Landon Hookey quietly held onto a necklace in his pocket as he watched anxiously, one by one, each name announced during the 2020 OHL Draft earlier this month.
“It has my dad’s fingerprint on it, so I had it there for some good luck,” the 16-year-old Northern Collegiate student said of his late father Joel Hookey, who passed away ten years ago.
“I feel like he is definitely watching over me.”
Gathered around the TV with family at his Sarnia home, the Lambton Jr. Sting AAA right-winger heard his name called around 2:30 p.m., chosen in the ninth round by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds hockey club.
“It was pretty nerve wracking, but worth the wait when the moment came,” said Hookey. “My mom was screaming, I hugged everyone.
“I had a good feeling, but really, you never know.”
And while it would have been nice to go out and celebrate with friends and teammates — high school teammate and fellow Jr. Sting player Josh Hoover was selected by the Sudbury Wolves in the tenth round — staying in isolation due to the coronavirus meant celebrating at home, which, as it turns out, was exactly what he needed.
“We just soaked it all in, as a family; it was a pretty fun day” he said. “My parents got me a Soo Greyhounds cake and my favourite dinner, Chinese food.
“And I had a lot of text messages to reply to.”
With no access to ice, and while he awaits a re-scheduled training and tryout camp, Hookey recently bought a pair of rollerblades and continues regular workouts at a makeshift gym in his garage. And though one of the most important years of his life is being hampered by a global pandemic, Hookey isn’t letting it get him down.
“It is what it is,” he said. “I’m just gonna focus on working hard and getting myself ready.”
Hookey, who spent his early years in Corunna, started his hockey career in Mooretown around age four. Dad, Joel, an OPP officer, even built a synthetic ice rink in the basement.
“He was a big contributor to my hockey career; he got me started, coached me when I was little,” said Hookey, who was just six when his father died, also leaving behind his mom Marnie and little sister Coehan.
They eventually moved to Sarnia where he’s been playing AAA the past seven years.
“It was probably about three or four years ago that I started to realize, ‘wow, I could make a career out of this,'” he said. “That’s when I really started to focus and take it more seriously.”
For him, hockey is a way of life.
“I love the atmosphere around the rink, and everyone around me,” he said, noting teammates Austin Harper of Wyoming who was chosen by the Sarnia Sting in the tenth round, and Delaware native Caleb van de Ven, who was also chosen my the Greyhounds, in the 13th round.
He attributes his success to a supportive, blended family, and doesn’t mind that he’s the only boy, now with four sisters.
“I wouldn’t be here today if not for them. My ‘new’ side of the family — my stepdad and three stepsisters (Chris, Taryn, Regan and Jordyn) — are pretty much my dad and sisters; we are all one family now.
“My dad really helps me a lot; he enjoys watching me, driving me, and has really played a big role.
“I’m really, really lucky.”