Tai York now playing for the Barrie Colts
NEWS FLASH: Shortly after 11 a.m. today, Jan. 13, the OHL announced the postponement of several IceDogs games, including tonight's contest vs. the Barrie Colts. So Tai York's on-ice homecoming will be delayed. Below is our original story.
When the OHL's Barrie Colts roll into Niagara on Thursday – if COVID doesn't cancel their game versus the IceDogs – the plan was for all of Tai York's family, friends and even his old kindergarten teacher to pack the stands to cheer him on.
But the latest pandemic lockdown means no fans in the stands, so no one can be there in person to watch the 17-year-old St. Davids hockey phenom.
They'll all be watching York and the Colts on the OHL Live television channel, though.
It's disappointing for York, who spent his formative years playing in Niagara, notably with the Niagara North Stars AAA organization.
But there will be future games for the young winger, who was called up to the Colts temporarily in late November.
Playing for the Cobourg Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League he worked hard on his game, earning the call for a closer look in the big league.
Then, after Sunday's 7-3 win over Owen Sound, York learned he was staying in Barrie full-time.
Coach-GM Marty Williamson was impressed with how York performed in the six games he's played so far (two goals, two assists) and now the Niagara-on-the-Lake native can focus on getting better and stronger.
“I'm excited and happy to be here full-time now,” York said in an interview after practice on Tuesday.
He credits Cobourg coach Wes Wolfe and his staff for helping make him an OHL player.
“They really worked with me to improve” with “fast, intense practices” and a focus on becoming a more complete player.
His parents Susie and Justin York, and older brother Austin, 19, share his excitement.
Tai didn't make the Colts out of training camp in the fall but hoped to be there next year. So when he went to Cobourg aiming to improve, Wolfe and his staff “really helped him work on his defensive game,” Justin said in an interview.
York has always been a speedy, slick sniper, able to score at every level he's played.
Six games into his major junior career, he feels ready to perform at the top level but remains keen to learn more and develop his all-round game.
When the Yorks' two boys started playing hockey there were no dreams of playing in the pros – the focus was fun and enjoyment.
But Tai, a natural athlete whom his mom says from a young age was keenly competitive and loved all sports, has pushed himself to constantly get better.
As he got older, despite interest from some U.S. schools, “he always wanted to go the OHL route,” Susie told The Lake Report. “He definitely was keeping doors open, but that's always been his dream.”
“I'm really impressed with how hard he's worked because he didn't make the team right away and he didn't give up.”
Actually making it to the OHL is a huge accomplishment for any young hockey player. So many try, but so few get there.
His family is proud of his achievements. “We feel like he belongs, like he's not somewhere that he doesn't belong. We feel in our hearts that he's proven that he deserves to be there,” Susie said.
They won't get to see him on the ice this time, but the Colts' next visit to Niagara is already circled on the family's calendar.