PORT HAWKESBURY: You could make a pretty convincing argument that few players over the years committed themselves to the Junior Pirates with more gusto than Nathan Hayes.
Having joined the team as a Midget-aged player, Hayes’ career in the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League (NSJHL) branches five seasons and 160 games.
For the last two seasons, Hayes wore the ‘C’ for the Pirates. He amassed 104 points in league play while anchoring the Pirates’ defence. He was the number two scorer on the team this season, managing nine goals and 21 assists in 33 games.
Hayes has now played his final year in Junior, and he’s still trying to get his head around the prospect of no longer hitting the ice with Port Hawkesbury’s flagship team.
“Growing up in minor hockey, you were always super upset at the end of the season but you’d think, in the next three or four months, we’d be back on the ice,” he said. “It’s a little sad that that’s not going to happen now. The end creeps up on you. You blink, and it’s gone.”
Hayes is a truly home-grown Pirate, as he’s from Port Hawkesbury and competed as a Pirate in the local minor hockey system. Even in high school, he was all about Port Hawkesbury, serving as a leader with the SAERC Saints high school hockey team.
All through his developmental days, he was known as an offensive defenseman reliable in every type of situation. That reputation never changed when joining the NSJHL Strait Pirates. In addition to his on-ice performance, Hayes was an avid contributor to all Strait Pirate camps and functions.
The captain said he remembers the night it all started.
“I remember one night I was supposed to work at Sobeys, and coach Tim MacMillan sent me a message on Facebook and said they were short that night,” he said. “I was a third-year Midget, and the Pirates were going on a road trip to St. Margaret’s Bay. I said I had to work, but I let my dad know and he told me not to shoot down the opportunity. I ended up getting the night off, going with the Pirates, and scoring my first goal.
“It’s great to have experienced all that,” he said. “I have some great memories.”
One of the best things about having been a Pirate, he said, is the friendships he’s made. He now knows people from across the country and even from the United States, based on the number of players who’ve worn Strait jerseys over the years.
Though his days with the Pirates are over, that doesn’t mean Hayes isn’t going to be a busy guy come next September. He’s intending to return to StFX to finish up his business degree with a focus on marketing.
Once that’s tidied up, he’s eyeballing a program at Holland College related to golf management. He said he’d love to find a career as a golf professional, once he leaves school.
“When I was younger, my grandfather was into golf and I always went out with him,” he said. “My first summer home, I applied at the golf course and got a job out there.
“I found it was natural, having played hockey and baseball. That swing came naturally.”
He added he appreciates the work of the Pirate executive and coaches to make his stay with the team a great one. He also thanked the fans for coming out.