william bitten

Badminton by birth, hockey by heart

Excelling at a different sport than his Olympian parents, family has been key for William Bitten

David Brien
August 14, 2015

When Mike Bitten and Doris Piché started dating in the late 1980s, they knew they shared a common passion for the sport of badminton, not exactly a sport known for Canadian success.

They turned that passion into a trip to the 1992 Olympic Summer Games, where badminton made its Olympic debut, and Mike served as Doris’ coach when she made a return trip to the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Ga.

After both had lived their Olympic dreams, the couple decided that it was time to settle down.

First came William, born in 1998. Two years later another son, Samuel, joined the Bitten brood.

From a very early age, the Bittens realized that their sons’ passion came with a stick and a puck, rather than with a racquet and a shuttlecock. Were they disappointed? Did they dream of their sons following in their footsteps? Not quite.

“We had to live in Europe and Asia for about seven months every year to earn a living and play on the circuit,” remembers Mike. “When we saw that both our boys were very athletic, we didn’t want them to have to go through all that trouble.”

Growing up in England, Mike was never exposed to hockey during his childhood, but rather to badminton and soccer. But for Doris, a Quebec native, hockey had always been a part of her family, so she decided to register William for skating lessons when he turned four.

“I’d say it’s worked out so far,” says William with a smile. “Funny thing is that my dad was the one who took me out skating the first time, and thought it wasn’t for me so he drove me back home after 15 minutes.”

That decision did not go over well with Doris and her competitive spirit.

“She got mad at me,” says Mike with a chuckle. “So she took him back for the last 15 minutes, and went with him every time after that.”

Although the Bittens didn’t want their boys playing badminton, they encouraged them to try different sports, which led to a positive dilemma – whether it was golf, soccer, hockey, William excelled in everything he played.

“He was just so intense,” remembers Mike. “We had those little golf clubs that you buy at the dollar store and he would just wreck the house by hitting his little plastic golf balls. That’s all he would do.

“He was also great at soccer. He would just run around non-stop and compete so hard against the other kids. He was sort of scary that way, he wanted to win so much.”

By age 10, William decided that hockey was going to be his true passion. And for those that have seen him play, it’s easy to see that he’s never lost the drive; it’s what has led him to a spot on Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team.

“[William and Samuel] are self-driven,” Mike says. “They train on their own. They wake up and go running on their own. They lift weights on their own. I think that’s what they got from the individual side of badminton; they don’t need the team to tell them what to do.”

As an example, after playing in his first OHL campaign last year with the now-relocated Plymouth Whalers, William told his parents he found it odd that his team had a curfew. Because in his mind, an athlete needs to sleep well, eat well and train hard to succeed.

So what exactly can Olympian parents teach a kid with so much self-motivation?

“To me the number one thing is to stay humble,” Doris says. “People often say that hockey players aren’t nice, so I wanted William to be humble are prove those people wrong. For me, success comes with humility and that’s what we passed along.

“We just want him to give his 100 per cent, like we always have. Sometimes, I see kids at the high school [where I teach] who don’t have dreams and who aren’t driven. So it’s so nice to see William going after his and loving it.”

Having played at last year’s World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and now as part of Team Canada, William can share with his parents the pride of representing their country in their respective sport.

“To think that my son is in the country’s top-24 within his age group is just amazing,” says Doris.

“It’s obviously an honour,” adds William. “It’s a dream of mine to get [to the Olympics] one day, but right now my focus is on the U18s. We’ll see what happens in the future.”

Humble he remains, even on the game’s biggest stages.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

[email protected] 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

[email protected]

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

[email protected]

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