CHICAGO – Kaeden Hawkins thinks of his grandpa every time he suits up to play minor hockey.
The young St. Louis area resident and grandson of Len and Janice Hawkins, of St. Marys, wraps a piece of tape on the shaft of his hockey sticks (4GP) that provides him with inspiration.
Len Hawkins, a long-time Rotarian, has been fighting a winning battle over Churg-Strauss Syndrome, a disease that resulted in a stroke last August.
Kaeden Hawkins, son of St. Marys minor hockey graduate Rhett (Len and Janice’s son) and his wife Jennifer, made the Chicago Jr. Blackhawks Brick team this spring and will compete in the upcoming 14-team Brick Invitational hockey tournament.
All boys on the team are 9 years old (born in 2005). Kaeden, a forward who wears No. 16, turns 10 next month. (The age division is called Major Squirt in the U.S.).
The Brick tournament will be held at West Edmonton Mall Ice Palace, starting June 29 and running to July 5.
The Chicago Jr. Blackhawk roster was selected following an invite-only tryout, which included a final selection process at the United Centre (home of the NHL Blackhawks) in Chicago, IL.
Almost 200 players were invited to the original tryout with 68 players making the final tryout at the UC in January. The final roster of 17 players has competed in two spring tournaments, the Chi Town Shuffle (which they won) and the Top Tier tournament in Toronto.
Since the Top Tier tourney, the team has been practising and scrimmaging to prepare for the Brick tournament.
The Jr. Blackhawks are made up of 14 Illinois residents and one added import from each of Indiana, Florida and Wisconsin.
Coach of the Jr. Hawks is former NHLer (14 seasons) Yanic Perreault, once considered one of the best face-off men in the league.
Other elite teams travelling to Edmonton to compete in the Brick tourney are coming from: Toronto, Detroit, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, California, Winnipeg, Alberta, Boston, Connecticut and Montreal.
--Kaeden Hawkins plays in a minor hockey system in the St. Louis area. The Hawkins family lives in Edwardsville, Illinois, a city with a population of about 25,000 outside of St. Louis.
Last season, Kaeden played for the Chesterfield Falcons. The organization serves over 600 youth players in west St. Louis County.
--Len Hawkins was also a good hockey player in his younger days. He played for the Jr. ‘B’ Lincolns as well as the Guelph Redmen in college.