Mitchell Garrett’s dream of playing on Canada’s national para-hockey team will push him to train hard this spring and summer, while starting a new job upon graduation from BCIT.
The Surrey resident was among 29 players invited to a Hockey Canada-hosted development camp in Montreal last month, and it went very well, according to Garrett.
“I was working toward a national team invite, and I have a feeling that’s now happening, so it feels really good,” said the 27-year-old goaltender.
“There are a lot of really good things happening right now.”
Garrett was among four netminders at the NextGen camp, held at Aréna Howie-Morenz from April 25-29, and one of two British Columbians invited to hit the ice, along with Vancouver-based skater Matteo Pellizzari.
“The camp was really competitive and I held my own, so I am training for a national team invite for after the summer, and hopefully that comes.”
A lifelong Fraser Heights-area resident, Garrett played hockey in Cloverdale starting at age 10, after a couple seasons of baseball and soccer. He was a goalie on the ice, and by age 12 had committed to playing hockey exclusively.
“I went full-force on hockey and quit baseball and soccer,” he recalled in a phone conversation. “I’ve always bled hockey, to be honest, and I’ve never known anything different. I never wanted to do anything else, pretty much. So with the national team, I just want to get there, and I’m going to train for it all summer. I just got approved for ice times twice a week at 6:30 a.m. at Langley Sportsplex.”
On a July day five years ago, in 2017, Garrett was seriously injured while camping with friends near Hope.
“It was just a regular weekend up there with my buddies,” he recalled. “We had an ATV there and I took it out and didn’t return. They found the ATV with me in the ditch. I had to get airlifted to VGH and from there I spent around two and a half months in rehab, which was very fast, much faster than most people, and I was back skating on the ice three months after the accident.”
In rehab, Garrett said he pushed a lot of limits to be more mobile, immediately.
“There were a ton of things I wanted to do like, right now, and they’d say things like, ‘You need to wait a couple of weeks,’ and I was like, ‘Nah, I’m doing it now, this week,’ and ended up doing it, whether that was transferring from the ground going into a car, or having some beers with my buddies, just doing things.”
With the use of a wheelchair, Garrett can get around town pretty well on his own, he says, including trips to local hockey rinks.
His father, Ken Garrett, has become his personal trainer.
“My Dad is one of the best people in the world,” Mitchell underlined. “I can go to hockey by myself and get on the ice by myself, but he comes out and is one of my shooters. He makes sure that the practices run smooth and I get the shots I need. I hadn’t been on the ice by myself, even though I’m capable of it, but my Dad is there always pushing the practices and making sure they’re better.”
Apparently Ken “kind of fell into that position,” his son noted.
“He coached soccer but was always a manager of my hockey teams because he never wanted to get on the ice and actually coach the kids, but with para-hockey I had some ice times last summer and my dad would come out to those, two or three times a week. He was making passes to a (skater). My dad kept bringing out his skates because nobody else was there to do that.”
By email, Garrett sent photographs of himself and father Ken holding a trophy and medals, from a recent tournament in Calgary, and both look ecstatic in that moment.
“We won the Canadian western tournament, C div, March 27,” Garrett explained. “The team was the BC Sledge Hawks, and this was dad’s first tournament coaching hockey. I ended up getting a tournament shutout.”
Other photos of Garrett’s hockey pursuits are posted to Instagram.com/ItsMitchell, which also lists “BCIT Marketing 2022” in his bio.
A recent profile posted to the BCIT News website describes him as “a goal keeper, not just on the ice playing para hockey but in every aspect of his life — from crafting a new career to advocating for people with disabilities.”
With final tests at BCIT scheduled for late May, these are busy days for Garrett.
“I’ll be fully graduated by then,” he noted. “If it all happens as planned, hopefully we’ll win nationals, I’ll be graduating from BCIT and the following week I’ll start a full-time position, SEO co-ordinating, with Jelly Digital Marketing and PR, in Fort Langley.”
Para-hockey nationals will be played this week in Leduc, Alta., involving teams representing provinces.
“I’ll be playing for Team Alberta,” Garrett revealed.
“B.C. doesn’t really have a team,” the B.C.-born goaltender explained, “because B.C. is a bit of mess right now in terms of organization and structure, and there are some good players here and we could use some more. In terms of getting noticed and making that national-team push, B.C. just doesn’t have the connections that Alberta does. Because of those connections Alberta sledge has, I’ve been skating with them and competing with them at nationals.
“I’m playing on a really good team with a good chance to win the tournament, which is very motivating for me,” he added. “It’s a good opportunity for me to play there, with (Hockey Canada) coaches watching.”