NORTH SYDNEY - Drake Batherson may not have grown up in Cape Breton, but he’s certainly spent his fair share of time on the island.
Batherson has family connections across Cape Breton including his grandparents, Matt and Kay Batherson, who reside in North Sydney, a community where his father, Norm, also grew up.
The 19-year-old is connecting the island to the international hockey stage as he participates in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, running through Jan. 5, in Buffalo, N.Y.
Batherson, a forward for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, was one of 22 players named to the Canadian national junior team.
Matt Batherson found out his grandson made the team when his son, Norm, called to tell him the good news.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Batherson. “It doesn’t take long to find out who made the team now with the way social media is, so once they (the coaching staff) told Drake, it was all over the place.”
Drake, a New Minas, N.S. native, was drafted by the Screaming Eagles in the sixth-round of the 2015 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft.
Batherson was a late cut by the Screaming Eagles that year, but eventually cracked the roster in 2016, tallying 22 goals and 58 points in 61 games during his rookie season.
“You hope that your kids will be better than you and in this case I think it’s going to happen,” said Matt, who played junior, senior and college hockey himself. “Norm was a hell of a hockey player and now Drake might be even better – it’s all looking good.”
Earlier this year, Drake was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the fourth-round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft.
“Since he was four years old you could see he had all kinds of skill,” said Matt. “He didn’t have the size – his father and uncle were late growers too – but we think Drake has a good future.”
Although the Batherson family enjoys watching Drake play for the Screaming Eagles, seeing him suit up for Team Canada is extra special.
“There were a lot of good players at the camp and they sent home a lot of good players, so we’re pretty excited for Drake,” said Matt. “There was a lot of pressure on him just to make the team – he’s quite the hockey player.”
Matt, along with his wife, Kay, and other family members plan to travel to Buffalo for the elimination portion of the tournament.
“It’s going to be an exciting time – it’s one thing to watch the games on television, but when you’re right there it’s a little different.”
Matt said his grandson winning a gold medal with Team Canada would be one of the best moments of his life.
“My brother Danny and I played with the College of Cape Breton (now known as CBU) when we won the Canadian championship and that was pretty big back in 1978,” he said. “If Drake can bring home a gold medal it would be right up there with that.”
Matt has one wish for this holiday season.
“The best Christmas present for me would be putting my hands on that gold medal – nothing would make me happier, especially for Drake.”