FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – For Fort St. John raised Ethan Semeniuk, adjusting to life in the Western Hockey League has been “pretty easy.”
That’s because most of the things he’s expected to do as a 16-year-old on the Vancouver Giants are habits he picked up as a kid, or he learned from former Giants.
“It’s actually been pretty easy, surprisingly. The management does a great job of telling us what we need to do and having everything planned out, so it’s easy. You follow the schedule, and everything works from there,” said Semeniuk on Tuesday.
Growing up in Fort St. John, Semeniuk was able to develop his skills and his character in the minor hockey system, and he says it was an awesome environment.
“You grew up with it. I went to school with everyone playing hockey and knowing each other. Still, when I go back to visit, I have lifelong friends that live there, and it’s nice to see them. I grew up with the coaches and I had the same ones for the majority of my minor hockey career. Super great people to work with, great coaches and they lead by example.”
Part of what Semeniuk values most about his youth is the intangible character that people from a small town are known for.
“Part of the small town thing, a big piece of it is character, and I think that has carried me a long way to where I’ve gotten so far. It was a great community to develop in and become a hockey player.”
Semeniuk left home to play for a hockey academy in Kelowna for U15. His family moved to Calgary while he was in Kelowna, but he still comes back to what he calls home, Fort St. John, every summer.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced leagues across Western Canada to shut down in the 2020-2021 season, Semeniuk was looking for a place to play. He had recently been drafted in the third round, 56th overall, and an opportunity came from the tight-knit family the hockey world is known for.
“The uncertainty of how many games we would get to play didn’t make sense to move away again, so we decided as a family that it made more sense to get whatever I could out of Calgary because that’s where my parents lived. We were looking for organizations to play for, and we heard that [former Vancouver Giant] Chad [Scharff] was coaching the Calgary Royals, so it just worked out.”
Playing for a coach who had experience playing and coaching with the Giants, Semeniuk made the most of his short time with the Royals.
“There were lots of words of wisdom given, and they did their best to develop us in the little time they had. It was a shortened season, but that was an awesome experience.”
That wasn’t the first time Semeniuk had rubbed shoulders with former Giants coaches. He played for the Delta Hockey Academy in Vancouver under three former Giants coaches: strength coach Ian Gallagher, skills coach Jaroslav (Yogi) Svejkovsky and coach Milan Dragicevic.
All of that experience, combined with the solid leadership group in Vancouver, and Semeniuk is right at home in the WHL despite the high expectations and responsibility.
“I feel like the group we have here, nobody’s a stranger to doing the right thing and leading by example. Expectations have been clear from the beginning by the staff and management. They expect great things from each and every one of us.”
On October 8th at the Giants’ home opener, Semeniuk scored his first WHL goal on a simple play with some added flair. Driving the net, he managed to locate a rebound and bat the puck out of the air and past the Prince George Cougars goaltender in an eventual 6-4 win for the Giants.
“It was surreal. Growing up in a small town, I never imagined I’d be in that position. It was a nice play by multiple guys on our team just doing their job and making simple plays. On top of that, it was home opener, my family was all there, I couldn’t have drawn it up better.”
Semeniuk had a final word for some of his coaches in Fort St. John.
“My minor hockey coaches, Dave Alexander and Rich Calliou were the guys that I spent most of my minor hockey playing for, and I’d like to think that they had a huge part in getting me where I am today.”
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