For young men growing up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, there aren’t many pro hockey success stories to immediately model and aspire towards. Of course, see the magnificent careers of Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe for context, it isn’t an impossible feat, but the scouting exposure is difficult to attract on “The Rock”, and players must take initiative in the pursuit of their hockey dreams.
When you think of hockey players from Eastern Canada, it is easy to defer to the likes of Coal Harbour, Nova Scotia, the home of National Hockey League sensations Sidney Crosby, Nathan Mackinnon and Brad Marchand.
Yet for a place with only 13 players who have ever played in an NHL game, they might have finally discovered their own crown jewel.
20-year-old Alex Newhook is the pride of St. John’s and the 13th player from Newfoundland and Labrador to play a game in the NHL. In a span of just over 24 months, Newhook went from lighting up the BCHL with the Victoria Grizzlies to playing for one of the best teams in the NHL.
“I’ve been dreaming about it my whole life,” said Newhook in the Avalanche’s media availability prior to his first NHL game. “(I know) only a certain amount of people from Newfoundland have played in the NHL and I’m very proud to become a part of that group.”
Newhook’s hockey dream has taken him to places only those with supreme talent can go. The journey wasn’t easy, it never is, but this story is special in the way that not only was it quick, but the implications could run deep for the game of hockey in his home province.
At 14 years old, all on his own, Newhook took off from his home of St. John’s to play hockey in Ontario, settling with the York Simcoe Express U15 triple-A team. He played the following season with the U16 squad. Newhook also got into 15 prep school hockey games with St. Andrew’s College.
After two years of hardcore training and education in Ontario, Newhook took it a step (or several million steps) further when he joined the Victoria Grizzlies in August 2017 as a 16-year-old. Across the country from where he grew up, with a keen eye on the NCAA, Newhook locked in on the next stepping stone in his young career.
Two seasons as a part of the Victoria Grizzlies brought two prime accolades for Newhook as a junior hockey player, winning BCHL rookie of the year in 2017-18 and most valuable player in the BCHL in 2018-19.
“To be on this stage, it’s really exciting,” Newhook said in an interview with Sportsnet in 2019. That same excitement that brought him coast-to-coast for the game quickly turned into Newhook dawning the captain’s ‘C’ for Victoria in his second BCHL season, and also helped him get noticed by some of the top NCAA Division I hockey programs in the United States.
Newhook’s devotion and unique drive for hockey is one characteristic that NCAA programs look for in their players, but the stat sheet definitely didn’t hurt him, either.
After posting 182 points in 98 games for the Grizzlies with two other-worldly playoff rounds where he tallied 11 goals and 13 assists in 15 post-season games, Newhook was ready to take the next step towards the 2019 NHL Draft. It was the Eagles of Boston College that came knocking on his door.
Arriving on campus at Boston College, it is a whole new world from what Newhook was used to at home in Canada. Add in a global pandemic, and hockey couldn’t be used as the distraction it usually could.
“Excitement comes from the gratefulness of being where we’re at, just showing up to the rink every day, no matter the circumstances, we’re still doing what we love while going to school,” Newhook said in an interview with Hockey East last year.
That excitement to hit the ice with the Eagles translated into an unforgettable freshman campaign in the NCAA, where Newhook put up 19 goals and 23 assists for 42 points with Boston College in 2019-20.
The following year, with NCAA winter sports schedules heavily adjusted to work around the COVID-19 situation, Newhook still registered 16 points in 12 games on the Eagles’ top forward line and power play unit.
“I just tried to take in as much as I could with the Eagles, the coaches (at Boston College) taught me a lot,” added Newhook in his pre-debut presser with the Avalanche.
In late 2020, Newhook left the Eagles to go pursue a gold medal with Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton. As a massive part of Team Canada’s top-six forward group, Newhook’s six points in six tournament games propelled Canada to a dominant run to the final game, where they dropped a heartbreaking game to Team USA and a couple of his buddies from Boston College.
It isn’t often you see one of the most talented teams in the National Hockey League call on their young prospects to help make a difference in their currently stacked roster. Yet in Denver, Colorado general manager Joe Sakic has a different vision for his team and the possibilities of what these up-and-coming stars can provide.
In addition to former Vancouver Giants stud Bowen Byram, the Avs recently signed Newhook out of the NCAA, and to be expected, his impact has already been felt.
Already contributing offensively to start his career, Newhook’s ‘welcome to the NHL moment’ came in a game against top-seeded Vegas on May 10 when the two teams were deadlocked at one with just over eight minutes left in the game.
Starting the play and using the hockey sense that so many touted him for coming into the NHL, Newhook flew down the right side of the Vegas zone, received a pass from defenseman Connor Timmins and sent a backhand pass towards the Vegas crease, where JT Compher redirected the puck for an Avs game-winner.
One of the biggest goals of the Avalanche season, caused by none other than former Victoria Grizzlies captain Alex Newhook, a sign that the big moment will never be too much for this young player.
As the Avalanche have their sights set on capturing the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s top team, their season has an even bigger goal, and that is to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Sometimes the toughest journeys reap the greatest of rewards, and there is nothing that fans of the BCHL and Boston College or the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would like to see more than one of their own lift hockey’s holy grail.