Receiving a scholarship to the States is the dream of most junior A hockey players, outside of making the NHL.
But hockey is just a portion of the scholarship. The academic side is equally as important.
It’s that side that resulted in Ross Heidt returning home after two seasons at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and joining the RDC Kings.
“It was a long hard decision, not something I decided overnight,” said the 22-year-old. “There was an issue with my schooling. It reached a point where I’d have to return home after four years and still do more schooling to get my degree.
“I was wasting my time and wasn’t sure I wanted to go that route anymore. So I took a step back and decided to focus on my future a bit more.”
The travel, having to fly south of the border for a week at a time, every two weeks, proved to be the biggest drawback on the academic side.
“In business it worked out for the guys as the teachers worked with them, but as an English major the teachers didn’t care and I didn’t get any leeway. I was struggling, and they indicated I may have to drop some classes.”
Still Heidt was glad he got a chance to play in Alaska.
“It’s not something you can take away from me. It was a blast. I made a lot of friends, learned a lot about the game and improved a lot.”
Heidt played the majority of his minor hockey in Red Deer after moving from Lac La Biche when he was “eight or nine.”
He played a year with the bantam AAA Red Deer Rebels White and a year with the minor midget IROC Chiefs before joining the Drayton Valley Thunder as a 16-year-old in the 2012-13 season.
“After a time I realized it wasn’t the right fit for me. I really couldn’t believe I left home at such a young age and I was so immature … it was crazy.”
He played midget AAA with the Red Deer Chiefs the following year, helping them win the provincials and play in the Pacific Regionals.
He then joined the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in the BCHL for two seasons.
His second year he had 33 goals and 20 assists in 55 games.
“Looking back, everything I’ve done has been the right decision for me,” he said. “Even going to Drayton Valley and then leaving was right. If I would have stayed two or three more years I’m not sure I’d be where I am today.”
The only decision he did make, he wishes he hadn’t, was play a game of roller hockey May 30.
“I used to play, but I was working construction and didn’t have time this year,” he explained.
“But a buddy texted me and said they were short and asked if I’d fill in and sure enough I broke my leg.”
He had surgery immediately after and had a plate and screws put in his leg. It still bothers him and, although he’s been practicing, it’s prevented him from playing any of the Kings exhibition schedule.
“I’ve been skating and hopefully will be playing in two or three weeks. It’s still really sore at times, but we’ll see what happens. Baby steps.”
Kings head coach Trevor Keeper likes what he sees from the five-foot-nine, 175-pound winger.
“He looks good in practice. He’s very fast, has a high hockey IQ, a good shot and quick release. But we have to wait until he gets clearance to play. We’re hoping he’ll be ready for the opening of the regular season (Oct. 5, at home against NAIT).”
Heidt will add to the Kings scoring depth, but sees himself more of a two-way player.
“I work hard. I have talent I guess but mostly I try to help the team out in the little ways … provide energy. Not necessarily scoring, but setting up the guys … one of the backbone guys.”
With Olympic-size ice in the new Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, it’s a different style, something Heidt knows well.
“We had it in Alaska,” he said. “You get to wind up a bit more, can’t forecheck as much, and I found you have to stay away from the boards and control the middle more.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at email@example.com