Ballymoney’s Chris Boyd recently made a flying visit home for the festive period following a four month stint in Canada.
The former Ballymoney High School pupil has been making his name with the Bradford Rattlers ice hockey team and carving out a future for himself in this challenging, high octane, contact sport.
The Bradford Rattlers, which are based just outside Toronto, are presently sitting in fourth place in the league, behind their local rivals Bradford Bulls and Chris, is the only netminder on the team, (there are four goalies) who has had a shutout when the Rattlers won 5-0 in November. In ice hockey, a shutout is given to a goalie who successfully prevents the other team from scoring and plays the entire game making it a fairly big achievment for Chris. He has also been awarded first star twice (there are always three stars awarded in each game) and he has only lost one of his games so far.
18 year old Chris put his studies on the back-burner to pursue his dream of becoming a professional ice hockey player and there’s no doubt it has been a major change to his life.
“I have been out for four months already and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went out to Canada first,” said Chris. “I knew it would be a complete different standard of hockey. I had never trained every day before I joined the Rattlers and its nice to be in that sort of professional environment. The whole set up is totally different. Everyone cares so much about the sport.
“I would spend and hour and a half to two hours on the ice and then an hour and a half in the gym each day so you are totally focussed on you game and preparation.
“The pace of the game is so much faster out here, the passing is so much better and the hits are harder. It’s just a much higher standard than anything I experienced at home and it has really helped me improve so much having to play at a higher level.
“I have also got to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs against my favourite team the Ottawa Senators in the NHL. that was just an unreal experience and seeing that makes me more sure that this is what I want to do.”
Chris joined the Canadian outfit having played for the Junior Belfast Giants for several seasons.
“I played with a guy called Steven Eccles in the Junior Belfast Giants and he was asked to go to the Rattlers. The coach Sylvan Cloutier then asked him if he knew of anyone capable of playing at their standard and he suggested me and it all went from there. It was the best decision I made and it has more than lived up to my expectations. I really want to become a professional player and this is the best place I can be. I want to keep learning and improving my game.
“It wasn’t as tough being so far away from home as I thought it would be. You make friends quicky because you’re part of the team and work and train together and to be honest I missed my team when I was home for Christmas.”
Having flown back to Canada on new Year’s Day, Chris and his Rattlers team mates were straight into action.
“We had a game on the 3rd January against the Meaford Knights,” said Chris. “I couldn’t wait to get back into things and it was great to start off with a 5-4 win.
With his time with the Rattlers due to come to an end following the play-offs, Chris is in no doubt about what he wants to do.
“When my time with the Rattlers finishes at the end of the season I definitely want to go back next season,” the talented netminder added. “I will chat to the coach at the end of the year and see what’s best for me. I can return to the Rattlers but as there are so many leagues in Canada and America I could go to another team, the decision sort of falls into my hands.”
With no ice rink for over 60 miles, it is somewhat remarkable that Ballymoney has produced two top notch ice hockey players. With Andrew Dickson already enjoying a professional career as the Belfast Giants second netminder, it’s quite apparent that Chris Boyd is following in his footsteps, or should that be ice skates into this tough but exciting sport.
“I picked it up from Andrew and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be playing ice hockey. I look up to Andrew and hopefully I can follow in his footsteps and eventually play for the Belfast Giants. That would be the ideal scenario, playing the sport I love and being able to do it at home.”