Making it the hard way

Randy Russon
October 31, 2017

Suffice to say that Ty Zachary does not know the meaning of the word quit. Suffice to say that few have had to overcome what Zachary did just to make the roster of the minor midget Soo Thunderbirds, a first-year team in the Great North Midget Hockey League.

For starters, this 2017-2018 season is the first hockey that the 2002-birth-year forward has played in more than a year.

Zachary sat out the entire 2016-2017 season and did not even return to the ice until late this summer after having major surgery on his leg.

The surgery was the result of a fractured bone in his right leg. Doctors determined that the fracture came as a result of two tumours in Zachary’s leg that caused a hole in the femur bone. Thankfully, the tumours were found to be benign.

At any rate, about 16 months after first feeling pain in the leg that was caused by the tumours, young Zachary had surgery in May of this year to repair the bone and patch the hole that was caused by the tumours.

Following the surgery in May, Zachary was on crutches for three months and was not able to participate in the summer skates as the Soo minor midgets were holding tryouts.

He began to work out under the supervision of ex-Ontario Hockey League star John Parco of Superior Hockey Training — who is also the first-year coach of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League — in August and was able to get back to running and lifting weights. And while he did begin skating, Zachary was not allowed to participate in any type of contact hockey until September.

Needless to say, Zachary was well behind the others who had either signed or were still in the tryout process with the minor midget Thunderbirds. But he showed enough skill and determination that he made the final roster of the Thunderbirds, even though he would miss the team’s pre season tournament and the first four games of the 2017-2018 regular season before he was cleared to play.

Thunderbirds head coach Jamie Henderson can’t say enough about the spirited, 5-foot-9, 175-pound left-winger.

“Nothing has come easy for Ty and it’s a credit to him and his love of hockey that he earned his spot on the roster,” Henderson relayed to

“He is a very coach-able young man who is all about the team and I’m happy for him that after being away from hockey he’s able to play again,” Henderson added.

Thunderbirds general manager Kevin Cain, who also operates Cain Hockey Management, is likewise impressed with Zachary.

“His determination is something else,” Cain said of Zachary. “To come as far as he has in such a short time after such major surgery says it all about Ty.”

Fortitude and desire aside, Zachary is also a good player, said Cain.

“No question, Ty has a lot of skill,” Cain pointed out. “He is a smart kid and a smart player and a really nice kid. I have had the chance to spend some time around him and you won’t find a nicer kid. On top of that, he has a chance to do some really good things in hockey.”

From his end, young Zachary is just happy to be playing hockey again.

A quiet, personable kid whose polite nature stands out, Zachary told that it never occurred to him that he would not play hockey this season.

“Even after I was not able to play last year because of the injury and even though I didn’t have surgery until this May, I just thought if I worked hard and got myself ready to play that every thing would work out,” Zachary said evenly. “My mom and dad always tell me that hard work will pay off in the end.

“I really, really like hockey and I wanted to do everything I could to make the minor midget team,” he added.

A Grade 10 student at Korah Collegiate, Zachary comes by his athletic ability naturally.

His mom, the former Julie Nisbett, was a basketball, volleyball and track and field standout during her high school days at erstwhile Sir James Dunn Collegiate. She also played women’s hockey for the Sault Wildcats and at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

And his dad, Trevor Zachary, was a championship high school quarterback at the old Bawating Collegiate and also played basketball there before leaving home to play hockey as a defenceman for the University of Windsor.

Told that his mom was a better athlete than his dad, Zachary chuckled and said: “Yes, I have heard that.”

Ty’s dad, Trevor, said even though his son did not play hockey last season, he was allowed to be a part of the Soo Thunder major bantams.

“We owe a lot of thanks to the Soo Thunder organization, people like Jerry Lortie, Al Greco, Joe Martone and the rest of the coaches and staff for giving Ty an opportunity to travel and help out with the team all last year while he was going through everything,” noted Trevor.

Trevor said he and Julie are very proud of Ty for what he had to overcome just to get on the ice this season.

“He has the heart and passion for sports that both Julie and I have,” said Trevor, before adding with a laugh: “And there is no doubt that he gets his athletic ability from Julie.”

PHOTO: Ty Zachary, at a practice session of the minor midget Soo Thunderbirds. (Photo by Allana Plaunt.)

What you think about “Making it the hard way”

  1. Good article …. Ty is a good example of determination, dedication and the will to act ……. great role model

  2. What a great kid from a great family of athletes. Good for you Ty to fight through whatever life throws at you in order to play the sport you love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *