Before every game Isaac Oldenhof tapes his hockey stick, stretches, visualizes how he’s going to win and savours a bowl of his mother’s homemade ramen.
It’s a routine that works well for the U16 York-Simcoe Express captain, projected as a possible first-round pick in the upcoming Ontario Hockey League draft. A 15-year-old defenceman, his play has been pivotal for a 30-1-5 team that dominated the Eastern AAA Hockey League.
“I just love to compete,” said Oldenhof. “Playing in a close game where it is 3-3 and we need to score to win, those are the games I just love. They are really fun.”
While the Aurora, Ont., native gets his ramen from mom, Belle Pan, his love for hockey comes from dad, Greg. After Oldenhof’s practices, the two would immediately sit down to cheer on the Montreal Canadiens and since Greg didn’t have the money to play hockey growing up, he makes sure to provide his son with every opportunity.
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“When Isaac was seven, he started to show strong skating skills and hockey sense,” said Greg. “Every year since, his game has become stronger.”
Driving that growth is the determined way in which Oldenhof embraces challenges.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, for instance, “he asked us to buy him a guitar,” said Greg. “He taught himself to play guitar quickly and now knows many songs.”
Oldenhof’s aptitude shows in other ways, too.
The only freshman to make his high school golf team, he finished second in individual score to help a squad filled with older students win its first team event.
On the ice, his Express teammates have voted him captain the past two years, positioning him well for the OHL draft.
Amid the demands and expectations, he maintains perspective.
“I just think about the kids who don’t have an opportunity to go to the rink and play hockey,” said Oldenhof. “It is an honour to play and it would be a privilege if that can become my job when I get older.”
Spencer Closs is a student in the Sport Journalism post-grad program at Centennial College. Follow him on Twitter @ClossTalksSport