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by Arch Ecker

The Wenatchee Wild, proud members of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), are proud to announce that defenseman Alex Bates has committed to play Division I college at Sacred Heart University beginning in Fall 2017. The Pioneers compete in the Atlantic Hockey Association and play in the 8,525-seat Webster Bank Arena in Fairfield, CT.

The 5’11”, 170 lb. defenseman calls Highlands Ranch, CO home, and found the game at a young age. “I started skating when I was 3 years old and was on my first team when I was 5”, Bates explained. “My dad’s love for hockey is what got me started in the sport and I grew to love it, being surrounded by friends and family who shared a passion for the game.” He started as forward but by the time he was a squirt, discovered his affinity for the blue line. His youth hockey career highlight took him north of the border for an adventure he treasures to this day. “My greatest memory of youth hockey was going to Quebec, Canada for the international peewee tournament on the Jr. Colorado Avalanche team. We spent 10 days in Quebec playing teams from around the world, while billeting with a French-Canadian family.”

After four seasons of working his way through the Colorado Thunderbirds program, it came time to consider leaving home to play junior hockey. “The only hard part about my decision to leave home for Wenatchee was leaving my family”, he recalls. “I loved many things about Wenatchee after my first visit therefore it wasn’t a hard decision to stay. I really enjoyed the location, the city, my coaches and the arena.” In his two seasons with the Wild, Bates put up 50 points while playing in 105 games, and this season was named “Defensive Player of the Year” by his teammates at the team’s Annual Awards Banquet.

Wild Head Coach / GM Bliss Littler knows quite well the caliber of player Sacred Heart is getting. “Alex has steadily grown his game in his two seasons here in Wenatchee”, Littler remarked. “He’s been a steady, reliable, every-night player who is dependable in the defensive zone, and productive at the other end of the ice as well. He’ll have no trouble fitting in at the next level.”

His time in Wenatchee, he feels, has helped him grow both on and off the ice. “As a person, Wenatchee gave me a sense of being a part of the community through volunteering”, he explained. “Reading to kindergarten children, hockey practices for younger kids, and visiting retirement homes. These experiences gave me the chance to connect with the town and people.” He went on to add, “As a player, Wenatchee gave me all the tools to succeed and grow as a player. I was able to learn from my teammates and coaches by being pushed to become a better defenseman. Through my experiences in Wenatchee, I will further push myself to create a future in hockey.”

With plans to pursue a degree in business, Bates ponders the journey that’s led him to this point. “There are many people I would like to thank who have helped me reach my goal”, he declares. “First off, my biggest supporters are my mom, sister, grandparents and Dave Gandini who have always encouraged my decisions on whatever path I take. I would also like to give a huge thank you to John and Bonnie Ball for taking me into their home and treating me like one their own. Coaches I’d like to thank include Bliss Littler, Tom Rudrud, Chris Clark, Ian MacClure, Nick Hantge, and Tom Smith. Lastly, I’d like to thank all the friends and families I’ve met through hockey and that have supported me from the beginning.”

Bates is now the fifteenth Wild player from the 2016-17 roster to hold a Division I college commitment, following Brian Williams (Colorado College), Tyler Rockwell (Michigan Tech), Logan Milliken (Holy Cross), Troy Conzo (Colorado College), Slava Demin (Denver), Dakota Raabe (Michigan), Charlie Combs (Bemidji State), Colin Burston (Brown), Matt Baker (Dartmouth), Brendan Harris (Bemidji State), Jacob Modry (Rensselaer Polytechnic), Jimmy O’Brien (Colorado College), Chad Sasaki (Colorado College), and Garrett Nieto (Lake Superior State).