PORT HAWEKESBURY: With 136 games played with the Junior Pirates, there aren’t many guys who can say they’ve been there for the local team as readily as Port Hawkesbury native Troy Hillier.
“I didn’t miss too many games over the years,” the soon-to-be graduate of StFX university said.
“Doing four years of university and playing with the team was awesome. I got to meet a lot of the guys I’m friends with today because of it. We spent lots of hours together on the bus, going to practices and games. You become pretty tight with everyone.”
Hillier is only a few weeks away from graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Kinetics with Honours. His education came in handy between periods, when teammates were banged up after a particularly hard shift.
“It was funny to see how that interacted with my hockey,” he said. “You learn some therapy, and I got to apply it more than once in the dressing room.”
Hillier will be returning to work with the Nova Scotia Life Guard Service after his graduation. This will be his sixth summer as a supervisor with the service. Come September, he’ll be going to Queen’s University for a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology. Hillier said he’ll be taking his hockey gear with him, in case any senior leagues are looking to fill a spot.
“But a Master’s Degree is pretty time consuming,” he said. “[Epidemiology] is population-level research on different chronic diseases and how certain factors affect your likelihood of having those diseases.”
The prospect of studying at Queen’s is an exciting one for the assistant captain, who said he’ll miss the Pirates but knows it’s time to move on. Though coming from Port Hawkesbury, Hillier played much of his minor hockey under the Cape Breton West program, meaning that donning the Junior Pirate jersey was his first time wearing those colours since his Pee Wee days.
Having said that, he spent lots of time watching the Juniors.
“I remember watching when Kenny Wood was playing,” he said. “My dad would take me and my brother to watch the Pirates, and Kenny was the star back then. It came full circle in the last couple of years, him coaching and me and the guys playing.”
Hillier’s stay with the Pirates was four-seasons long, and he served as an assistant captain the last two years. During the 2016-17 season, he logged 31 games, scoring six goals and nine assists.
“Troy helped the Pirates as both a forward and defenseman over the years as well as made himself available for almost every community function or camp the Pirates put on,” said Joe Praught at the Pirate banquet.
Praught, a long-time volunteer with the team, was the master of ceremonies at the annual awards night and offered a tribute to this season’s overage players.
“Troy is a Port Hawkesbury guy who’s followed the Pirates his whole life,” Praught said. “He’s been a true fixture with the team.”
Hillier said he really appreciated the opportunity given him by the Pirate organization, and he thanked the fans for their support.