Mark Hillier watched Connor McDavid weave his magic at the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championships in Montreal.
Some of the best prospects in Canadian junior hockey circles find themselves wearing the Team Canada jersey at a world showcase tournament that takes place during the holiday season annually.
It was a magical moment that opened his eyes to what the future could hold for him in hockey.
The trip to Montreal was a result of his parents buying tickets for the family to attend the tournament as part of his Christmas gift.
“That’s something I’m going to strive for and do whatever I can do to make happen,” Hillier said of his desire to play for Team Canada someday. “I know it’s not going to be easy, but I will do whatever I can.”
Hillier is in his second season with the Saint Andrew’s Saints and he leads the team in scoring heading into the Christmas break.
He’s heading home to Labrador City today to spend 10 days with family and friends.
Rest and relaxation are in order for a guy who lives a hectic life of juggling academics with a busy hockey schedule that sees him doing a fair bit of travel around Ontario and the United States as he prepares for the next step in his career — a commitment to play for Merrimack College in 2020.
Seeing familiar faces and enjoying the comforts of home is what he enjoys most about getting back home when he can. He knows the time may come when he won’t be able to go back for the holidays, so he wants to make the most of precious time.
He will hit the great outdoors to ride on a snowmobile or snowshoe through the woods, but the main thing for him is that he gets to be around the people who have been his biggest supporters in his hockey journey.
Christmas Eve is a good time for the talented sniper because the family gathers around and opens a couple of gifts before the main event on Christmas morning.
It’s not about what’s under the tree for this guy. Sure, he’s a hockey player and a few rolls of tape wouldn’t go astray, but all that matters to him is being happy to be where he should be during the magical season.
“Being with family is all that matters,” he said.
Hillier has made strides in his development. He believes his vision on the ice has improved and he plans to work on other aspects of his game so he gives himself a chance to take his game to another level.
For the next 10 days it’s all about being a kid again. Family around the Christmas tree with everybody thankful they are under the roof at a time when most people wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
He’s ready to embrace the Big Land with a smile. His family is waiting for him to come through the door.