SaltWire E-Edition

‘It makes you play harder’

U18 goalie stops pucks in support of Indigenous youth education

JOHN MACNEIL @JohnnyMacHockey

Joey Hawco is making a difference.

The 17-year-old goaltender has translated his success on the ice into an even greater achievement in the community.

For every save he made this season with the U18 major Dartmouth Steele Subaru and the junior A Truro Bearcats, Hawco donated 25 cents toward Indigenous youth education.

“It’s definitely motivating when every time you step on the ice, you know you have something to fight for in the back of your head,” he said. “It makes you play harder.”

The Upper Tantallon resident was selected as the first all-star team goalie in the Nova Scotia U18 Major Hockey League. His heroics in the regular season amounted to even more than his 13-3 won-lost record with Dartmouth.

Hawco’s puck-stopping prowess also generated more dollars each game for his personally created project, Making Saves for Indigenous Youth. Before the playoffs began in early March, he made a $1,692 donation to Indspire, an Indigenous registered charity that invests in youth education. Hawco’s fundraising total included a $500 contribution from the provincial U18 major league, along with other donations that complemented his efforts on and off the ice.

When he sat down with his father at the outset of this season, Hawco resolved to make the most of his final year of U18 hockey.

“I wanted to make it count,” he said. “I was just thinking to myself, being a Cree person and having a very big Indigenous background, I just wanted to do more for the Indigenous community and create something that I found meaningful and would spread awareness to something I’m passionate about, which is Indigenous schooling and the importance of it.”

Hawco has maintained an average in the mid-90s during his Grade 12 year at Bay View high school. He’s considering studying science in university, but he realizes that not all Indigenous youth are in as fortunate a position as he is financially.

“There’s definitely a lot of people out there in the Indigenous community who might not be able to afford university,” he said. “They can probably do great things with the education. That’s the only thing they need, is just the

financial ability to do so.

“Just raising more awareness to that, getting people to donate, it’s going to make a difference because that money goes toward someone’s schooling.”

Hawco estimated his save-by-save proceeds — between $500 and $600 — accounted for about a third of his Indspire donation.

“Yeah, 25 cents per save, it adds up when you make a lot of saves,” said Hawco, who sported a 2.98 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

“And there’s been lots of generous donations, including $500 from the U18 league. I just can’t ask for much more than that. It’s awesome.”

He also thanked his team, friends and family for their support, especially Dartmouth coach Marty King for believing in the unique project and helping Hawco to succeed.

“That’s really cool, really mature of Joey,” teammate Cole Chandler, the league’s rookie of the year, said about Hawco’s fundraising enterprise. “It just shows how great of a guy he is, really. Joey is an amazing goalie. He’s helped us win some big games. I’d say we have the best goaltending in the league.”

Hawco and Brandon Lavoie have provided Steele Subaru with a formidable one-two goaltending punch. Both are property of Truro in the Maritime junior A league.

The Bearcats acquired Hawco’s rights last September in a trade with the Grand Falls Rapids of New Brunswick. He welcomed joining a Truro team that’s closer to home and consistently competitive.

“It’s definitely a great organization to be a part of,” Hawco said. “They’ve been great to me. They called me up a few times. I played a period, did pretty well. I go to a few practices with them.”

The Bearcats are potentially fertile ground for incoming goalies, with Connor Martin graduating and rookie sensation Jack Milner likely bound for the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads.

“I’ll just keep working,” said Hawco, five-foot-nine and 140 pounds. “If I get an option (in Truro), I’ll definitely be 100 per cent excited to see where that leads.”

One of Hawco’s best friends is Bearcats draft choice Sam LeDrew, a former Halifax McDonald’s sniper now playing at Kimball Union Academy, a private school in New Hampshire.

“Joey and I have been friends for as long as I can remember,” LeDrew said of his relationship with his neighbour and former TASA minor hockey teammate.

“It’s really an amazing thing what he’s doing with his saves and donating to the Indigenous youth. It says a lot about Joey’s character and how good a kid he is. He’s always such a positive kid and trying to do the right thing. It’s tremendous what he’s doing.”

Supporting his cause, Hawco has worked at Tom Duffey hockey schools in the summer and most recently he has mentored young TASA goalies.

He was a workhorse last spring tending goal for Team Atlantic in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship at Membertou. That tournament in Cape Breton planted a seed for Hawco in his desire to help Indigenous youth this season.

“That played a really important role in my fundraiser,” he said. “Being a part of that team last year, it was such a good time, just being with my teammates who are also Indigenous. We have a big thing to connect with.”

Those connections will be further enhanced this May when Hawco returns to Team Atlantic for the Aboriginal nationals in Winnipeg.

“It’s pretty exciting because that’s where my mom is originally from and that’s where our Cree roots are,” Hawco said. “I’ve never been there, so it’s going to be an awesome experience to see where my roots are from.”

Next season, Hawco plans to resume his Making Saves initiative.

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