He moved thousands of miles away in order to move back home to continue playing hockey.
And both Aidan Wright and the Lake Superior State University Lakers are glad that he did.
A 22-year old defenceman who was born in Wawa but moved to Sault Ste. Marie as a grade-schooler, Wright left home following the 2009-2010 season to play for the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League. Wright played three seasons in Kingston before closing out his junior career with the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League in 2013-2014.
With no solid offers to realize his goal of playing at the Division 1, National Collegiate Hockey Association level for 2014-2015, Wright was thinking of returning home, forgetting about hockey and just concentrating on school.
But in late May of last year, new LSSU head coach Damon Whitten was looking to add a walk-on defenceman to fill out the Lakers depth chart for 2014-2015 when one of his contacts in the BCHL tipped him off about the 5-foot-10, 190 pound Wright.
Not only did Wright take Whitten up on his offer to attend LSSU and compete for a roster spot, the hard-toiling defender ended up playing in all 38 of the Lakers games as freshman in 2014-2015 — and as one of their better blue liners.
Whitten couldn’t be happier with the major dividends that a marginal recruit such as Wright paid off for the rebuilding LSSU hockey program.
“As a staff we give Aidan a lot of credit for the season he had,” Whitten began. “From day one he was as prepared as he could be to compete for and earn a spot in the lineup.”
Without question, Wright surpassed any expectations that Whitten and the Laker coaching staff had.
“There is no doubt that Aidan exceeded our expectations,” said Whitten. “He played as a top four defenceman all season long, often drawing the job of matching up against the other team’s top lines.”
And that’s not all, said Whitten.
“Aidan is a true student-athlete who is dedicated to being great in the classroom, community, weight room, and on the ice,” praised Whitten. “Due to these qualities he should continue to be a big piece of our re-build. He has the potential to be a leader of our program.”
The Lakers finished with an overall record of 8-28-2 in 2014-2015 and squeaked into the Western Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs before losing in the first round.
From his end, Wright is thrilled to be a Laker and playing college hockey just across the International Bridge from where he grew up.
“For a while it didn’t look like I was going to get the chance to play at this level,” said the personable Wright, who played for the erstwhile AAA midget Soo North Stars and attended high school at St. Mary’s College before embarking on his four-year junior career that took him from Kingston, Ontario to Powell River, B.C. “But Coach Whitten came and found me and I knew that it was up to me to take advantage of such a great opportunity.”
Wright said that when he first went out for the Lakers last fall, his priority was to impress the LSSU coaches and earn playing time.
“I worked hard all summer to get myself into good shape and give myself the best-possible chance I could to get myself into the lineup,” Wright related “I figured that the better shape I was in and the harder I worked would be to my advantage.
“I really didn’t know what to expect going into last season,” added Wright. “But the coaching staff gave me the opportunity to prove myself and that’s all I could really ask for.”
A well-grounded youngster who is spending the off-season working with the grounds crew at Sault Golf Club, Wright is looking ahead to the 2015-2016 season from both a team and individual stand point.
“As a team I would like to see us make the playoffs again but this time finish in the top half of the conference and get home-ice for the playoffs,” he said. “And individually I want to improve my puck management…that is something I am working on this summer.”
Wright also continues to work out with a personal trainer and helps stay in game shape by shooting pucks in his back yard with a few close hockey-playing friends.
“I take pride in pushing myself to be all that I can be,” said Wright, who had 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points and one of the better plus-minus ratings on the Lakers as a freshman in 2014-2015.
Not bad for a walk-on who didn’t even know if he would still be playing competitive hockey last fall.
“I am pretty happy with the way things went for me as a freshman,” said Wright. “But there are many areas I want to improve on and the way to do that is to keep working hard.”
PHOTO: Aidan Wright, in action as a freshman defenceman for the LSSU Lakers in 2014-2015.