If you dream it, you can achieve it.
Nothing could be more accurate for Portage la Prairie, Man., natives Dean Stewart and Nick Henry.
The pair grew up playing minor hockey together and were regular at Portage Terriers games, dreaming of the day they’d don the green and yellow of the local
Manitoba Junior Hockey League team.
“As kids we thought if we could play for the Terriers that would be pretty awesome,” said Stewart, 17. “Now the two of us are getting scholarships, so it’s
pretty neat for both of us.”
Success didn’t come without hard work for the Terriers tandem. Both have dedicated their lives to the sport they love, and when they entered high school
they jumped on the idea of getting more ice time.
In 2013, the Portage la Prairie School Division, along with Hockey Canada, announced they would be offering a Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA). Stewart
and Henry both enrolled, getting a unique opportunity to further develop their skills.
“There (are) always guys that might not be as good as you now but they are going to work as hard as they can to become better than you, so you just got to
keep striving to make yourself better,” said Henry. “The Skills Academy isn’t making you worse, that’s for sure. It’s making you better.”
“Little skills like saucer passes and picking up passes in your feet and things like that, we are able to work on those (at the HCSA) and transfer that
over in our league play,” explained Stewart.
The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for the six-foot defenceman. He helped the Terriers win the RBC Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, on
home ice last May, won a gold medal with Canada West at the 2015 World Junior A Challenge, tripled his scoring output during the 2015-16 regular season,
and won a second-straight MJHL title with Portage.
So yeah, it has been a pretty good year.
But few things compare to the excitement of confirming his future plans on and off the ice; on March 14, Stewart announced his commitment to the University
of Nebraska Omaha.
“It’s another big hockey city, they have a brand new rink, (that) seats 8,000 and it sells out every night,” the blue-liner said. “It’s in arguably one of
the best leagues in the NCAA.
“Education is really important to myself and my parents, and to get to go to school for free and play really high-level hockey at the same time – it’s the
best of both worlds for me.”
Henry has been building an equally-impressive hockey résumé. The 16-year-old burst onto the scene in the MJHL, leading all first-year players with 61
points in 50 games and taking home the MJHL Rookie of the Year award, in addition to a nomination as CJHL national rookie of the year.
Still one year away from graduation, he has his eyes set on the University of Western Michigan. He has already made a verbal commitment to the Broncos.
“Andy Murray is the coach for Western Michigan; he’s been very successful and I thought that would be the best place for me to go,” said Henry. “Get those
extra four years to develop as a player and as a person.”
HCSA coach Blaine Boyle couldn’t be prouder of his students, who are already achieving their hockey dreams.
“Both boys are great citizens,” Boyle said. “They are excellent students at PCI [Portage Collegiate Institute] and are very dedicated to getting better and
stronger every day.”
That’ll come in handy in a few years’ time, when Stewart and Henry are across the ice from each other, facing off for their first time in their young
“It will be pretty neat, playing against each other,” Henry said. “You have to make sure you win all your battles against him, so it’ll be pretty
“Growing up I never had to play against him, which was pretty lucky because he’s such a good player, said Stewart. “It’s going to be different, but it’s
going to be a lot of fun for both of us.”
With college hockey right around the corner for the prairie boys, there’s no doubt their sights are set even higher, with goals of one day playing pro. And
After all … if they can dream it, they can achieve it.