Joel Hoglund and Chanse Ballas were just concentrating on the matter at hand — providing great defence for the Fort Macleod Midget Tropics.
They didn’t know a junior A scout was watching them at all . . . much less when he was up there in the stands looking them over.
Maybe during the Central Alberta Midget Hockey League playoff games between the Tropics and the Nanton Palominos?
Joel, 16, didn’t know for sure, but that’s what he suspected, because that’s when he got the phone call.
“I got a phone call when we were in the playoffs,” Joel said. “He asked if I was interested in playing in the Challenge Cup in Vancouver on the May long weekend.”
That was easy to answer.
“I said I wanted to. I’m really excited about it. I had no clue they were watching me,” the Grade 11 F.P. Walshe school student said.
Chanse, 15, in Grade 10 at F.P. Walshe, got the news while he was at school.
“I was pretty shocked when I found out,” Chanse said. “My mom texted me, ‘You’ve been scouted by the Cowichan Capitals.’ I kinda sat there . . . what?”
“I’m really excited to go play,” Chanse said. “I had no idea I was being watched.”
Actually it was a rare thing that Cowichan Capitals scout Randy Wilson ended up watching Joel and Chanse. And it wasn’t during the playoffs. It was during regular season play.
“It was a rarity; scouts just don’t watch that level (Tier 3),” Wilson said. “There was another fella we were interested in — a WHL draft pick — so I was in the area. So I watched them in Claresholm, then Fort Macleod, then back in Claresholm. I look for plus players, solid stay-at-home defencemen.”
Joel and Chanse will be playing for the Triple A Atlanta Knights spring team formerly known as the Triple A Calgary Elite Bisons — it’s not uncommon for the spring team to wear a different jersey from year to year — in the Challenge Cup tournament in Vancouver on May 21-23.
They will also be playing in the Banff Rocky Mountain International tournament May 6-8.
Wilson, who owns the Triple A Midget spring team, scouts for the Cowichan Capitals and the Atlanta Knights, both Junior A teams.
“I hand-pick players we may have interest in a couple of years down the road,” Wilson said. “These are our prospects.”
Hoglund and Ballas would most likely end up with the Capitals, Wilson explained, since the Knights are only allowed three imports a year.
Now Hoglund and Ballas will be very aware scouts are watching them at the Cup.
“Scouts will be there from the Junior As and Junior Bs, and the Western Hockey League,” Joel said. “Hopefully somebody will get their eyes on me and like how I play, and ask me to play with them . . . hopefully a Junior A team.”
Chanse is dreaming up there in the stars as well.
“If I do good I could go somewhere special,” he said. “If I try my best I might end up in the NHL.”
Tropics coach Lloyd Price was impressed with the call the two boys got.
“Literally they’re going from Midget A Tier 3 to Triple A. It’s a huge step up,” Price said.
“They gotta be good to get this call,” Price said. “Joel’s in second year (with the Tropics). He’s got a wicked shot. Chanse, he’s a rookie. Someone will be looking at him and thinking, he’s a rookie? He’s got good size, good speed.”
“If nothing else it gives them an opportunity to play when scouts are watching,” Price added.
The Challenge Cup International AAA Championship is the annual hockey extravaganza for both boys and girls novice to midget teams across Alberta and British Columbia. U.S. teams from Washington and Colorado also join in.
Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter Gretzky traditionally opens the three-day event.