John Hawthorne played many games at Fuller Lake Arena leading up to a storybook season in the B.C. Hockey League. The only thing missing was a happy ending.
Chemainus product Hawthorne, 19, came into his own during the 2017-18 campaign as the main man in goal for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. He led them into the playoffs on a roll that continued with three straight wins for the underdog Bulldogs against the Victoria Grizzlies, only to see it all come unravelled after four consecutive defeats in the same series.
“It’s been the highest of the highs to the lowest,” said Hawthorne. “It was disappointing. At the end of the day, there’s nothing we can do but get better from it.”
Hawthorne and the Bulldogs had the Grizzlies on the brink of elimination four times, but couldn’t complete the task after the improbable start to the series that went completely their way.
“It was interesting,” Hawthorne conceded. “No one expected us to be where we were.”
The many hours through minor hockey were worth it for him to get to this point.
“I’ve been a goalie most of my life,” Hawthorne indicated. “I changed when I was eight.”
That was on the Cowichan Stars Novice D team. “We needed a goalie, I tried it and I liked it,” he recalled.
Hawthorne played B rep the next season and then A through every season starting in second year Atom.
He fell off the local radar somewhat after spending three seasons in Major Midget with the North Island Silvertips based in Nanaimo before making the move to the Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League as an 18-year-old. Hawthorne is definitely somewhat of a late bloomer in cracking the Bulldogs’ lineup at 19, but made the most of his opportunity.
He had gone to Bulldogs’ camps previously at age 16, but Hawthorne didn’t know where he stood with a new coaching staff this season under the direction of Matt Hughes.
“I came into camp and I made the squad,” Hawthorne noted.
Colten Lancaster was the presumptive starter ahead of Hawthorne. But he eventually got traded to Flin Flon and “I played the majority of the games,” Hawthorne said. “Certainly going into the season, that wasn’t the plan.”
But Hawthorne made a quick transition to the BCHL to earn the majority of starts.
“Everybody’s way faster,” he observed. “The skating is the biggest thing. Guys are so much quicker and guys can do many creative things with the puck.
“It was a bit of an adjustment. I had some success early on and the team did as well.”
The Bulldogs still had an up-and-down season, but seemed to catch fire at the right time for the playoffs before the momentum slipped away again so suddenly.
Hawthorne is now down to just one more year, though, of junior eligibility.
“I feel like I can be a lot better,” he said. “There were times where I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be.
“It has been a long road coming. I know I have limited time now and I have to make the most of it.”
Hawthorne would love to play Div. 1 National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey after junior.
“That’s the idea,” he said. “Of course, I understand it doesn’t work out for everybody.”