Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Hometown Teen Shines as He Plays for Team He Grew Up Watching

Kaden McNeil playing for the Miramichi Timberwolves against
 the Summerside Western Capitals at the Credit Union Place,
Summerside, P.E.I, March 9. (Photo by Derek Gilchrist)
By Derek Gilchrist

From playing mini sticks in the hallway with his dad playing goalie, to shooting in the garage, it all led to his love for hockey. Once he got out on the ice for the first time and started playing real hockey, he knew the sport was made for him.

Kaden McNeil was born in the small town of Renous, New Brunswick watching his dad play the game he loved at the local rink. Seeing his father's love for the game helped him decide that he was going to be a hockey player.

McNeil knew that, eventually, if he wanted to develop his abilities and move his career forward, he would have to leave home and play hockey in a larger city.

“It was a little sad, leaving my family and friends behind in my little hometown, where it all started but my passion and drive and love for hockey will always matter for me the most and if it meant I had to go away for hockey I was willing to do that.”

He moved to Saint John where he attended Rothesay Netherwood School (RNS), took class and played for the school's hockey team. He was able to put up 32 points in 92 games. 

His performance caught the eye of the Miramichi Timberwolves, a team that he had grown up watching. The Timberwolves were gearing up for the second half of their season, when he received the call.

The Timberwolves wanted to add him for the rest of the season and for the playoff run they were getting ready for. He was left with a difficult choice, stay in Saint John or come home and play for the Timberwolves.

“It was a very tough decision and it took a long time to decide because of the fact that RNS is such a great place to play and go to school. The Timberwolves were making a run this year and completely turned their team around, and I was happy to see that and it was a higher level then what I was currently playing”

He was now back in his hometown, back with his friends and his family. The ability to play hockey and be close to home, is a thing that a lot of hockey players wish they could do. For him the wish had come true.

“It feels awesome having all of my close friends and family at the games and giving them a chance to see me play which they might have not gotten a chance to do, and it’s also nice seeing the kids who I have helped out with in minor hockey,” said McNeil.

In the second half of the season with the Timberwolves, he was able to put up eight points in 27 games, as the Timberwolves clinched a playoff spot for the first time in four years. He is now gearing up for the first playoff run of his career.

“I’m feeling good; the team’s coming together good despite some of the things we had to work out. We are ready to put our best out on the ice, and we believe we have the group to go far in this and win a championship for the people and players in Miramichi,” said McNeil.

With the playoffs starting this Friday, McNeil is focused on winning a championship, but he is also looking ahead to the future holds and where he wants to be next year.

“I truly believe that all the work I have put in and the decision I have made for my development this year, I believe I am hoping to be in the QMJHL next year,” said McNeil.

Along with that playoff run and his future, the Timberwolves do have a little bit of team bonding left. Playoffs in hockey are something special and most teams decide to dye their hair blonde as they continue to advance, but McNeil and the Timberwolves have something different planned.

“There has been talk of mullets for the playoffs going around but I guess only time will tell for that.”

Derek Gilchrist is a Blackville School alumnus. He is currently in the Journalism and Communications program at Holland College.