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LETTER: Thanks for supporting the Acadia hockey Axemen

Greetings Annapolis Valley and Acadia supporters: With exam finals coming to a close, the hockey season complete, and my time in the Vaughan Memorial Library behind me, I’ve found some time to reflect on the joys that the past fours years in the community have brought me. Spring is finally rolling in as the last snow banks continue to melt. Summer is around the corner and that means many new and exciting things after this long, cold winter. 

It’s hard to believe I will be walking across the stage in May to receive my undergraduate diploma. It feels like yesterday I was at Acadia on my recruiting trip – swallowing back nachos at the Library Pub with John Girman, Evan Mosher and the sour-cream-loving duo Darren Burns and Mark Richards. What I thought I knew then, I know now for certain: there is something special about this place.

The season ended in heartbreak this year for the Axemen hockey team at the CIS National Championships in Halifax. I left early in the game after taking a blow to the head and suffering a concussion. The boys fought hard, but a win just wasn’t in the stars. The supporter rolled down the NS–101, viewed on Eastlink TV or tuned in to Len Hawley at AVR. It was a tough one for all of us, and the aftermath of the loss rippled through the community.

It is sad for me to comprehend that this was the last time I will dawn the Axemen jersey. I wore that sweater with pride and with all my heart. It’s definitely not the way I imagined my time ending here, however it speaks to the reality of what we do – the life of sport – why we play, why we watch, and why we care about the game of hockey.

I recall back to being on the other side of the devastation – in the second round of playoffs last season. The boys surmounted a 4-0 deficit in of Game Two against U de Moncton to force the game into overtime, win, and take a 2-0 series lead in a best-of-three series. I remember that electricity in the McCain Arena – the thrill of the power surging through the crowd. Moments like that are the ones I will always cherish.

Rewind to before playoffs this season.

Out regular season would be decided by the final game, where we needed a win to secure second place and a first round bye. . Down 4-3 to St. FX with one and a half minutes remaining the heart of Acadia clashed again and prevailed over the X-Men in a 5-4 victory. I was lucky enough to score with seconds left on the clock. The roars from the crowed were deafening, and the spark in the boys was ignited with playoffs on the rise.  

The cardiac kids continued their nail-biting performance into the playoffs. Taking on the Saint Mary’s Huskies in the second round, it took the full five games, with the final one in front of our hometown crowd, to secure a berth at Nationals for the second season in row. Words cannot not describe the feeling of winning that series on home ice. The support we received from the community was incomparable to any at the university level: ticket lineups out the door, fans packed in like sardines. There is no better place to play in the CIS.

Loud and proud we fell short in the AUS final but this years accomplishments exceeded many expectations in my opinion. A young team with 10 new rookie faces, and the loss of core pieces from the year before – for any other team it would have been a rebuilding year. Instead, we had a clear goal, and a need to succeed. The pride, fight and willingness of the guys in our dressing room was tremendous, and I am proud to not only know them, but to call them friends.  

Off the ice – well – that is something else entirely

I’ve had the privilege to work with so many community members. I’ve volunteered alongside the true heroes – in the SMILE program, going to school visits, working pancake breakfasts, and many other events. To the people that organize these programs and events solely to help others; you are the real deal – that is what it’s all about.

I’ve seen the care and effort that people put forth each day in this community. It’s that, that inspires the pride that we, as Axemen and Axewomen, feel when we throw on our sweaters. The pride and work ethic in our dressing room comes, in part, from the pride of this community and its members.

I am going to miss running hockey camps, chasing kids around the ice, and helping build the Acadia Minor Hockey program. I am going to miss attending events and learning from the community. I am going to miss walking through town and campus and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces.

It is time for me to move on to the next chapter in my life, but the relationships I have built here will not be forgotten, and no matter where life takes me, I will always remember the lessons I have learned here. Over the past four years, my teammates, coaches, trainers, and the athletic department have had a huge impact on who I am today, and I couldn’t be more thankful. The same goes for the relationships I have made outside of athletics. I have had the opportunity to meet incredible students, faculty, supporters, boosters, business owners, sponsors and fans; you have all touched my heart. Thank you for everything you have given and done for me, and for making my experience here absolutely wonderful.

The Valley and Acadia will always hold a special place in my heart.

The Graduating Axemen (Alex Beaton, Travis Gibbons, John Girman, Liam Heelis, Jesse Macintyre, Chris Owens, & Joel Ridegeway) Thank you!


Liam Heelis,

#17 Acadia Axemen Men’s Hockey

Acadia U. ‘15

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