Every once and a while a player comes along and you know right away he has IT. What IT is, well it’s kind of hard to describe, but for people that know and follow hockey for a living, they know IT when they see IT and for those folks its easy to see Kelly Summers has IT.
IT is a combination of things that makes a player stand out, a vision on the ice, that is inbred not taught, a confidence so natural, to the average person it would seem that the player is not even trying. Kelly Summers makes plays on a regular basis that other players wouldn’t even dare try, fearful that they would make a mistake and pay for it once they returned to the bench, and Summers makes them as if he were walking to the front door to pick up the morning paper. He simply has IT.
Kelly is a product of Golden Lake Ontario, which is a secluded little spot North West of Ottawa, in what we around these parts like to call “Up the Valley”. It is a gorgeous area, surrounded by lakes and bush that folks from around the area use to relax and unwind, and in a lot of cases make a living. Growing up Summers was like a lot of kids from around Golden Lake, he was either on a rink, in a boat or trekking through the bush hunting with friends and family. “Every chance I get, I go home and get out on the lake or go hunting” Summers said, “Even during the season, if I have free time I go home to hang out with friends and be in the outdoors.”
Kelly started playing hockey, again like most kids in these parts at the age of four, for the Eganville Eagles. It wasn’t long however before he moved up to the next level, which around here was Rep B, and he played a few years for the Valley Storm. When he got to Peewee, he again made the jump, this time to AAA, when he guarded the back end for the Ottawa Valley Titans. Mind you guarding the back end was the furthest thing from Summers mind. “I never really played a lot in my own end,’ Summers laughed, “I used to rush the puck all the time, and jump into the play a fair bit.” That is what happens when a player has IT. They can do things that other players can’t or won’t try, they have the foresight to know when to take advantage of a situation and wherewithal to get back into position before it can hurt themselves or the team.
With Summers feet always pointing North, he helped his Minor Midget team get to the OHL Cup, which is the Ontario championship for that level. He remembers that year fondly and considers it his best memory in hockey to this day. “We were the 1st Ottawa area team to get to the semi-finals, where we lost to the Marlies….. it was an awesome experience” Summers explained.
It was that season that had teams from the CCHL and OHL drooling over Summers offensive ability and found Summers drafted to by the Oshawa Generals of the OHL and Carleton Place of the CCHL. The issue at hand was which direction to take? Ultimately, it was a really easy one for Kelly and his family. “Getting a education is very important to my parents and I,” Kelly stated, “I had a cousin that went to Clarkson University and it went very well. Things didn’t pan out in hockey for him but he got a first rate education and now has a great job. I hope hockey takes me places, but to be able to play hockey and go to school at the same time, the decision was an easy one.”
That’s not to say that the Generals haven’t continued to pursue Summers in the hopes of convincing him that the OHL is still the way to go. “I still get calls and last week, the GM and 2 scouts attended one of our games.” He said. “The coaches in Carleton Place have treated me very well, they have helped me build up my defensive game without taking away my offensive game.” Summers has done both very well and as a 16 year old last season, he was the unanimous choice for the CCHL’s Rookie of the Year, and was in the running for the same honour in the CJHL’s (all 10 Tier 1 leagues) balloting as well. Summers received a scholarship offer, which he took, from Clarkson very early on in his first junior year, which is impressive to say the least.
After a summer full of preparation, Summers finds himself right back where he left off last year, near the top of the leagues point totals for d-men, while his defensive game has grown by leaps and bounds. Looking ahead to this year and beyond, Summers knows what he wants and what he has to do to take his game to the next step. “I would love to help this team win a championship this year,” Summers says, “It would also be cool to get drafted to the NHL, which is something you always dream about as a kid, but never really think will ever happen.” Summers woke up Monday morning to text’s and calls from buddies letting him know that he was on the NHL’s annual draft watch list. “My phone kept going off the whole day, it was awesome.” Summers said with a hint of child like glee. “I know I have to get bigger and stronger,” Summers said, “Going to school for 4 years will allow me to mature physically and be ready to play at a higher level.”
Down the road, Kelly wants to let hockey take him as far as it can and then come back home to do something in the environmental field. “What ever I do, it will be in the outdoors and back around Golden Lake.” Summers stated.
I get the feeling though, that the outdoors will have to wait just a little bit longer than Summers might be thinking right now. You see, Summers has IT and I see hockey in his life for the foreseeable future!