If you quickly glance at a bio of Daniel McKitrick, you’d think he would immediately be behind the 8-ball when it comes to hockey.
5’6”, has played for five different junior A teams in his 4 year career, and hailing from Coral Harbour, Nunavut. Not a lot of hockey players come from Nunavut, with Jordin Tootoo being the lone man from the territory to make an NHL roster (played 723 games for Nashville, Detroit, New Jersey, and Chicago).
But if you watch him play hockey, you can tell right away that he’s a winner on and off the ice. He’s one of the fastest players in the MJHL (take our word on that), with 39 points (20 G, 19 A) in 46 regular season games played this year for Steinbach. More importantly, he’s coming off of a 2016-17 season in which he became an RBC Cup champion with the Cobourg Cougars, the host team for that year’s tournament.
“The RBC Cup was an awesome experience,” McKitrick said. “I knew going in that just playing in the tournament was going to be something special. And we managed to win it, which made it even more special.”
McKitrick spent time honing his skills back in Coral Harbour, where he grew up. As a kid, he says that there wasn’t much to do, but his dad made it fun for everyone. “He made a rink (for us), and my friends and I would play hockey all day and all night,” he explained. “Growing up in Nunavut was so much fun.”
Being from the barren hockey province that it has come to be known, not many players come south to advance their career. In fact, if you google “NHL players from Nunavut”, proper results won’t even come up.
Because of his play and success at the junior A level, McKitrick is an example of players that are breaking that stereotype. “It has opened up some eyes for younger players,” he said. “I hear more players (from Nunavut) are going down south and playing organized hockey.”
After the RBC Cup, McKitrick says he got a text from Jordin Tootoo. “He says I’m inspiring kids just like he did,” he said. “He was a big inspiration for us especially when he played in the world juniors in Halifax (back in 2003). I was very excited when I got a text from him, being someone I looked up to all these years.”
When asked to compare this year’s Pistons to last year’s RBC Cup champions, McKitrick says there are a lot of similarities. “The guys in the room are really close,” he began. “We have tons of depth throughout our whole lineup. One big thing to our success in Cobourg was our defensive play and our goaltending, and we have that here.”
McKitrick has loved living in Steinbach, and also takes his time to volunteer with local schools. He spent a couple of weeks in December with students of Mitchell Middle School, as they got the chance to learn more about him.
“My teammates have been great,” he explained. “Our organization is one of the best in the country.”
During their first round series against Swan Valley, McKitrick notched 2 goals in the four games. “We are happy with the first round, but we are busy getting ready for the next series,” he explained. “I think we can go far, but right now we are just taking it one game at a time.”