Willy James Playing For Saskatoon Blades

February 23, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Stephen Wright]

Bermudian-born ice hockey player Willy James has made the most of his opportunities since signing for the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League [WHL] – the top major junior league in Canada.

Rookie James, who signed a WHL Scholarship and Development agreement in March last year, spent the first eight years of his life in Bermuda.

The 17-year-old’s family is originally from Ontario but moved to the island for work opportunities.

“I was born there [Bermuda], and I lived there for about eight years,” James told the Blades official website.

“The weather was always great there. You got to fish a bit more, and the ocean was always pretty.”

Willy James Bermuda 22 Feb 2024

Unsurprisingly, ice hockey was not an option for James growing up on the island, where football and cricket are the most popular team sports, and it was not until his family returned to Calgary, Alberta, that he picked up an ice hockey stick.

“My dad still works for a computer programming company down there,” James said. “My mom had a job there but found a better one in Calgary. So, we ended up moving to Calgary, and my dad is still working online for that company.”

The forward’s first time on skates was on the outdoor rink in Calgary at age eight.

“[My friends] would always go to the outdoor rink, and I never really knew what it was,” he said. “I just started going there every day and pretty much fell in love with it.”

Despite showing promise playing minor league hockey, James was not drafted in the WHL Prospects Draft; however, after an eye-catching start to the 2022-23 season, the Blades added James to their squad.

“It was my coach from last year who put a lot of trust in me,” James said. “I would say, last year is where I believed in myself and kept it going.”

James scored 11 goals and 38 points in 28 matches that year with the Calgary Buffaloes U18 AAA squad of the Alberta Elite Hockey League [AEHL].

His family returned to Bermuda last summer, but the right-handed shot remained in Saskatoon, the largest city in the province of Saskatchewan, as he looked to force his way into the Blades roster for this term.

It is fair to say the hard work paid off for James, who is learning from veteran and National Hockey League [NHL] talent.

“We’re a winning team, and it’s a fun place to play,” James said. “We always get fun out of everything we do, and I’m just really enjoying it here.

“There’s so much I’m learning, especially from those top-end guys like Tanner Molendyk, Fraser Minten, Brandon Lisowsky, and so many guys have valuable things I can learn from.

“I never thought I would make it this far, and I feel like I still have more to go, so I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

With the Blades top of the standings in the Eastern Conference East, James will hope to be a championship winner when he next visits Bermuda.

“I miss it [Bermuda], but I’m obviously loving where I am now,” he added.

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