Lewis Young admits that it was a dream come true to be able to spend the season playing ice hockey in Canada.
After helping the Racers win two trophies in 2018/19, Young joined the Somang Hockey Development Program last summer.
The program helps players hone their hockey skills by offering daily training sessions built around their school curriculum.
The 17-year-old says that he’d dreamt about playing in Canada from a young age and was delighted to have the opportunity to fulfil his ambition.
“Somang had been in contact with me for the last two or three years, but this was the first year that fit with my education,” he said.
“It was quite a reality shock going from training twice a week in the evenings with the Racers and once with the juniors, to waking up at 4.30am to go to practice.
“We’d train for an hour in the morning, before getting the school bus for an 8.00am start. After school we’d get the bus back for another hour of training at the rink.
“The amount of practice developed me hugely and I can’t thank my coach Francois (Landreville) enough. He was always talking to me about things I needed to improve and pushing to make me a better player.”
To ensure that youngsters settle into the program, Somang have a network of host families who provide accommodation to international players.
The Dupuis family took Young into their home during his time in Canada and he says he is truly grateful for the support they gave him.
“Julie and Alain were amazing for me,” he added. “They really treated me like one of their own, which helped me settle in right away.
“Whether it was playing mini hockey or basketball or going to the outdoor ice rink, I was never bored with the two brothers in the house!”
The Somang development program is extremely intensive, with Young’s age group playing around over 80 games this season.
He travelled with his teammates to the United States most weekends, visiting a variety of places including New Jersey, Boston, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont, Chicago and New York.
“This exposure higher level junior hockey or college and university teams is Somang’s quest to place players with the best possible teams,” he said.
“All major teams have scouts at these games and we were playing the best teams in the USA on a weekly basis.”
Young returned to Scotland for Christmas, but ended up staying slightly longer than expected due to administrative issue.
While waiting for the all-clear to return to Canada, he linked up with the Racers to play in a few fixtures.
He says he was happy to have the opportunity to pull on Racers jersey once again and was pleased to be able to contribute to the team’s success.
“Getting to play in the NIHL North Cup game against Solway Sharks was such an amazing experience,” he said.
“My mum and dad went to watch the final in Whitley and they were sending me live footage – I was so nervous for the team I couldn’t watch! Knowing I played a small part in that was a great feeling.
“It’s a shame the season has ended early for everyone. I’m looking forward to playing again, but I’ll chat with my family over the summer about where that might be.
“I’d like to thank Michael Bujold (Somang team owner) who gave me this chance to achieve my dream and bringing me into this amazing program.”
(Image permission: Racers Media)