Chip, Chip hooray!

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Kyle Chipchura is already considered a hero in Vimy, Alberta.

He's the first person from the tiny hamlet 63 km north of Edmonton to have been selected in the NHL Entry Draft.

Now he's trying to become the first to represent Canada at the world junior championships. And that has the entire hamlet buzzing.

"The population in Vimy itself is only about 80 people," said Chipchura's mother Sylvia.

"It's a small farming community. We don't even have a store. We have a school from kindergarten to Grade 9. We have a little bar that seats maybe 40 people, a church and that's it. If you want to run to the corner store you have to run to Legal or Clyde.

"It's very small, the only thing we had out here was an outdoor rink. It hasn't been running out here for about the last five years, but when our boys were growing up, we at least had the outdoor rink."

It was on that outdoor rink where Chipchura and his older brother Shayne spent countless hours. "There wasn't much to do there growing up, so we spent a lot of time on the outdoor rink," said Kyle.

Shayne went on to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Kyle's abilities made him the first overall pick in the WHL Bantam draft four years ago. He is now captain of the Prince Albert Raiders. Two years ago, he was also selected in the first round - 18th overall - by the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL Entry Draft in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was an experience Sylvia was able to share with her son.

"As a parent, you're so proud of their accomplishments. You feel for them because they are so excited. It's a dream they have and you are happy they fulfilled their dreams."

DREAM COME TRUE

Playing with Team Canada in the world junior championships would be another dream come true for Chipchura. A year ago, the six-foot-one, 209-pound centre was devastated when he severed his Achilles tendon on the eve of the selection camp.

Chipchura had just returned from playing in the Canada/Russia junior challenge and had his tendon cut in practice. He missed the second-half of the regular season with the Raiders, but was able to return for their extended playoff run.

"That was pretty heartbreaking for him," said Sylvia.

At 19, this is Chipchura's final chance to play in the world junior tournament. He's already suited up for Canada at two Under-18 challenges.

"So far, I think things are going pretty well. I'm just trying to go out there and play my game and work as hard I can and hopefully everything will work out," he said.

STAR IN THE WHL

Growing up in Vimy, Chipchura had to travel to Westlock to play his minor hockey. He moved on to play midget hockey in Fort Saskatchewan before becoming a star in the WHL. The Chipchuras spent many of their weekends on the road and their holidays at tournaments.

"One summer we actually begged him not to play summer hockey because we wanted to have the summer off," said Sylvia.

"But when you go through the programs you have a lot of people and family that wonder why you are so committed to this. Then you think about it, and now you realize it was worth it - even if he doesn't play in the NHL."

Making the world junior team would be another step towards his goal of playing in the NHL.

"I know he wants to be an NHL player, so he will be one," said Raiders head coach Peter Anholt. "That's how he's approaching it and he works at it every day to be one. I think that he's going to have to fill a role when he goes up. He's going to have to continue work on his skating - that area of his game is going to have to improve."

For now the focus is on making the world junior team. Then, if he makes the club, it would be to defend Canada's world junior title.

"He gave up a lot of teenage years to make to where he is," said Sylvia. "He didn't even get a chance to graduate with his class because he was at the NHL draft during his graduation.

"His friends were all getting ready to go to graduation and he was in North Carolina. They were all partying it up in Westlock, they were watching the draft while they were putting on their tuxedos to go to grad."


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