KAMLOOPS - Joe Hicketts has had dreams of playing in the NHL since he was a kid learning to play on the rinks around Kamloops.
The 21-year-old is now on the doorstep of that dream playing in the American Hockey League, and he recently was a part of a championship winning team as the Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup.
Hicketts brought his new hardware back to his hometown and had the cup on display in Riverside Park on Thursday, July 27.
He took some time to sign autographs, play street hockey with some kids, and he even had a visit from his old bantam coach Don Shulz. Hicketts says he loves opportunities like this to connect with his fans from Kamloops, and meet the next crop of the city's hockey players.
"It's really a good experience for me to come back and help and provide my insight to these guys," Hicketts says.
He says the experience of making an AHL squad and winning a championship in his first season has been surreal, and he knows it is not the kind of opportunity that comes around often.
"I think its something you can't take for granted. I think it's a little bit of luck as well," Hicketts says. "You play with guys that tell you how they've played seven, eight and nine years and they've never made it past the second round so for me to get to do that in my first year is good for my personal development."
Hicketts played for the Griffins this year after a strong career in the W.H.L. where he played for and captained the Victoria Royals. Hicketts also saw success at the junior level as he was part of a bronze medal winning team at the World Junior Hockey Championship in 2014.
As for what is next for Hicketts, he expects to be spending more time in Grand Rapids next season, though his focus is on finding a way to crack the Detroit Red Wings roster. He has been working his way through the Wings system since he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014.
"It's every players goal to make the National Hockey League and I am going to do everything in my power to do that," he says. "Whether it's working out on the ice or off the ice in training camp."
In his first AHL season Hicketts tallied seven goals and 34 points in the regular season, and during the Griffins Calder Cup run he added a goal and eight points in the playoffs.
Grand Rapids beat the Syracuse Crunch in six games to capture the championship.
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