A young hockey player from Mistissini, Que., is getting a chance to chase a dream that began at the age of two, and to carry the considerable hockey hopes of the Quebec Cree Nation with him.
Israel Mianscum has been invited to this year's entry draft for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League coming up in June in Quebec City, with many speculating he'll go in the first round.
Not bad for a player who turns 16 next month.
"At two years old, he all of sudden just skated." Tiffany Neeposh, mom
"Hockey is in my blood now and I don't want to do anything else but play hockey and go to school," said Mianscum from Amos, where he played this season with les Forestiers d'Amos, a midget AAA team, finishing second in the team standings despite missing 7 games.
"I love the game so much. I enjoy doing stuff that is hard for me in hockey," he said. "I always try to be better and I always put extra work in to get better every day."
Guillaume Bisaillon, the head coach with les Forestiers, says Mianscum has a level of discipline and work ethic that is impressive for his age.
"He's the first player on the ice and last one to leave after the practice," said Bisaillon. "We practice hard here. He does everything to be better every day."
Top in the standings
Last season, when Mianscum was just 14, he played with the Citadelles de Rouyn-Noranda of the Midget Espoir (Midget Hope) League and finished 1st overall in league scoring with 56 points in 29 games, despite being among the youngest players.
"He's good. He's very, very, very good," said Bisaillon. "If he continues to work, for sure he has pro-potential."
His potential apparent early on, according to his mom, Tiffany Neeposh.
Mianscum started going to the rink, like so many Cree children, almost at birth.
"At two years old, he all of sudden just skated. That's when he started playing. He was a pretty fast learner," said Neeposh, adding he was practicing a lot on a backyard rink built every year by Neeposh and Mianscum's dad, Louie.
Neeposh says that her son has always had a good work ethic.
"He's very determined," said Neeposh. "If he can't do [something], he won't stop until he does it. His character is just amazing."
Moved away at 11
By the age of 11, Mianscum was good enough to play Peewee BB hockey for the Cree Nation Bears, but it meant a move to Oujé-Bougoumou and away from his home and parents, something Neeposh says was very difficult for her and for Mianscum.
"It was scary for me. He kept calling, missing home and wanting to come home," said Neeposh, adding they let him decide, but kept reminding him of his hockey dreams.
"We told him that we'd come and visit him as much as we can. So that's what we did."
Mianscum says his parents helped him a lot through that period and he is now grateful to have learned to manage the homesickness and isolation so young.
He says as a result he is now able to completely focus on hockey, the upcoming draft and his ultimate dream to be the first Quebec Cree player in the NHL.
"I'm just trying to hear my name get called," said Mianscum, referring to the Quebec Minor Junior Hockey League draft coming up June 8 in Quebec City. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a stepping stone to the NHL for young players.
"I don't care where I get drafted or what round. I just want to be drafted and work hard this summer and try to make the next step."