Three imports from Fairbanks, Alaska are making an impact for the Flin Flon Bombers as rookies.
Forwards Caleb Moretz and Ethan Daniels are third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring. Calvon Boots, a defenceman, is sixth.
“They have been three impact players…It is amazing how the three Alaska boys are so similar in how their work ethic is tremendous and they are all-around, good kids,” said Bombers head coach Mike Reagan.
The three 1998-born players have been friends since they were about eight years old and were always on the same team growing up, Daniels said. They have been enjoying life on and off the ice with the Bombers. Daniels said that the best part has been the relationships.
“Coming to Flin Flon is like joining a whole new family,” he said. “All the guys on the team are like my brothers. The coaching staff is great. They push us to be the best we can be every day, and the fans are unbelievable. I will be walking down Main Street and people will stop me and say ‘Hey, great game last night; good win.” Everyone here has really taken me in and made me feel at home.”
Moretz has established himself as a talented playmaker. The 5’10”, 175-pound forward is tied with Nate Hooper for the team lead with 21 assists in 39 games. Moretz’ 30 points put him behind Hooper and rookie Chrystopher Collin, who both have 32, on the Bombers in scoring.
“He is quick and he is slippery,” Reagan said. “He is strong on the puck.”
The 5’11”, 180-pound Daniels plays a power forward type of game. He is tied for second on the team with 11 goals. Daniels has 22 points and 61 penalty minutes in 38 games.
“He is physical and takes pucks to the net,” Reagan said.
Boots is second on the Bombers blue line in points. His 21 in 39 games puts him one behind captain Ben Lanfermann. The 5’11”, 185-pound Boots leads the Flin Flon defencemen with 10 goals.
“If there is one word that sums up Calvon Boots, it is ‘compete’…He gives you 100 per cent 100 per cent of the time,” Reagan said.
Boots, Daniels, and Moretz are no strangers to being away from home in pursuit of their hockey dreams. When they were 16, Boots and Daniels moved to Colorado. They played in the North American Prospects Hockey League. Moretz continued to play high school hockey after his two friends departed. He joined them last year on the Superior, Colo.-based Rocky Mountain RoughRiders.
“We just haven’t been able to stay away from each other,” Boots joked.
Daniels also spent time last season with the Wichita Falls Wildcats of the junior North American Hockey League. After being identified by one of the Bombers’ scouts, the trio came to Flin Flon to play quality hockey.
“The opportunity to play at a very high level is my drive to travel far away from home,” Moretz said. “Having motivation that keeps you going every day is huge when it comes to leaving your friends and family back home. Mine is my desire to play [NCAA] Division 1 hockey, preferably for an Ivy League school.”
The trio are pleased to be able to pursue their dreams today. Daniels said “There isn’t anything better than being able to play junior hockey with your two best friends.”
They help each other navigate new places and faces.
“It’s been amazing playing with them as long as we have,” Boots said. “But they also help me connect with the other guys more because I am not an outgoing person whatsoever. Because they both have very outgoing personalities, they push me to step out of my comfort zone.”
Coming to Canada and the SJHL has been another new experience on their journey. They have had to adapt to the Canadian junior A level.
“The biggest adjustment I have had to make in the SJHL is playing smarter because everyone playing junior hockey plays at an elevated, smarter level,” Boots said. “I’ve always played hard, but I’ve never had to think about the game in the way I have playing here in the SJHL, which helps me to further improve my game.”
Each Alaskan player has had success this season. Moretz was the MySask 411 SJHL Rookie of the Week in late December, while Daniels won it in October. Boots was the runner-up for the weekly honour when Moretz won.
When speaking about Northern Manitoba, people often ask about the winter weather. Daniels said it is similar to that of his hometown.
“You have your warm days and, of course, you have a lot of cold ones.”
The weather was different in the last couple of places he played hockey.
“In Colorado, the weather changes so much,” Daniels said. “One day it will be 50 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny and the next day you will wake up with a foot of snow and it will be below freezing. But in Texas, there really is no comparison to Flin Flon weather.
While the Flin Flon temperatures might get chilly, Boots said the trio’s reception in the community has been warm.
“Living in Flin Flon has been an amazing experience so far,” he said. “I would say the incredible support from the community is probably what I enjoy most about Flin Flon. It’s a close knit community. Everyone seems to know everyone and they treat all of us on the Bombers so well. The community treats us like we are celebrities and respect us. They always welcome us with a warm hello and wish us good luck.”