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Nik Gudmundson has accomplished something few players at his age do. He gets to start his Junior A Hockey career at the age of 16. Gudmundson just signed a Junior A hockey contract with the Olds Grizzlys of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), after an impressive rookie camp and main tryout camp.
"It was always a dream of mine to play Junior hockey and I’m so excited to get the opportunity to play in Olds. I did not expect that it would happen this soon but now that I’m here and playing at this level I’m glad they are giving me a chance," Gudmundson said from his billet home in Olds. Alberta, Canada. Nik credits his teammates and coaches at Sno-King for his astounding accomplishment. "I also think my first year of 16U prepared me to be responsible and accountable through all the team travel and high level tournaments."
Nik Gudmundson played his youth hockey at Sno-King and joins a select list of players who made the jump to junior hockey after playing 16U AAA in his first year of eligibility. Over the past 3 years Sal Collora (Lethbridge, WHL), Ty Waram (Victoria, BCHL), Zach Reddy (Kirkland Lake, NOJHL) and Andy Vlaha (Wenatcheee, BCHL) made the jump to Jr. A after playing for the Sno-King 16AAA team.
Gudmundson's coach last year at Sno-King, Mike Butters, couldn't be prouder of his player's accomplishment. "Nik is a player I have watched develop since peewee. There weren't many in these parts who gave him a chance. They said he was undersized and lacked the strength against bigger players. I saw a different player. I saw a lion in a gazelle's body." Butters added, "Nik has good work habits and trained hard while he was here. He had a great summer of on ice and off ice workouts and skated with several local players who are already playing junior. Once he figured out how to compete at that level, it was just a matter of the right team taking a chance on a 16U player. Much credit goes to the Olds coach who sees promise in him."
When asked if he was disappointed to lose Nik to juniors, despite having a year of eligibilty left at Sno-King, Butters was quick to put any negativity surrounding this situation to rest. "This is what every program and coach should hope for. I have never been afraid to lose a player to a higher level. Anytime a player can elevate to a level that puts him closer to achieving his goals, it makes me extremely proud. I've never been shy about taking first year players for that reason. I ask players to give me two years of commitment to work with them and every once in awhile, a player like Nik comes along who figures things out quicker than most. He will be a good junior player and I could see him in college hockey at some point."
Hockey runs deep in the Gudmundson family. Nik's father, Jason, played Jr. A hockey in Canada, NCAA hockey at Colorado College and professionally for several minor league teams. Jason was a fixture at Sno-King as he spent a number of years coaching for theJr. Thunderbirds. He was obviously elated with the news. "Nik’s entire family is very proud of this achievement. Over the past couple of years, and specifically this summer, he put so much hard work and dedication into his game. We told him to take the summer to recuperate and get his energy back but instead he skated more than ever. He was definitely prepared for the Olds camp and it showed." Gudmundson (Jason) also had praise for Sno-King. "Big thanks to all of the SnoKing coaches, managers, and volunteers Nik has interacted with over his 9 years with the association. They all played a big part in this accomplishment.”
Now that Nik has had time to digest this accomplishment, I asked him to pass on a message to current Sno-King players who are looking to follow in his footsteps. "Have confidence in yourself and believe that you can move to the next level if given the opportunity. " Nik added, "there are a lot of great older (Sno-King) players in the Seattle area, especially in the offseason, and in order to prepare for the next level you need to find opportunities to play with and observe them."
Sno-King is proud to call Nik Gudmundson one of their own homegrown products and wish him much success with his future. "Players like Nik, Sal (Collora), Ty (Waram), Andy (Vlaha) and Zach (Reddy) are great examples of local products who can get the training, coaching and development they need here at Sno-King," said Butters. "In the end, as long as players commit to being better players and people, they can reach their goals right here at home. Nik's teammates from last year are all rooting for him and looking to follow his lead."
Stories like Nik's are inspirational to us all.
Good luck, Nik.