NOTL’s Kaleb Dietsch knew that every new step on his hockey career path would be a learning experience.
Having just completed the week-long training camp of the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League, he sums up the experience in a single word.
He knew the pace of the game was bound to be quicker in the OHL than he was used to as a standout defenceman with Niagara’s minor midget Southern Tier Admirals last season.
But the speed was still an eye opener, he said in an interview from Ottawa on Tuesday.
“Everything is fast. Super fast,” the Niagara-on-the-Lake native said.
The skating, playmaking decisions, puck movement and more all required an adjustment for the lanky stay-at-home defenceman.
“It takes a bit to get used to at first, but then you adjust,” he said.
He’s also adjusting to living away from home for the first time, but is settling in to the new routines that are part of the life of a junior hockey player.
Back at home, mom Natasha and dad Paul – along with scores of friends and relatives – are cheering him on and proud of his success.
Dietsch feels ready to play at the next level and is happy for the opportunity to learn and improve his game.
And he’s focused on bringing a positive attitude to the rink.
Mistakes are bound to happen so when they do, it’s important to quickly recognize what went wrong and learn from it, he said.
As a “shutdown defenceman,” his philosophy on the ice is to “keep it simple and play smart.”
“And don’t do anything that you’re not used to doing that might slow you down.
Assistant coach Paul Stoykewych, a defensive specialist, said, “Kaleb has done a great job immersing himself in the 67’s culture.”
“He has come to the rink every day with a growth mindset, trying to absorb as much information as possible from our staff and his fellow 67’s teammates.”
As one of the premiere organizations in major junior hockey, the 67’s do things first-class, Dietsch noted.
“They treat you like a pro here,” the 16-year-old said, with top-notch facilities, workout programs and coaching.
And like the pace on the ice, the expectations are high.
During camp, his days started really early, up around 6 a.m., breakfast, a team meeting and on the ice about 8.
After a practice that can stretch to about 90 minutes, there was fitness cool down time, stretching, lunch and hitting the weight room.
Intrasquad games were part of the mix as well, but for most of camp it was living and breathing hockey development.
A third-round draft choice by Ottawa this past spring, he has committed to the team and hopes to be called up for some regular season games.
In the meantime, he’ll be honing his skills with the Ottawa Jr. Senators, a junior A club and just a step away from the 67’s.
School for Dietsch at the Blyth Academy’s Canadian International Hockey Academy, which offers elite hockey programs for Canadian and international students, begins on Sept. 7.
It’s located next door to the 67’s arena and training facility, enabling Dietsch to continue his workouts while completing his schooling.