Greater Vernon Minor Hockey’s 2020 Goalie of the Year has taken his game to the Prairies.
Austin Seibel, 15, who was also named Most Valuable Player in Tier 2 Bantam with the Vernon Sun Valley Source For Sports Vipers in 2019-20, will suit up for, and attend, the Prairie Hockey Academy (PHA) in Caronport, Sask., a town 15 minutes west of Moose Jaw.
Seibel will play for the school’s U16 Prep team.
“I reached out to them about a year-and-a-half ago,” said Seibel, who has family near Caronport. “I went out there and skated with the team in 2019, and had a day tour of the school and facilities. They seemed to like me, but I didn’t think too much about it after I got home.
“They were quite interested in me to come and play there. I talked it over with my family and made the decision to attend. The decision was a huge weight off of my shoulders.”
Seibel won’t be staying with family, but rather living on-campus, in dorms built on the facility. His first semester will include 40 minutes of daily bible study, two hours of science and hockey for the rest of the day, which includes off-ice workouts.
“I think going to PHA will be better for my future,” said Seibel, who admits he doesn’t know any of his new teammates. “It will help me mature as a person and improve my hockey skills.”
The other goalies on the team have reached out to Seibel and they’ve been communicating by phone. He’s been told the school and coaches are good, and the hockey is good.
What the PHA season will look like remains a mystery at this point. Seibel said he’s heard there may be four-on-four games in October. To prepare prior to leaving for Saskatchewan, Seibel had some on-ice sessions, and was working off-ice with Vernon coach Sam Mowat.
A Vancouver Canucks fan, Seibel began playing hockey when he was five but didn’t focus solely on becoming a goalie until his first year of Atom Division hockey. His favourite NHL goalies are Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers.
In April 2019, Seibel suited up for the 2005 West Coast Selects for an international tournament in Spain. This past year, Seibel and his Vipers teammates were part of the 90-minute Scotiabank documentary Hockey 24, which made its national debut May 24 on Sportsnet.
Footage shot by Seibel’s aunt Melissa Jacobs of Inspire Kindness Productions was used in the documentary, and a short two-second snippet of Seibel in his bedroom has been featured throughout the current NHL Stanley Cup playoff tournament in a Scotiabank commercial.
To begin his Prairie experience, Seibel got a new mask, handpainted by Sketch Pad Design of Swift Current, Sask. The mask features a brick wall – emblematic of how goalies play – mountains and trees from his Coldstream surroundings to remind him of home, and the Northern Lights because he’s a big fan of the Yukon, having gone there a few years ago on a family vacation.
Asked about his future hockey plans, whether playing Junior A or Junior B was in the cards, Seibel said he didn’t quite know yet.
“I’m focusing on now,” he said. “Whatever comes to me will come to me.”