Blackfalds Bulldogs defenseman, Tyler Bates’ story is one of perseverance; of overcoming the adversity of an injury to regain his stride and rebuild his confidence in his final season of junior hockey, bringing mobility, speed and a wealth of experience to the blue-line in Blackfalds. He fully embraced the opportunity of playing for an expansion franchise in an inaugural season in 2021-22.
As a 19-year-old, Bates brings a calming presence on the ice and provides a friendly face off of it. The swift-skating D-man spent four seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) and describes it as a fast-paced league that pushes players to be their best. Getting the chance to play and train in the brand new Eagle Builders Centre in Blackfalds, specifically designed with player development in mind, was a unique experience and an extremely beneficial one for Bates.
“The facility is crazy, it’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever played before and I think it just gives me every opportunity to develop my game and get better for the next level,” Bates revealed. “This league is amazing, it gets even better every year that I play in the league. It just keeps getting faster. It’s a great league for exposure for NCAA and wherever else you might want to go.”
Bates previously spent time in Brooks and Sherwood Park; two hockey programs that are widely regarded for their NCAA recruitment records and NHL draft representation. Prior to his junior career, Bates played ‘AAA’ with Edge School (CSSHL) in Calgary, Alta. and garnered attention from post-secondary institutions early on. He would eventually make his NCAA commitment to Colorado College, something which Bates admits was a huge weight off his shoulders at the time. He feels it was an opportunity he’s truly blessed to have been given.
“(Colorado College) came out and watched me a few times and we started to build a little bit of a connection,” Bates explains. “I went down for a visit and just fell in love with the place instantly.”
VIDEO: Nick Magis and Tyler Bates scored Friday in Sherwood Park.🐾 pic.twitter.com/i4HKWVaYsK
— Blackfalds Bulldogs 🇨🇦 (@AJHLBulldogs) January 8, 2022
“My main goal has always just been to play college hockey or play the highest level that I can,” he continued. “I’m lucky enough to have the scholarship there, but just have to put in the work and do all the little things.”
Like many athletes focused on perfecting their craft, there is little time left for other hobbies, interests or pastimes. However, when he’s not on the ice or in the gym, Bates says he enjoys heading outside and getting into nature to do some fishing or camping during the offseason. During the year he admits it is great to share the whole hockey experience with others, and he likes to unwind after games with his billet teammate, Ethan Lund.
“Usually I get home and play ‘Lundy’ in some ping-pong, which I usually win every time,” Bates chuckled. “That or watch a movie or hang out with the guys. It’s been good. I stayed with a player in Brooks when I was there. I got to live on my own for a bit in Sherwood Park and then back here with another guy, it’s good you always have someone to hangout with and just talk about the game together.”
With the buzz around the Bulldogs this season, there has certainly been plenty to talk about. Looking ahead, Bates will embark onto the next phase of his hockey career after appearing in 21 regular season games for Blackfalds in 2021-22, registering 11 points (1G,10A).
Article by Bryan Wilson.