It has been three weeks since Jared McIsaac returned home from the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, with a silver medal, and the 15-year-old defenceman still struggles to find an appropriate way to describe his first Team Canada experience.
“Everything about the experience and the way Hockey Canada took care of us was truly amazing,” said McIsaac.
The young blue-liner finished off the Olympic tournament with four points in six games. Reflecting on his time in red and white, McIsaac said he was happy with his performance, despite a disappointing 5-2 loss to the United States in the gold medal game.
“I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, playing against the top players in the world and how I would fit in,” said McIssac. “On my team I didn’t know how much ice time I would get, but towards the end I was a lot more comfortable with it and I played quite a bit.”
Like so many young Canadians, much of McIssac’s life revolves around hockey. Three years ago, his family made the 92-kilometre move south from their hometown of Truro, N.S., to Dartmouth for better opportunities and exposure to the game.
The McIssac family set their sights on the Maritime Varsity Academy (MVA), a school that allows students to excel in the classroom and in their individual sport. The MVA also offered McIssac a unique opportunity to get more time on the ice, since it is a registered Hockey Canada Skills Academy.
“Jared is (the) type of person that always wants to improve; he loves being on the ice,” said Danny MacKinnon, McIsaac’s minor hockey coach and HCSA instructor. “He is very passionate towards his craft, which will serve him well moving forward.”
MacKinnon added that McIssac has improved significantly during his time with the MVA.
“As a HSCA we pride ourselves in teaching the student-athletes specific skills that can be easily translated into a game situation,” said MacKinnon. “Jared's puck skills and shooting have definitely improved throughout the last three years.”
“It’s not only made me a better hockey player, but the schooling [and] the character aspect of the school has made me a better person,” McIssac explained. “Whether you are a top-caliber player, or you just want more ice, you can’t go wrong with it and it will develop you in many ways.”
With the excitement of representing his country is behind him, the focus now for McIssac is back on his club team in Cole Harbour, N.S. The Wolfpack won the regular-season championship in the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League (NSMMHL), and has its sights set on a trip to the TELUS Cup, Canada’s National Midget Championship.
A highly-touted prospect for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft – he should go somewhere in the top five – McIsaac averaged almost a point per game with Cole Harbour as a 14-year-old in 2014-15 before pacing all NSMMHL defencemen with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 33 games this season.
Looking forward, like many young hockey players, McIssac has big dreams of playing professional hockey, and, of course, wearing the red and white maple leaf at least a few more times.
“I got chills right down my back, [and] still do thinking about it,” he says of putting the Team Canada jersey on for the first time. “It means the world to me and hopefully I can wear it in the future.”