Located along Canada’s eastern coast, the picturesque city of Dartmouth, N.S., is a haven for anyone interested in aquatics. Ferry boats dot the waterways, local residents and visitors can be seen strolling the harbor front in the summer months, and the winter makes for a young hockey player’s dream as the lakes and rivers freeze over.
This is the city Atlantic defenceman Nicholas Quillan calls home.
While the average hockey player spends his off-season playing baseball, lacrosse or soccer, Quillan – now a freshman at The Gunnery, a prep school in Connecticut – does something a little different.
For the past three years Quillan, a third-round pick of Rimouski in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft, has competed at the Canadian Sprint Canoe and Kayak Championships, becoming a nationally-ranked paddler.
Canoe and kayak began as a hobby for Quillan, who picked up the sport as a pastime with his friends. Having been raised in a culture with a plenitude of water activities, he was a natural fit in the boat.
“I was a bit behind when I started out,” Quillan admitted. “But I really enjoyed it so I stuck with it. The basic work ethic is the same as hockey or any other sport; you have to work hard to achieve success.”
Quillan, a member of the Senobe Sprint Canoe and Kayak Club in Dartmouth, has paddled nationally on two occasions, earning a pair of silver medals in war canoe. Several members of the Senobe club have gone on to compete in the Olympic Summer Games, among other events.
“War canoe, in particular, has the same team atmosphere as hockey,” Quillan said of the 15-man row. “Before the race everyone’s getting rallied up, so it’s very similar in that aspect.”
As Quillan explains, canoe and kayak make for great cross-training – rowing emphasizes not only upper body, but core strength as well which is essential for a hockey player.
He continues to balance the two high-level sports, while still focusing on academics. He is off to a strong start with his varsity squad at The Gunnery, with the team posting an 8-1-1 record before the blue-liner departed for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
“[Nick] has only been here for three months, but he’s had a significant impact,” said Christopher Baudo, head coach of the Purple Eagles. “He has adjusted very quickly to playing at this level, has a B+ average in the classroom and has been a model citizen in the community.”
The 1996-born offensive defenceman plays in a league with predominately 1994- and 1995-born players, but has become a staple on his team, playing top minutes and earning a regular spot on the power play.
Baudo, in his 10th season as bench boss, believes the level of play and the speed of the game in the New England Prep League has helped to prepare Quillan for his first taste of international play.
“This is a great opportunity for Nick,” Baudo said. “We’re so excited for him to be able to represent his country and the provinces in the Atlantic region, specifically. Being able wear that jersey and represent something greater than yourself is really special.”
“I’m really excited for this experience,” Quillan said. “It’s an honour to play against some of the best players in the world, some who will probably be National Hockey League players down the road.”