In the backyard of his Langford home, Tanner Sidaway registers slap shots faster than a 90 kilometre per hour, according to the radar gun. At 11 years old, he’s a hockey sniper beyond his years.
Those kind of skills have landed Tanner and Juan de Fuca Grizzlies peewee teammate Tyler Preziuso, 12, on the elite Canadian AAA Explorers hockey team, which began a European tour on March 28, through the International Hockey Exchange.
Making the cut for the 15-player, two-goalie western Canadian team was no easy task. Tyler, a right wing forward and Tanner, a center forward, also skate on the Island Stars spring hockey squad, and stood out from the pack. They were invited by scouts to try out for the Explorers in Alberta last summer.
“Sixty-plus kids tried out. All were invited, all were scouted (from B.C. and Alberta),” said Bill Sidaway, Tanner’s dad and a long-time JDF minor hockey coach. “(The coaches) commented Tanner was one of the strongest players there. He is a leader and goes hard after the puck.”
A John Stubbs Memorial school Grade 6 student, Tanner has been on skates since age three and started playing hockey not long after. Between spring ice hockey and JDF minor hockey, he slots in competitive roller hockey at Eagle Ridge arena.
With two younger and two older brothers who live and breathe hockey in a family dominated by hockey, he has plenty of motivation to keep his skills up, Bill said. A standing house rule: practising at least 50 shots per day in the backyard.
“I’m really excited (to play in Europe). I’m looking forward to having the experience,” Tanner said. “It’s great to get the opportunity and just go for it.”
Tyler, a Grade 6 Lakewood elementary student, is also thrilled to tour a handful of Western European nations and play against his peers from Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Russia.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn a lot on the ice from experienced coaches and see a different part of the world,” said Tony Preziuso, Tyler’s dad. “It’s not a typical thing a 12 year old does.”
Tyler, a lacrosse player in the narrow hockey off-season, is known as a self-motived, skilled hockey player with a tireless work ethic.
“He loves the game, he thoroughly enjoys it,” Tony said. “He never complains about early morning practices. He just wants to get out there.”