BERWICK, NS - At 20 years old, Makail Parker already has an impressive hockey resume, but he's not done adding to it just yet.
The Newport, Hants County native is back home with the Valley junior A Wildcats after several seasons playing junior hockey in Bridgewater and Miramichi, New Brunswick. He's no stranger to Valley hockey fans, having played Major Bantam and Major Midget hockey with the Wildcats organization, including a trip to the Telus Cup National Midget Championship Tournament as part of the 2012-2013 Atlantic champion Midget Wildcats.
After his success in midget, Parker broke into junior hockey with the Lumberjacks in Bridgewater, and suited up for a handful of games with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Success was hard to come by in Bridgewater as the Lumberjacks struggled, but Parker found himself traded to the Miramichi Timberwolves for the 2016-2017 season. There, he helped the franchise to its first ever Maritime Hockey League finals appearance, falling to the Truro Bearcats in seven games.
“(Going to the final) was really good for all the guys just experience-wise, having the experience of going all that way. But getting the loss there,” he pauses, “gives you a little more character, I guess,” he adds with a smile and a shrug.
On the Wildcats
Now Parker's captaining a youthful Valley Wildcats team who struggled out of the gate, but have been getting better and better. Valley won six of 11 games in the final month before the Christmas break and are closing the gap in the race for a playoff spot.
Parker says his teammates, some of whom are as young as 16 years old, have come a long way in a short time.
“It's just awesome having such a young group that wants to win,” he said. “At the start of the season, we really couldn't get together as a group and really bond. These last couple of months, the boys are getting more intertwined and it's becoming more of a family.”
Parker provides leadership to a dressing room full of junior A rookies through his play.
“I'm more of a lead by example kind of guy, not a big hoot and holler kind of captain like some guys are. I like to go out, work hard, do my thing, and the boys will follow,” he said.
Wildcats head coach Travis Young was excited to land Parker in the offseason, after previously coaching him in Bridgewater. Young says veterans like Parker have become great role models for the younger players both on and off the ice.
“Makail's been one of our top offensive guys, top penalty killers. He kind of does everything for us.”
Parker currently sits second in team scoring with 30 points and leads in goals scored with 17.
He's proud of his accomplishments with the Wildcats, but his face lights up with a special smile when he recalls playing for Team Canada East at the World Junior A Challenge in 2015 in Cobourg and Whitby, Ontario. Parker scored four points at the event, helping Team Canada East to a fourth-place finish.
“The experience is unbelievable,” Parker says of playing for Canada. “Just putting on the red and white is... crazy,” he adds, struggling to put the experience into words.
“When you're playing for your country, there's just no other feeling like it.”
Parker, who currently attends Acadia University, says he still has at least one more major hockey goal left to accomplish.
“I would love to play university hockey. That's an absolute dream of mine, just to be on one of those AUS teams. Just to even get a tryout and see where that goes would be great.”
And university is his focus, in more ways than just hockey.
“I didn't have any say in going to Miramichi, but coming back home I'm focused on school. It's really kind of changed my outlook on life. You've got to put certain things before other things, getting a start on education.”
Between university classes and leading the Junior A Wildcats into battle on the weekends, Parker has a busy schedule, but it's exactly what he was looking for this season.
“Being at home... you can't ask for anything better. The fans are awesome. Being around the rink and knowing everybody; it's great.”