UPDATE Acadia hockey Axemen Liam Heelis named finalist for BLG Awards

John Decoste
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For the second time in three years, one of the eight finalists for the BLG Awards for the top university student-athletes in Canada is from Acadia.

Hockey Axemen captain Liam Heelis was named the Atlantic conference male finalist during a conference call from Calgary April 15.

“I’m very honoured to be one of the eight nominees for this prestigious award,” Heelis said. The other nominees as “a pretty impressive group,” he said. “They are all very deserving of this recognition.” 

Stellar season

Heelis - a third-year science student from Georgetown, Ont. - won the Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy earlier this year as the CIS player of the year for men’s hockey.

He also won the AUS player of the year award, and was named a first-team AUS all-star and a first-team CIS all-Canadian, for a season in which he led the CIS in goals with 24 and tied for the conference scoring lead with 42 points.

His stellar play and leadership helped Acadia win its first AUS championship since 2006, earning the team a berth in the CIS University Cup.

Heelis’s 2013-2014 season started in August when he attended the Florida Panthers training camp. During the Christmas break, he was part of the Canadian team that won the gold medal at the 2013 Winter Universiade in Trentino, Italy.

Axemen head coach Darren Burns said Heelis epitomizes what a CIS student-athlete should be.

“His abilities as a player were evident this year on the ice, and his ability to be a leader on our campus and in the community is even more impressive,” Burns said.

“His work ethic, passion and overall commitment to success make him an excellent candidate for this prestigious award.”

 Well-rounded nominees

In finalizing nominations for the BLG Awards, the selection committee takes into account athletics, academics, community service, leadership and citizenship.

Juggling these commitments is “certainly a challenge” at times, Heelis said.

“All the athletes at Acadia do a great job of juggling all three, and balancing the different aspects of being a student-athlete.”

The community involvement, he said, “is very important to the community as well as to our athletic program. The support we get from the community as student-athletes makes a big difference to us and to the program as a whole.”

Often, he said, it’s a refreshing to get out into the community, “and it’s very enjoyable, too.”

Some of this year’s nominees have already moved on to the next stage of their careers. For instance, Jordan Heather is currently playing professional football in France, while Derek Hulak is playing professionally in the American Hockey League.

“It goes to show how strong athletics are in CIS,” he said.

Heelis, on the other hand, has just completed his third year at Acadia, and has at least one more year, or maybe two, before he is in that position. When he came to Acadia, he initially planned to spend five years in Wolfville, and that hasn’t changed yet.

“I’m scheduled to graduate in 2015. Then we’ll see what lies ahead, whether it’s a fifth year of schooling or professional hockey.” Until then, though, “I have some unfinished business to attend to here.” 

Long history

This is the 22nd year for the BLG Awards, initiated and sponsored by the Ottawa law firm Borden Ladner Gervais to recognize the top all-around university student-athletes in Canada, and first presented following the 1992-1993 season.

Each of the eight finalists receives a commemorative gold ring. The two overall winners, who will be announced at a ceremony April 28 in Calgary with all the nominees in attendance, will each receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship.

Heelis is the fifth Acadia student to be named a BLG finalist, following Duane Dennis (hockey) in 1993-1994, Cindy Montgomerie (soccer) in 1994-1995, Jan Trojanowski (basketball) in 1997-1998 and Andrew Clark (hockey) in 2011-2012.

And the nominees are…

Male

Liam Heelis, Acadia hockey

Jordan Heather, Bishop’s football

Phil Scrubb, Carleton basketball

Derek Hulak, Saskatchewan hockey

Female

Justine Colley, Saint Mary’s basketball

Katia Clement-Heydra, McGill hockey

Khamica Bingham, York track and field

Lisa Barclay, UBC volleyball

Organizations: CIS University, Florida Panthers, American Hockey League

Geographic location: Acadia, Canada, Calgary Georgetown Trentino Italy France Wolfville Ottawa Saskatchewan Saint Mary York

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