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Hockey, track and field, soccer and lacrosse: Billtown’s Patrick Allen has a passion for sports

NKEC students Cole Phillips, left, Emma Taylor, Dyton Blackett, Gracie Taylor and Emelie Bennett receive a cheque to help cover the costs of a new playground during the Jimmy Rogers Memorial Hockey Tournament in Canning.
NKEC students Cole Phillips, left, Emma Taylor, Dyton Blackett, Gracie Taylor and Emelie Bennett receive a cheque to help cover the costs of a new playground during the Jimmy Rogers Memorial Hockey Tournament in Canning.

BILLTOWN, NS - Everything else takes a back seat to sports for Billtown’s Patrick Allen.

The Grade 11 student at Northeast Kings Education Centre (NKEC) takes being a multi-sport athlete to a whole new level. He’s played on the high school’s hockey team for the past three years and played soccer for NKEC in the last two seasons, as well as participating in three events – sprints, discus and javelin - for the track and field team.

On top of that, he coaches kids in Kentville’s lacrosse association and has spent time playing the sport as well.

All of that combined makes for a busy schedule.

“I stay up late a lot,” he says with a laugh. “I end up spending a fair number of late nights doing my homework. I don’t always get to hang out with my friends as much as I’d like, and I’m never just sitting around. But I’ve always been a very active person, I like being busy. It’s all worth it.”

Sometimes, he says, the sporting seasons overlap, which can make his busy schedule even more hectic.

“Hockey and soccer overlap, and track and field and lacrosse,” he says. “It can get pretty busy.”

But, there’s no question – hockey’s his absolute favourite.

“I started hockey when I was four or five – my dad played when he was a kid, so I started. He helped coach me for a few years and I got really good at it,” he said. “My mom would come and watch and it would be a fun family activity.”

A defenseman – strong backward skating skills at a young age, combined with the fact that he was “quite a bit bigger than the other kids when I was younger, so when we got to hitting I did well with it,” made it a natural choice for Allen – he enjoys spending time on the ice and being part of a team.

Playing for his high school team seemed like a natural progression. While he considered playing at a higher level at one point, he ruled that out quickly.

“I used to think I’d like to go play at a higher level, but when I hit high school, I realized I wasn’t at the point where I needed to be to do something with it,” he said. “So I decided to play high school hockey and concentrate on academics, too.”

 

Short bench

It was a tough year for the hockey Titans, he admits. The Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union work to rule job action impacted the high school season, and when the team got back on the ice in the Hockey Nova Scotia Midget X league as the Canning Clippers, they found themselves down four players and were only able to recruit one more. That was a major hit to the team, Allen says.

“We had thirteen skaters and two goalies. We played nine forwards and four defence,” he said. “It was tough. We’d go off the ice and have a little rest and then had to go right back on. If you got into a rhythm for a game, it was OK, but if not it wasn’t so good.”

That’s the trouble the team ran into during tournament play in St. Margaret’s Bay at the end of the season.

“We got winded, and with so few players, it was a little harder to recoup between games,” he said. “Everyone was playing bigger minutes.”

Still, he’s already looking forward to making next year’s season a great experience. There are some positives that come from the shortened bench.

“We have a few guys who may not have gotten full ice time otherwise, and we all had the opportunity to get more ice time,” he said, giving the players the chance to up their skill level.

“I think we’re going to have a better season coming up.”

 

Spring sports

The demands of the hockey season, combined with the academic requirements of Grade 12, may mean he doesn’t get to play soccer next fall, but he’s not looking that far ahead yet. Right now, he just wants to focus on cramming as many sports as possible into the final two months of the school year.

Allen’s interest in lacrosse – which has similar elements to hockey – began about five years ago.

“I decided to join, I thought it might be fun,” he said. “Then I moved towards the coaching side.”

That’s been very rewarding, he adds.

“I coach the six- and seven-year-olds,” he said. “It’s fun to see them start out with it. They’re not worried about scoring or positioning, it’s just about having fun for them. I really like that.”

He’s also in the midst of an intense few weeks of training for the high school track and field season - events that are great off-season training for hockey, he adds, especially sprints.

“It really helps me with explosive starts and speed (on the ice),” he said.

The NKEC track team formed in early April and trains together several times a week – Allen adds in extra work during his own time – as they prepare for competitions, which are coming up quickly. Districts will be held May 16 and 17 at Acadia, followed by regionals, also at Acadia, May 25 and 26. The season will wrap up with provincials in Dartmouth June 2 and 3.

The goal, he says, is to make it to provincials for discus at least, and he’s already anticipating the competition.

 “I think it’s really fun when a bunch of people go,” he said. “Track and field doesn’t really make any cuts – if you sign up, you get to go – and it’s fun when there’s a bunch of people there. There’s always a big section just for our school.”

Representing NKEC is a point of pride for Allen – something that especially shines through during track meets.

“It’s pretty cool to wear the NKEC jersey or the Titans pinney,” he said. “It’s even better at something like track and field when you can look up in the stands and see this huge section just for NKEC. And it’s really encouraging because they know when you’re up and they’re looking at you and cheering you on. It’s a great motivator.”

Allen, who hopes to study biology after he graduates from NKEC next year, says sports will always play a big part of his life.

“I’d like to do something – maybe see if I can make a local junior team, or even just play pick up soccer,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll always do something.”

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