Northern Manitoba hockey fans had a reason to celebrate this past spring, with athletes like Sheldin Howard, Justin Nachbar and Brady Keeper finding success in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), Western Hockey League (WHL) and National Hockey League (NHL), respectively.
While a common stepping-stone for all these young athletes was playing midget AAA hockey in the north during their high school years, Thompson native Carter Anderson is carving out his own path.
After completing his 2017-18 run with the bantam AAA Norman Wolves, Anderson decided to enlist in the Rink Hockey Academy (RHA), a development centre in Winnipeg where he gets to train and compete in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
“The way it works is we go to school for half a day, until 12 p.m., and then we skate and we work out in the afternoon,” said Anderson, who started attending the academy in September 2018. “Everything was great there. It was super organized. It was really well put together.”
Anderson ended up scoring 28 points (17 goals and 11 assists) in 29 games with the RHA’s bantam prep team, a feat that managed to attract the attention of the Red Deer Rebels.
In a statement on the team’s website, assistant general manager Shaun Sutter praised Anderson for his ability to score goals and play “a gritty game of hockey.”
But since Anderson can’t officially join the team until he’s 16, Sutter said they are sending him back to the RHA in Winnipeg for further development.
Even though he misses his son being around the house in Thompson, Trevor Anderson, Carter’s father, believes that this is the right move, since the RHA provides, in his opinion, more comprehensive training opportunities compared to other programs in the north.
“If he would have stayed with the Wolves they have to go to The Pas and Flin Flon for practices, and at the very most it was three ice times a week,” he said. “Whereas now it’s five times a week. That’s big.”
While Anderson has temporarily returned to Thompson for the summer, he’s already mentally and physically preparing himself for the Rebels’ upcoming training camp, which is taking place Aug. 27.
“I just want to set a good impression there and hopefully play a few expedition games with them,” he said. “But if not, then I’ll go there in my Grade 11 year and try to make the team.”
Beyond that, Anderson is also prepping for a return to the RHA in the fall, where he will be skipping their elite 15s team and going right to midget prep.
Based on his first year in this program, Anderson said that any other aspiring hockey players his age should give RHA a shot if they can, since it’s helped him drastically improve his game both on an off the ice.
“One thing that I really lacked [before] was going to the gym, self-motivating myself,” he said. “So I would really suggest to those young guys trying to make the WHL … on going to a development program, to play in the CSSHL.”
Anderson originally cut his teeth playing minor hockey in Thompson, having been a member of the Thompson King Miners since his novice years.