Before every game Jaden Flora gets a strawberry smoothie. It’s a tradition for the Niagara North Stars U16 AAA forward, part of a consistent routine that includes watching hockey videos, practising skills in his backyard rink and always arriving at the rink early.
“If I had a team full of Jaden Floras the team would be off the charts, let’s just put it that way,” says North Stars head coach Nate Mitton. “They’re one in a million when you find kids like him.”
In that way, Flora’s contributions to the North Stars go far beyond his 32 goals and 27 assists in 45 games this season. With a jokester attitude and positive influence, he thinks intently about how his play impacts other.
“I lead by example,” he says.
Flora began playing when he was five years old, picking up the game from his dad, and during games at Bill Burgoyne Memorial Arena in St. Catharines, Ont., his passion for the game flourished.
Being a multi-sport athlete helps him on the ice, with years of rec-league basketball, soccer with his high-school team along with golf and volleyball helping build his athleticism.
All that has him starring alongside centreman Liam Beamish, whom Flora says mentored him when he first started playing AAA hockey. Now in his U16 season, he’s eligible for the Ontario Hockey League draft this year and while Flora is looking towards potentially playing junior, he’d also like to play in university and get his schooling paid for.
“You ask anyone in this region about him, they are going to say he is the nicest kid you’ve ever met,” said coach Mitton. “They’re going to say he is the smartest kid you probably ever meet, valedictorian every year of his life … (his) grades are off the charts.”
That gives Flora some options although one thing he’s clear about is that he intends to play the game for a long time, like his dad who kept taking to the ice well into his 50s.
“I just want to work to my full potential and see how far I can go,” says Flora, strawberry smoothies and all.
Share with your friends on Facebook and join the largest network of hockey parents.
Ryleigh Mulvihill is a student in the Sport Journalism post-grad program at Centennial College. Follow them on Twitter @RyleighKMulvy