Perseverance pays off for Silverback
Hockey: Black Diamond's Rhett Kingston commits to Western Michigan
Wednesday, Jan 24, 2018 06:00 am
Three leagues and five teams later and the destination has been reached.
Rhett Kingston’s nomadic junior hockey journey has landed him an NCAA Division I scholarship with the number-seven ranked Western Michigan University Broncos in recognition of the Black Diamond product’s stellar season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
“Not many players in their first year of junior will be on three teams in two leagues,” Kingston said. “That was definitely tough, but my parents were really supportive with me just saying ‘keep pushing through, it will work in the end.’
“They were right. It took me until 15 games left of my 20-year-old season to get a scholarship, but better late than never.”
After attending the famed Athol Murray College of Notre Dame Kingston embarked on his junior hockey travels with the Hounds’ Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League team in 2015-16.
The roving rookie campaign saw him make a pair of stops in Alberta with the Brooks Bandits and Drumheller Dragons.
The 6-foot, 200-pound forward played his sophomore season in B.C. with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, putting up career bests with 16 goals and 30 points.
Year three has proven to be the charm.
Kingston is playing at a near point-per-game pace, leading the Silverbacks with 20 goals and 40 points in 41 games.
“The last couple years have been a struggle. I’ve been on five teams in three years,” said Kingston, an alternate captain on the Silverbacks. “It has built some character in me, I’ve had to go through some adversity and this year I’ve really come out of my shell and I’ve been playing super well.
“All the adversity over the last couple years has made me that much of a better player.”
He joins one of the top college hockey programs south of the border.
The Broncos play in the highly competitive National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) against the past two national champions in Denver and North Dakota along with strong programs in St. Cloud State, Miami of Ohio and Minnesota-Duluth.
Andy Murray, a former head coach in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, leads the Broncos behind the bench.
“It’s a huge relief to commit to a school,” Kingston said. “I had been waiting for it for so long so once I got the scholarship it was a huge weight off my shoulders. It was also a big realization that I have another four years of hockey to play so it’s time to bear down and keep pushing to get better and hopefully I can keep playing after those four years.”
The student and school relationship developed rather quickly.
Kingston sought the advice of his parents Mike, a real estate agent in Black Diamond, and Leah, the principal at Okotoks Junior High School, and chose to commit to the Broncos.
Having Bronco alumni David Killop, the Silverbacks assistant coach, as a sounding board didn’t hurt either.
“Overall with Western Michigan it was a decently quick process,” Kingston said. “They’re a very good hockey program, that’s a big part of it. My assistant coach went there and told me how amazing it was and how good of an experience it would be. He put a really good bug in my ear about it.”
On the academic side of the coin, Kingston is looking at focusing his studies in the areas of business, sports management or criminal justice when he begins his schooling at the Kalamazoo based institution.
“We are very happy for Rhett and we think that the Broncos have secured a player that will be a significant contributor to their program in the future,” said Silverbacks head coach and GM Scott Atkinson. “From the Silverback perspective Rhett has been everything we could’ve asked for this season. He is our leading scorer and a leader in the dressing room. It’s gratifying to see this sort of success come to such a deserving individual.”