By Rick Garrick
Fort William First Nation’s Dalton Demerah is one of 25 Aboriginal hockey players featured during the third season of APTN’s 13-week Hit the Ice reality show.
“It was amazing — it is really different from what I am playing,” says the 19-year-old Team Ontario goalie at the 13th Annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. “Some of these players actually got drafted, some players are in the WHL (Western Hockey League), Quebec Major Junior (Hockey League), the OHL (Ontario Hockey League). It’s just unreal. They’re fast, fast hands, fast release of the puck. They’re really good, but I was still keeping up with them, trying to make myself look good.”
Demerah says the two other goalies — Rylan Parenteau from Saskatchewan and Mitchell Jacobson from the Northwest Territories — were also good players.
“Skill aside, they are both really nice and really funny,” Demerah says. “They’re smart and they know what they are doing in the net.”
Demerah says all the coaches were “amazing.”
“The goalie coach is the goalie coach for the Anaheim Ducks,” Demerah says. “My parents said the goalie coach (said he was) a good goalie to coach.”
Hit the Ice was filmed by Nish Media, which developed the reality show to provide young Aboriginal hockey players with an opportunity to be seen by scouts. The show airs on Tuesday and Friday afternoons in the east, with episodes 1-4 also available on APTN’s website at http://aptn.ca/hittheice/.
“I’m proud of how hard he works,” says Sheila Pelletier-Demerah, Dalton’s mother. “I love the fact that he got to meet other Aboriginal youth across Canada. And he has lifelong friends because of this experience.”
Demerah says he was on the try-out list for the second season of the reality hockey show after initially applying two years ago, but missed the opportunity due to a pulled groin suffered in a semi-final game at the 12th Annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
“It was (disappointing) seeing my name getting scratched off the list,” Demerah says. “And then afterwards we lost gold.”
Demerah then got the call last May to try out for the third season while his team was watching the championship game at 13th Annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
“They evaluate your skills,” Demerah says. “I wasn’t used to cameras so when they get up in your face it was hard not to laugh. But once you start to get used to it, it’s like (the camera is) not even there anymore.”
Demerah says the tryout involved two hockey practices and a number of fitness tests every day. They youth also had the opportunity to go to a nearby quarry where they could jump into the crystal-clear water.
“We’d just go there and jump in,” Demerah says.
Demerah was cut from the team after the third day, but a week later he was called back by head coach John Chabot, a former NHL player.
”John called me and I asked to call him back — just to see what my grandpa would do or my mom would do,” Demerah says. “They said to go back and I did.”
Demerah encourages other youth to keep striving for their goals.
“Don’t give up,” Demerah says. “There’s opportunities everywhere. You just have to work hard and just go. If you want something, you have to get it. That’s the mindset you have to get into.”