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2023 starts big for Yukon teen hockey player Gavin McKenna

Yukon teen hockey player Gavin McKenna, right, with his coach Brayden Desjardins at the Circle K Classic hockey tournament in Calgary on Sunday. McKenna's South Alberta Hockey Academy team won the championship game, and McKenna was also named MVP and Most Sportsmanlike Player. (Submitted by Brayden Desjardins - image credit)
Yukon teen hockey player Gavin McKenna, right, with his coach Brayden Desjardins at the Circle K Classic hockey tournament in Calgary on Sunday. McKenna's South Alberta Hockey Academy team won the championship game, and McKenna was also named MVP and Most Sportsmanlike Player. (Submitted by Brayden Desjardins - image credit)

Yukon's Gavin McKenna enjoyed a good 2022 — and so far, 2023 is looking just as bright for the teen hockey phenom.

McKenna, 15, and his South Alberta Hockey Academy team on Sunday won the championship game at Calgary's Circle K Classic tournament, beating the Calgary Buffaloes 6-0.

McKenna also took home a couple of other awards from the U18 tournament, which draws teams from across North America — he was named both MVP and the Most Sportsmanlike Player.

"It's pretty cool, definitely," he said.

"I had confidence in our team, that we had the ability to come out with that win and yeah, I knew if we just played the right way all tournament and stuck together as a family, then we would have a really good shot at winning it."

McKenna grew up in Whitehorse and got hooked on the game at a young age. His parents both played hockey so it was easy to pass along their love of the game to their only son.

Last year, McKenna's outstanding performance in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League's U18 division (he was top scorer) led to him becoming the first overall draft pick by the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

He's so far played eight games in the WHL, while also being part of the South Alberta Hockey Academy (SAHA). He describes last year as a "bit of a grind," though he's not complaining.

"It's definitely been a great experience, just getting a taste of what the WHL is going to be like in the upcoming years," he said.

Submitted by Brayden Desjardins
Submitted by Brayden Desjardins

He says he's got a busy schedule with SAHA in the coming months before he can play full-time with the Tigers, and hopefully make the WHL playoffs.

Being just 15, he's often on the ice with older and bigger players which he admits can be intimidating. He says he just tries to stay focused.

"You gotta just try to play your game as much as you can and not worry about it," he said.

He's also got his sights set on some larger tournaments. He'd love to hit the ice for Canada at the world juniors down the road.

"Obviously that'd be the dream, getting to play for your country. That would be unbelievable."