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American colours now for Surrey-raised player coming ‘home’ for World Under-17 Hockey Challenge

D-man EJ Emery will aim to shut down friends when U.S. plays Canada at tourney, Nov. 3-12 in Langley and Delta
Surrey-raised E.J. Emery skates with the U.S. national U17 hockey team. (Submitted photo: Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)

When rosters were announced for the three Canadian teams to play at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Langley and North Delta in November, two players from Surrey were named, but not EJ Emery.

That’s because the six-foot-three defenseman, who grew up in the Panorama area, will be wearing American colours during the tournament, a showcase for some of the world’s best 16-year-old hockey players.

This fall Emery has been living and training in Plymouth, Michigan with the U.S. national Under-17 team.

Coming “home” to play international games at Langley Events Centre and Sungod Arena will be a thrill for the right-shot D-man, whose mother is Canadian and father, American. His hometown is listed as Compton, California, on the website of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, a two-year residency for high-performance players.

“It’s definitely been on my mind to be able to play there with this team, and it’s on my whole team’s mind, to be honest with you,” Emery said in a phone call this week. “We’re all thinking about getting there and winning for our country.”

Surrey-raised E.J. Emery currently plays for the U.S. national U17 hockey team. (Submitted photo: Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)
Surrey-raised E.J. Emery currently plays for the U.S. national U17 hockey team. (Submitted photo: Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)

Emery moved to Michigan before the start of the current season, after making the American squad last April. Before that, he’d played in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) with academy teams in Burnaby (BWC) and Abbotsford (Yale), after several seasons with Surrey Minor Hockey.

• RELATED: Schedule, tickets posted for World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Langley, North Delta.

For the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, which runs from Nov. 3-12, the 66 players named to the three Canadian squads (Red, White and Black) include South Surrey-raised Jordan Gavin and Tomas Mrsic, along with Carson Wetsch from North Vancouver and Maple Ridge’s Colton Roberts, a Vancouver Giants defenseman.

The other B.C. boys on the rosters are Lynden Lakovic, Macklin Celebrini, Tij Iginla, Gabriel Guilbault, Jaxsin Vaughan, Miguel Marques, Ollie Josephson and Ryder Ritchie.

Names on the Canadian teams are familiar to Emery, who’s played with and against several of the players over the years.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at the full rosters yet,” he said Tuesday (Oct. 18), “but I’ve heard from a few buddies who made one of the teams. It’s definitely going to give me a bit more edge to go out there and play against all those guys I know.”

With the U.S. squad, Emery says he’s been playing in a shutdown role so far this season.

“It’s going pretty good, playing well defensively, shutting everyone down in our zone,” he elaborated. “I’m just trying to play my game, and right now I’m in more of a defensive role.”

That was also a role in football for his Louisiana-born father, Eric Emery, a linebacker with the BC Lions and two other CFL teams in the mid-1980s.

Mom Claire says her son is “living his dream right now” with the American team.

“He’s always been so motivated and focused, very driven,” Claire said. “Some of the challenges he’s faced have driven him to be a better player — not making certain teams, being left out of things sometimes. That pushes him hard to get to the next level.”

In Michigan, Emery’s schooling is done online and also in classrooms at the hockey rink, not unlike his academy days at Yale.

“I feel just as much American,” Emery said when asked about his dual citizenship. “This is my country now, living here, and I’m wearing the jersey and representing this country every day.”

At the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, seven teams will battle for the championship, including the three Team Canada squads (Black, Red and White), Czechia, Finland, Sweden and the United States. Each team will play six preliminary-round games, followed by a medal round.

Langley Events Centre will host 16 games, including three all-Canadian matchups and both medal-round games on Nov. 12. Seven games will be played at Sungod, beginning with Team Canada White facing Sweden on Nov. 3. Each team will play at least one game in Langley and Delta.

The bronze- and gold-medal games will be Nov. 12 at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively, with television coverage on TSN.

Tickets packages start at $109 for games in North Delta, and $209 in Langley. Details are posted to

Since the tournament began in 1986, more than 1,600 NHL draft picks have played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Previously known as the Quebec Esso Cup, the tournament has featured future stars Patrick Kane, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Alex Ovechkin, among others.

The tourney was postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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