CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
Kyle Bailey has accomplished a lot in his hockey career.
After a successful four-year career in the WHL, including stops in Portland, Ore. and Lethbridge, Bailey was drafted by the Minnesota Wild. After contract talks with the Wild didn’t go the way Bailey expected, he decided to take advantage of the WHL’s scholarship program.
Bailey enrolled at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and hasn’t missed a beat after travelling across the country to lace the skates up in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) league.
After winning the country’s top team award, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s (CIS) University Cup, two years ago in his second season, Bailey was named the team’s captain last year.
This year, the UNB Varsity Reds won the AUS championship, a great accomplishment but with the national title being held on home ice in Fredericton, Bailey had his eyes on capturing his second University Cup.
The Reds made it to the finals after defeating Calgary in the first game 2-1 and beating Western Ontario 4-0 in the semifinals. With everything on the line, Bailey and UNB came through with a 4-0 win over the McGill Redmen.
“It’s pretty awesome. There is a strong tradition at UNB and we’re pretty fortunate that every year our goal is to be in the position to win a national championship but when it actually does happen it’s the pinnacle,” said Bailey.
The win was made that much sweeter for Bailey for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, where it happened and who it happened in front of.
“When you can win on home ice in front of your own family and your own fans, it’s just awesome. And it’s still awesome, the celebration is still going pretty strong so it’s been excellent.”
The second reason may not be quite as obvious.
Bailey already has one national title to his credit but to win one as the leader of his team is something that he said made this win more memorable and he admitted he took more ownership of this victory.
“It’s sweet considering it’s my senior year. Also, coming off our year last year where we we’re upset, a lot of guys took this year personally and we needed to redeem ourselves so to speak…I’m really happy for all my teammates and it’s been an unbelievable ride,” he said.
Bailey, who will graduate with a degree in business from UNB, is now in an area of uncertainty for the first time since packing his bags as a 16-year-old and travelling to Portland to play in his first WHL season.
Although his plans may be up in the air there is no doubt in Bailey’s mind that hockey will play a significant role in his future decisions.
“The desire to play is still very much in my blood. I don’t know what sort of options are going to be out there. Hopefully there is some interest…I have all intentions of playing hockey next year so we will see where I land,” said Bailey.
Part of that drive may come from the fact that one of Bailey’s teammates, Hunter Tremblay, was recently signed to a one-year contract by the Edmonton Oilers. Both were named to the all-tournament team at the national championship and Bailey was extremely happy and candid about the signing.
“We’re all real happy for him. I had a chance to talk to him and tell him how proud of him I am. He’s a fantastic player…and by no means do I think it’s unreasonable to see him in an Edmonton Oilers’ uniform really soon,” said Bailey. “As happy as I am for him, I can’t help but have a little bit of jealousy there and I would tell him that if he was sitting right here.”
Bailey believes he’s played his way into a shot with an American Hockey League team and said he hasn’t ruled out Europe but would like to first weigh his options closer to home.
He also made a point of recognizing some of the people that had helped him get to where he is today.
“Looking back to my minor hockey days, we were so lucky and fortunate because there was so many good players. On top of that, we were so lucky to have the coaches we did. I think back to atoms and being coached by Tim Corkery, peewees being coached by Al Kramer and Kelsey Hycha, being coached by Sam Klimec and Jake Stolee, Justin Kelly and Chris Halischuk. Looking back on it I can’t believe how lucky we were to be coached by such good coaches and play with such good guys…It was just one of those weird eras. I have a lot of fond hockey memories from my Ponoka Minor Hockey days.”
Bailey even mentioned his two provincial medals he won that he still holds “very near to my heart.”
Bailey’s future may be uncertain, where he plays hockey next year might not be decided till as late as October of this year but one thing seems abundantly clear, wherever he does decide to play, they team will be lucky to have him because success seems to follow Kyle Bailey around.