Black History Month - Maasilan Etchart

February 28, 2024

Maasilan Etchart is proof that with lots of hard work and determination, anything is possible. A current defenceman for the Rockland Nationals Junior A team, an OHL draft pick and a gold medal winner at Canada Winter Games, Etchart has come a long way from his first year of house league hockey.

Maasilan got his start playing with the Ottawa East Minor Hockey Association, then making the jump to competitive hockey with the Ottawa Sting. He went on to play three seasons of ‘AAA’ with the Ottawa Junior 67’s before being drafted to the Rockland Nationals of the CCHL where he now finds himself as a reliable defenceman on their back end.

“Massillon Etchart is the ultimate team player. On the outside he is a reserved/quiet young athlete, that is committed to making himself and his teammates better. He is composed beyond his years and is the true definition of being dependable on the ice. He has the ability to play in all situations and gives his coaching staff confidence knowing that he is on the ice. A 200-foot player that will only get better as he gets older” – Jeff Robert, Development Programs Officer for HEO and Director of Operations for Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games


Hockey Eastern Ontario asked Maasilan about his experience in hockey so far and what the hockey community could do to become more inclusive.


Q: How did you get into hockey?

A: I got into hockey a little later than my peers, neither of my parents had ever played or even heard of hockey so it was actually a family friend who introduced me. I was 7 years old and my parents asked me if I wanted to go watch our family friends’ son’s hockey game.  As a young kid who loved sports, naturally I said yes. As soon as the game started, I was in love with the sport! It looked like a lot of fun, skating around chasing the puck and trying to score. As soon as we got back in the car, I begged my parents to let me play hockey and I’ve been playing ever since.


Q: Tell us about your journey in hockey so far. How did you get to the Junior A level? What has been your proudest moment to date?

A: Since I started hockey later, during my first year, while everyone else was flying around on the ice and lifting the puck, I was still slowly making my way around the ice with my straight curve trying to figure if I was a left-handed or right-handed shot. Despite that, I loved the game and was always practicing whenever I could, to catch up.

My coach in my second year of house league saw my progress and passion and convinced my parents to put me into competitive hockey. It was a big step and despite playing at the ‘B’ level for my first year of competitive, I kept working hard to improve my game. For my next season, my goal was to make the ‘AA’ team (which was the highest level at the time), it was a big jump but I was ready for the challenge.  I made it all the way to the final cuts but didn’t make the team.

Though it was a big disappointment, I think of it as a defining moment in my career. During my meeting with the AA coach, he gave me two things I needed to work on to make the team next year; my backwards skating and my crossovers.

My dad, sister and I would go to public skates to work on my skating as often as we could. I also started doing power skating early in the morning before school and my skating started to improve. The next year, I made the team and the coaches told me they were impressed with how much I had improved since last season. That’s how I learnt the value and importance of hard work. I then went on to play AAA hockey for the Jr. 67s for 3 years, where I met lots of great coaches and teammates.

In 2022, I got drafted in the second round of the CCHL draft to the Rockland Nationals U18 AAA team where I played last season. This past summer in 2023, I was drafted in the 8th round of the OHL draft to the Niagara IceDogs.  I returned to Rockland to play for the Junior A team when I did not make the OHL.

The proudest moment of my hockey career was being selected to play for team Ontario at the 2023 Canada Winter Games and winning the gold medal. It was an amazing experience, getting to be part of such a great team with a great group of guys. I was also able to compete with some of the best players in Canada, learn from some excellent coaches and meet tons of other athletes from all over the country.


Q: What is your goal for yourself in your hockey career?

A: My goal is to play at the highest level I can, eventually in university, and later professionally.


Q:  What lessons have you learned through hockey?

A: Hockey has taught me lots of valuable lessons about life such as, the importance of hard work, consistency and discipline when working towards a goal. It has also taught me the value of embracing and looking for challenges instead of backing down when faced with one because challenges only make you better. I have also learned the importance of respect and communication when working with others.


Q: Who do you look up to as a role model?

A: Definitely my parents, until I started playing hockey they had never even heard of the sport, yet they still signed me up and did everything they could to learn about hockey and how it works to support me. They would drive me to hockey no matter how early in the morning it was, they would sign me up for summer hockey camps and power skating to help me get better. When I would shoot pucks outside and put holes in the garage, they would try to find ways to protect the garage so I could keep practicing, and so much more. They’ve taught me so much about both life and hockey and without all their sacrifices and support I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today.


Q: Do you have any advice for someone in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) community looking to get involved in hockey?

A: Don’t worry about what other people think, hockey is a sport for everyone and if you love to play or you’re interested in getting involved then it doesn’t matter what other people might say or think as long as you’re happy and having fun.


Q: In your opinion, how could the hockey community work on becoming more inclusive?

A: I think representation is essential to making hockey a more inclusive sport because it’s important for people in the BIPOC community to see that there are other people like them who play hockey at high levels. It can feel lonely at times when you’re the only person of colour on your team which is why it’s important to see that you aren’t in fact alone and that there are other people like you playing this sport. I think it’s also important for the next generation of BIPOC hockey players to see other people of colour succeeding and going far in the sport because it gives them someone to look up to and lets them know that if these other players can do it then so can they. By celebrating the achievements of BIPOC hockey players, talking about their journeys and accomplishments and publishing articles like this one, I think we can make hockey more inclusive.


Image source: Ice Level

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