One chapter ends, another begins

One chapter ends, another begins

Well . . . that didn't take long!

Dylan Willick, who captained the WHL's Kamloops Blazers this season, arrived in Fredericton on Wednesday. Three days later, he announced that he will attend the U of New Brunswick in the fall and play for the Varsity Reds, who are the CIS's defending champions.

Willick, 20, has used up his junior hockey eligibility. Knowing that he wants to take engineering, the Prince George native had narrowed his choice to McGill University in Montreal or UNB.

He visited McGill earlier in the spring; in fact, he was in the Bell Centre to watch the Canadiens drop a 6-1 series-ending decision to the Ottawa Senators on May 9.

"I'm not really a big city person," Willick said on Sunday, adding that he really wanted to see Fredericton before he made a decision.

"Once I saw it, it all clicked," he said. "It's kind of like a Victoria feel because it's all government buildings . . . some old brick buildings. It's a mix between that and Prince George foliage, because it's all big trees and foresty."

The Varsity Reds have won six straight Atlanta University Sport regular-season pennants and three straight playoff championships. They also have won four CIS titles over the past seven seasons.

Head coach Gardiner MacDougall is preparing for his 14th season at the helm.

"He seems like a good guy," Willick said, before chuckling and adding: "Of course, coaches can be a little bit different in the offseason when they're not yelling at you so much."

"He and his staff seem good," Willick continued. "It's almost reminiscent of what we had (in Kamloops), with one guy who is more focussed on the skills and plays, and the other guy is more focused on making sure he gets the effort out of the guys.

"They complement each other nicely and they're easy guys to talk to."

At this point, Willick doesn't know anyone on the Varsity Reds' roster, although it includes former WHL players Cam Braes, Daine Todd and Ben Wright. Willick does, however, know a couple of other players who may decide to attend UNB.

"I'm hoping somebody else comes along for the ride," he said.

All of this, of course, signals a new chapter in Willick's life. After four years, he is having to step out of junior hockey's bubble and get on with his life.

"I'm really excited now that I know exactly where it is that I am going," he said. "There's a lot of planning involved now in getting down there and figuring out everything."

He also is settling into a new job, something he has never done.

"In previous years," he exlained, "I held off on the job front and focused on hockey. But there's a big move ahead and it's not cheap to move across Canada.

"I'm 20 years old and I had to get my first job."

He's working at Jasco Rentals on Tranquille Road and admitted that "it's been fun for me. I'm learning a lot, which is always fantastic."

Because he has committed to UNB, it doesn't mean his dream of playing professionally is over. He still could get a pro tryout and, he said, if that happens he will check his options.

"I have to figure out how all that works," he said. "From what I hear and understand . . . (MacDougall) is letting them go to camps and will have spots open when they come back.

"If the opportunity comes up for a tryout, I'll have to talk to them first . . . as long as everything worked out, I would definitely go and give it a shot.

"If it worked out, it worked out. Right?"

Willick played four seasons with the Blazers, putting up 157 points, 80 of them goals, in 266 games. This season, he had 30 points, including 16 goals, in 51 games. He lost a chunk of the season to a broken ankle suffered on Nov. 2 in a 2-1 shootout victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars.

Willick was named the Blazers' captain on Dec. 5, while he was rehabbing the broken ankle that he sayd yesterday now is 100 per cent.

Prior to this season, he had played 71, 72 and 72 games, so durability was never a problem