PHOTO: Brandon Armstrong/USHL Images
Growing up in Toronto, there was no shortage of hockey for Colton Kalezic to get his eyes on. With hundreds upon thousands of youngsters getting their start in the minor hockey system in the largest Canadian city, it can be an overwhelming place to start, “Playing in Toronto, it’s easy to get lost at some points,” said the 6’2″, 176-pound forward, “But it’s some of the best minor hockey in the world and there was plenty of competition but I had a great minor hockey experience in Toronto.”
The Toronto, Ontario native remained close to home in playing three seasons with the Toronto Patriots of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, joining the team as a 16-year-old. Kalezic went on to play in 145 games for his hometown squad, amassing 54 goals and 60 assists for 114 points over that span while also registering 58 penalty minutes in three seasons. Playing in your own backyard is an experience like no other and one Kalezic was able to live for the majority of his Junior ‘A’ career.
“It was a great experience to play for the Patriots and playing at home,” Kalezic continued, “Having my parents be able to come out to most of the games as well as making plenty of friends while I played there and I learnt a lot through my 16-year-old season. The team was pretty hard on me, which I’ve come to appreciate, and definitely made me the player I am today.”
During his final season with the Patriots in 2017/18, a season which saw Kalezic post 51 points in 46 games, the right-handed shot found himself suiting up for Team Canada East at the World Junior ‘A’ Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia. “I had a lot of motivation to wear the Maple Leaf on my chest and I made the team as the last forward,” Kalezic went on to say, “I went on to have a great tournament but the hardest part was making the team in the first place.”
A great tournament, indeed, as Kalezic finished the WJAC with two goals and four assists for six points in his team’s four games, which tied for the tournament lead in scoring. An overtime loss to the eventual Gold Medal winning Team Canada West squad pushed the East side into the 5th place game and semi-final contention where the team defeated Switzerland by a 3-2 score in overtime, a game in which Kalezic found the back of the net.
Kalezic found himself in unfamiliar territory and moved away from home for the first time in his hockey career as he spent his 19-year-old season with the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League. In 47 games played, Kalezic finished his season with 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points while adding 37 penalty minutes and finding the transition, as an older player, a relatively seamless one.
“I made a lot of new friends and had a great year in Tri-City,” Kalezic mentioned, “Our team was very good and the coaching staff was awesome to deal with. We ended up being knocked out of the playoffs in the conference final but I had a great experience playing there last season.”
“Obviously, it was my first time I had been playing hockey away from home but once I got there, I was home sick at all but more so excited to be there,” Kalezic continued, “Going there as a 19-year-old, it didn’t take me long to adjust and get used to the hockey culture in an American city after playing in Canada for all of my life but I’m really looking forward to coming out West and playing in Penticton this year.”
The newly minted 20-year-old, as of July 21st, will head West for the first time in his life to play for the Vees, something that the Northern Michigan University commit is excited to come and do, “I always knew that Penticton was a first class organization and the players that have been through the system there and Northern Michigan said it would be an option for me to play there and I thought it would be the best place to finish my Junior career. The tradition and the culture is tough to pass up on.”
The winning culture of the Vees is something that drew the future Wildcat to the South Okanagan and, after playing on Patriot teams that fell short of their ultimate goal, Kalezic has one thing in mind for his 20-year-old season, “I want a championship,” Kalezic stated, “Over the years, I’ve learnt about what it takes, how much you need to sacrifice and how many hours you need to put in on and off the ice to get yourself ready for a long season. It all starts in the dressing room and having the team be together as one.”
Wearing a letter in two of his three seasons in Toronto, Kalezic knows that a good culture comes from strong leadership, something he is not shying away from, “I plan on stepping into that role and being a leader,” mentioned the forward, “I’m coming in as one of the older guys on the team and I know what it takes in order to win and I’m willing to do that on and off the ice.
Kalezic and the rest of the Vees are set to hit the ice in late August ahead of the 2019/20 season with the first game of the exhibition schedule taking place on Wednesday, August 21st in West Kelowna against the Warriors. Season tickets are on sale now and are available by contacting Laura Carleton at (250) 493-8337 ext. 4.