COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — It’s the dream of many young hockey players to make it to the National Hockey League.
And while the NHL may still be years away for 9-year-old Cooper Hackett, that dream became one step closer to reality when the boy was selected as the third Ohioan ever to compete in The Brick Invitational Hockey tournament.
“I wasn’t sure if my parents were lying or not,” joked Hackett, whose initial reaction to the news was disbelief. But then, his feelings changed: “I don’t know. I was just relieved and excited.”
“I mean it’s kind of surreal, honestly,” said Cooper Hackett’s mother Nikol. “To say we’re proud is an understatement.”
Not only is Hackett the third-ever Ohioan to compete in the prestigious North American tournament held in Canada, but he will also be the first ever to compete at the age of 9.
“It’s basically for the top kids around the world. They bring 240 kids,” said Joey Nahay, one of Hackett’s coaches and owner of The Battery Hockey Academy in Plain City.
The Brick is the most prestigious 10-and-under hockey tournament in North America. The tournament is composed of 12 teams — seven from the United States and five from Canada.
“I think it’s cool that I’ll get to play at such a high level with all of them,” Hackett said.
He will be joining some elite company.
“The list of players that have played in this tournament, that have gone to the NHL, or gone to college, the AHL– it’s just a never-ending list,” Nahay boasted.
Hackett joins the Columbus Blue Jacket’s Jack Roslovic, and former Columbus Blue Jacket Kole Sherwood, as the only previous Ohioans to take part in The Brick.
NBC4’s Matthew Herchik asked Hackett’s coach Nahay: “What makes Cooper so special?”
“Honestly, it’s just his heart,” Nahay responded. “You know what you’re going to get every shift. He’s going to go 100%, skate as hard as he can, and just the consistency.”
Hackett spends countless hours on the ice, while his parents — who have two daughters as well– spend countless hours on the road.
“Are you overdoing it? Are you burning him out? You know?” his father Jason said. “Everyone’s different. There’s no book on how to raise an elite athlete. It’s tough.”
On the ice, it would be difficult to look past Hackett’s fast skates and hard slap shots. “I didn’t set it as a goal, I just tried to work my hardest to get to it,” said Hackett.
So, while his parents say they are simply enjoying the present, they know how bright their son’s future might be.
“Of course, you do though, right? But at the same time, there’s a lot of things that can happen between 9-years-old and 18-years-old, so you just try to stay grounded,” father Jason said.
Hackett will begin training with his team for the tournament in May. The tournament itself takes July 4th through the 10th in Edmonton.
As for Hackett following in Roslovic’s footsteps?
“I think that like, it’s cool that he’s made it, and I made it too. And he’s in the NHL so I think it’s really cool,” smiled Hackett.
“Is that a goal of yours maybe, someday?” asked Herchik.
“Yeah,” he confessed.