Buddies off the ice, teens climb hockey ranks together

Teammates Landen Hookey, left, and Josh Hoover in 2016. Submitted Photo

Tara Jeffrey

Josh Hoover and Landen Hookey have been cheering each other on for as long as they can remember.

“I think we were about seven when we met each other, both playing Bluewater Sharks spring hockey,” said Hoover, 17. “Then again when we both tried out for AAA minor atom in Sarnia.

“We’ve been best buddies ever since.”

The pair climbed the minor hockey ranks together — training, tournaments, select teams, traveling to Sweden to represent North America in the DraftDay International Athletics elite hockey tournament. They were even high school teammates at Northern Collegiate.

“We’re both really competitive and we’re both always pushing each other to do better,” said Hookey, 17. “We’ve both been dreaming of getting to the OHL.”

That dream came true for both teens last year when the Soo Greyhounds announced Hookey as their ninth round pick in the 2020 OHL draft. Then the Sudbury Wolves picked Hoover in the tenth round.

Earlier this month, following training camp, both teens were signed by their respective teams.

“To be honest I was in shock,” said Hookey.

“I was speechless,” Hoover said.

And just days later they suited up to open the OHL pre-season — facing off against each other when the Greyhounds hosted the Wolves on Sept. 5.

Both sets of parents drove up from Sarnia for the game, one they wouldn’t have missed for the anything.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Hookey’s mom, Marnie, who was the stands for the first goal of the season — scored by Hookey, #16, just minutes into the game.

“To watch Landen living out his dream was such an achievement.

“It was different cheering from the stands for opposing teams,” Hoover’s mom, Kerri added. “The boys have been together for so long on the same team. It was bittersweet that they got to play their first game against one another.”

The Wolves took the 8-4 win, with Hoover picking up an assist in the third period.

“He got the first goal, but I got the win,” Hoover said with a laugh. “I think that’s what’s helped get us here — because we’re both so competitive and we’re always pushing each other.”

They were even able to take a quick post-game photo together, before Hoover loaded onto the team bus.

The official OHL season begins Oct. 7, and the Soo will play host to Sudbury again on Oct. 9.

“It’s crazy to think we grew up together watching Sting games and now we’re here,” said Hookey.

“I’m so proud of Josh and I know he’s proud of me.”

Hoover and Hookey following their first pre-season OHL game, played against each other.
Submitted Photo