Ryan Symington has been building up to moments like this since he was four-years-old.
For three-years, Symington has been captain of the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs. For his final year with the team, he will be walking away as the 2016/17 Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) Most Dedicated Player.
It was just hours before their final regular season home game on Tuesday, Feb. 28, that Symington received the news from Pontiacs head coach and general manager Rick Swan.
“It’s definitely an honour,” Symington said. “I was surprised in a good way.”
The honour is known as the Don McNabb Memorial Trophy, and is awarded each season to the most dedicated player in the AJHL.
“To single out one player and give him the title of most dedicate is really above and beyond in terms of what you see on the ice,” said Swan. “Ryan is the hardest working guy on the ice. He recognizes that he is going to have an impact, and that he has to lead by example through his performance.”
The 20-year-old Mannville, AB native has been playing the sport since the age of four. Starting his hockey career in his hometown, he later moved to Lloydminster where he played four years of rep hockey.
“Once I was done my midget years, I started talking to Rick (Swan) and Larry (Draper) about coming to Bonnyville. It wasn’t too long after that I came down and signed,” explained Symington.
The success of the team has played an important role in his success as a player.
“With our team success, you create individual success. With us being a powerhouse team this year, it’s been a lot easier for me to have success, whether that be on the ice or off the ice.”
Symington added it’s not only the team that has contributed to his accomplishments over the years, but also his friends and family.
“I obviously owe a lot of it to my coaches here, and to the whole town of Bonnyville for everything that they do throughout our careers. Without everyone, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” he said, adding his parents have supported him not only in his hockey career, but in all aspects of his life.
While Symington is quick to credit others with his success, those around him know the award went to a deserving player.
“Ryan Symington means so much to this franchise, on and off the ice. Just the amount of community work he has done over his three years with the Pontiacs alone, it’s an award that’s well deserved,” said Robb Hunter, Pontiacs media relations.
Hunter noted it’s not often this award makes it to Bonnyville.
“It’s pretty cool. This is the second Pontiac in the history of the organization to win that award.”
Swan added that when thinking of a player who’s most deserving of the award, Symington is one that always comes to mind.
“Just because of the type of character, and what type of player and person he is.”
In terms of life after the Pontiacs, Symington said he hasn’t set any plans in stone, but emphasized the importance of education.
“Education is huge. I want to get my education so I have something to fall back on, in case hockey doesn’t work out for me.”