a goalie since day one.
“I liked the pressure and all the attention the goalie got,” he said. “I enjoy being in the spotlight, I guess.”
This year, the Cowichan Valley Midget B Capitals won the league and playoff banners and had a lot of success in tournaments. The Capitals recently won gold at a year-end tournament in Ridge Meadows. The team went undefeated, winning all four games and advancing straight to the final, where Cowichan defeated Burnaby 5-1.
This was the first year Simpson played rep hockey, and he says the whole season was a highlight.
“That was huge for me,” he said of playing on a rep team. “That’s been my dream all along, to play rep hockey. I enjoy every game. There’s not one highlight I can point out — every time I step onto the ice, I love it.”
Simpson played about 30 games this season and went to three tournaments from late September to late March.
“For me, it was a new thing being with a rep team,” he said. “It took some getting used to There’s a little more pressure, but there’s also a team-first foundation. Once you get in there and get to know the boys, it’s like you become a big family. I know I’ll never forget the boys I played with this year, and they’ll probably never forget me. Everyone just cares about everyone. The coaches care about everyone and their success, and the players look out for everyone and really play as a team. This year, one of the biggest things is our team had a lot of depth; we all did a lot for everyone. We all played a big role; there wasn’t one guy who stood out more than the others.”
After this season, Simpson’s goal is to try out for some Junior B teams — possibly Kerry Park — and play Junior B.
“If that doesn’t happen, I’m never going to stop playing” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, I will try out for Midget A, which is a big step up.”
Simpson says you have to have a lot of confidence to deal with the pressure of being a goalie.
“I’m confident in my play,” he said. “I just go out there, and I’m not really worried about what everybody thinks. I just go out there and play my game. Even though we’re on a team, and you have teammates looking out for you, it’s like you’re alone. I try not to overthink anything. If you don’t over think anything, you just play your game and don’t see it as such a big deal, it’s easier and simpler.”
Simpson feels he has improved a lot this season.
“It’s more physically and mentally demanding playing at a higher level,” he said. “There’s more pressure to succeed, and you play a bigger role as the goalie.”
Simpson loves sports, and he also plays soccer.
He has been playing in goal since Grade 8. He played three seasons for John Barsby Community School in Nanaimo before coming to Ladysmith Secondary School this year. This season, he was asked to play for the Mid-Isle Soccer Club U18 boys’ soccer team.
“I kind of procrastinated because of hockey, but I decided I wanted to keep playing,” he said. “I love any opportunity to compete in sports. I think I helped that team a lot because they needed a goalie. It was fun.”
The soccer team went to the finals in the end-of-year tournament and lost 2-0 to Oceanside to win the silver medal.
“That was another huge success,” said Simpson.
Simpson feels there is the same kind of pressure to perform as a goalkeeper in soccer as there is in hockey, but there are definitely differences.
“Soccer requires quite a bit more fitness,” he said. “It’s a bit different in style — in hockey, you’re just there to keep the puck out of the net, but in soccer, you are almost like another player on the field; you play more and pass more. In hockey, you tend to be more conservative, so in soccer, sometimes the coach would get on me for being too deep in my net and waiting for the ball to come to me.”
Simpson came to the team halfway through the season and says it was a bit tough because they already had a system in place, but he really enjoyed playing with the team.
“It took a few practices and a few games for me to become part of the team, but once I did, I loved it,” he said. “We competed hard and made a statement we were definitely one of the better teams in the league. It was fun.”
Sports is definitely Simpson’s biggest interest.
“It’s what motivates me,” he said. “It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep. I wake up and look forward to the next game I get to play. I could never get sick of it.”
“Growing up, I never had a lot of opportunities to get involved in sports, so I don’t take anything for granted,” he added. “I just love getting a chance to compete and win. I definitely have a competitive spirit. I like to take advantages of my opportunities. I just love playing and competing and winning. To have as much success as I did this season was pretty overwhelming.”
Simpson’s hockey and soccer seasons have both ended, but he plans to train a lot during the off-season to stay fit and try to improve for next season.
“Even though both seasons are over, it doesn’t stop,” he said. “Whenever I get a chance, I’m always out there playing and training.”
Simpson plans to train with his cousin, David Murray, who runs Vancouver Island Goaltender Training in Nanaimo, a lot during the summer.
“I love training with him,” said Simpson. “It doesn’t really get much better than that.”