Returning for his second season in Penticton will be defenseman Conner Hutchison, who got into 22 games during the 2018/19 season before suffering a season-ending injury on November 10th against the Trail Smoke Eaters. It was the first time in his career that Hutchison had to deal with a serious injury, and an injury in general, as the 19-year-old has had a very healthy hockey career before last season’s unfortunate play.
“Before that, I’d say I maybe missed four games in my life,” said Hutchison, “I had a couple of minor injuries but never missed any large periods of time but when they told me it might be my ACL last season, it was pretty tough to hear. Once I got the MRI results, I went back home and it was tough but once I had the surgery, I started to rehab that week and just taking it one day at a time after that.”
Even with being sidelined for an extended period of time, the Hicksville, New York native thoroughly enjoyed his first season in the South Okanagan, “It was a lot of fun,” mentioned Hutchison, “We had a good group of guys and my billet family was awesome. I loved playing for Coach Harbinson and Coach Becker and the fans were unbelievable; I remember scoring my first goal and it was just nuts, it felt like you were playing in an NHL rink.”
Before making his way to the Vees, Hutchison played his U16 and U18 hockey with the Selects Hockey Academy located in South Kent, Connecticut where he spent four seasons while going to school there as well. Hutchison tallied 14 goals and 98 assists for 112 points in 114 games total between the U16 and U18 levels and was a time that the 5’11”, 181-pound rearguard enjoyed, “I knew the head of the Selects Academy and he recruited me from coaching me in some Selects spring tournaments I played in,” stated Hutchison, “The first time I went there, I loved it. It’s like a little community and everyone is family and an awesome place to be.”
“It’s pretty cool going to class everyday with your buddies and playing hockey with them as well,” Hutchison continued, “I loved my four years there and it really helped get ready for the next step and ended up winning a National Championship which was amazing and that place just really helped get ready for the next level.”
Growing up through high school and his hockey career, there was no shortage of role models to look up to. Both of Conner’s siblings played hockey with his sister Cailey completing four years at the University of Maine while older brother Nick enters his senior season at Canisius College after playing for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks for two seasons.
“My brother and I have both been playing hockey our whole lives and he’s a bit older than me so he was always picking on me when we were younger,” said Hutchison, “I think that’s where I get my competitiveness from is when he was always beating up on me.”
“He played in both leagues, the USHL for a season and the BCHL for two seasons,” continued Hutchison,” When I was trying to decide which would be the best for me, I reached out to some teams in the BCHL and Penticton was one of the teams that came back and I asked my brother what he thought and he said if you’re going to go anywhere, you’ve got to go to Penticton.”
Just over two weeks away from hitting the ice again in Penticton, the University of Vermont commit is excited at returning to see some familiar faces from a season ago, “I’m definitely excited to see all of my buddies returning from last year,” mentioned Hutchison, “It’s a beautiful town with the mountains and lakes surrounding both sides of the city so I’m really looking forward to getting back and seeing that.”
“I do miss Salty’s too,” Hutchison continued, “It’s probably my favourite spot to eat while I’m there and honestly, playing home games is what I miss the most. You get to sleep in your bed and wake up and play in front of 3,000 fans a night and it’s just an awesome experience.”
Living just over an hour from downtown New York, Hutchison gets the chance every once a while to get to the city but the off seasons mostly involve work, and a lot of it, “It’s not too exciting with having a job and working out as much as possible,” Hutchison said, “The plan is usually working for the day and then skating or working out after but every now and then I like to get to the beach or take the 20 minute train ride into the city.”
Hutchison and the rest of the Vees are set to hit the ice in August 19th 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.