Growing up, West Guilford native Joe Boice felt he’d have to leave his hometown to chase his hockey dreams. Now, as a key part of the Haliburton County Huskies’ inaugural roster, he wants to show local youth they can forge their path to the big leagues in the Highlands.
The 6’3” power forward has been ever-present for the community’s new Jr. A franchise this season, suiting up in 29 games. While yet to register a point, Boice leads the team in penalty minutes and plays a crucial role in the checking game.
He’s often the first guy that head coach, Ryan Ramsay, turns to when he needs to inject some life into a game.
“A big energy guy, I’m a rougher kind of player,” Boice said of his style. “Definitely not much of a goal scorer, I just do whatever I can to help the team. If that means throwing a hit, going to the dirty areas, or making a defensive play, then so be it.”
Like teammate Ryan Hall, Boice represented the Highland Storm during his youth. He won an Ontario Minor Hockey Association championship with the team in 2015, before going on to play two seasons with the Central Ontario Wolves, based in Lindsay.
That move helped mature his game. Often playing against older, and bigger players, Boice said he learned a lot from his time playing AAA. That progression as a player led to an OJHL call-up in 2020. Boice featured in seven games for the Whitby Fury, getting his first taste of junior hockey.
“I remember loving it,” Boice said. “It was a big step, definitely a quicker game, but my goal was to always play junior. I made it.”
He committed to the team for the 2020/21 season, but COVID-19 had other ideas. Not content to simply wait on the sidelines, Boice spent his year off skating wherever and whenever he could. He worked on his stick handling, aiming to be a more complete player once he returned to the ice.
It was a dream come true when he learned that return would come in Haliburton County. “It’s definitely much better being at home. Just being able to play in front of my family and my home town,
it’s obviously a lot nicer playing for people that you know,” Boice said. “It’s extra motivation for me every time I step onto the ice when I look up to the crowd and see familiar faces everywhere, cheering us on.”
While he grew up idolizing Matt Duchene and Bernie Nicholls, NHLers that grew up in the Highlands, the County’s youth now have a new set of players to look up to through the Huskies.
“It’s definitely important, I think, for the younger kids. They can realize now that they can play good hockey in this community,” Boice said.
The path to junior hockey isn’t an easy one, he warned.
“Not every player is going to make it. Obviously, you have to have some skill, but I’d say commitment is the biggest thing you need. You’ve got to give 110 per cent all the time,” Boice said. “If this is what you want, you’ve got to give it all you’ve got.”