Daemon Hunt will be heading back to Moose Jaw a little earlier than he anticipated. With Western Hockey League camps opening up shortly after Christmas, the 18-year-old Team Canada hopeful saw his bid fall short due to an exposure to COVID-19 while in the Red Deer, AB. bubble.
Although having the opportunity to deal with this news in a host of negative ways, the Brandon product has chosen to be proactive and redemptive in his response. Hunt’s goal remains to make the Canadian World Junior team – it just won’t be this year. That said, he is eligible to play at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship – which just so happens to be held in familiar Red Deer.
“It was heartbreaking,” Hunt told Game On. “Just really disappointing having grown up and watching the World Juniors is great, but to play in it is a whole other thing. It was very disappointing having this dream of mine ended by way of a phone call. Of course there were a lot of emotions going on that day, but at the same time I have to look at the positives and thank Hockey Canada for the opportunity. For me, I am only 18 so I do have another shot to crack the lineup next year, and I’m rather confident in myself. I got the experience this time around and I am really excited for the future.”
Of course, entering a ‘bubble’ is something the Manitoban defenceman had never before experienced. And despite temporarily living in one of the safest parts of Canada, he ended up with the fast-spreading virus.
“Unfortunately someone in the camp got COVID, which resulted in us going into a 14-day quarantine,” Hunt said. “And actually on the first day of quarantine I ended up having possible COVID symptoms. We were getting tested every day, so the results came back rather quickly. Sure enough I contracted it from someone in the bubble, so that was a bit of a shock. It did work out pretty well at first, as I got my symptoms the first day of quarantine. So I just did the same mandatory 14 days as everyone else and was supposed to be back with the group on December 8th when we all got out. Unfortunately, the head of Hockey Canada Scott Salmond called me on the last day of quarantine and he told me that Health Alberta changed the way that COVID works and I am too much of a risk to everyone around me.”
Alongside Ridly Greig, Matt Robertson, Mason Millman and Xavier Simoneau, Hunt made his way back home, with nothing but a memory of the inside of his hotel room.
“I’ve always been a pretty big homebody, so it was pretty overwhelming and stressful at first to hear it would 14 days in a hotel,” he said. “But in all honesty, it went pretty fast. We had about three or four Zoom calls every day, and we also worked out on Zoom. Hockey Canada lined up speakers to talk to us, which was pretty helpful. I ended up playing a lot of video games to help pass the time. Our parents and friends were actually allowed to send us care packages, so that was really nice of them to offer.”
Other than team workouts and kill streaks on Call of Duty and Fortnite, there were other enjoyable moments for Hunt during his time spent in Red Deer.
“A bubble was something that nobody I know has ever experienced before,” he reflected. “But it was really good going there and getting to see all the guys again and compete with everyone else. I felt as though my game was up to speed and I was right there with everyone else. I can bring that back with me, and considering it was COVID that had us all tied up, it was a pretty decent experience. Luckily, being young and having a strong immune system, it wasn’t too much for me and it basically felt just like a cold. It’s just unfortunate it had to happen.”
2020 has already brought the 6-foot, 200-pound blueliner some rough patches. Having dealt with a lingering injury for an extended portion of the season, Hunt was able to put up 15 assists in 28 games for his Moose Jaw Warriors before the season came to an abrupt halt. Despite the difficult year on-ice, he did get to hear his name called in the third round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild.
“With my injury and then the season getting cancelled, no NHL combine and the draft being at home, the past 12 months have actually been pretty disappointing,” Hunt admitted. “But at the same time, the draft was a great experience at home with my family. On draft day the emotions were everywhere, you know, sweaty palms, nerves, all that. But at the end of the day, everything worked out great; to hear my name called it was some relief and lots of hugs, just a lot of excitement really. I’m super pumped to get drafted to Minnesota and eventually get down there to a camp when this pandemic is over. But for now it’s just a great feeling and I’m excited for this season and a fresh start.”
In preparation for the upcoming WHL campaign, Hunt proactively joined the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Virden Oil Capitals, where he planned to spend the first half of the 2020-21 season. However, with tighter restrictions in the latest Manitoban public health order, the MJHL was forced to cease operation, with Hunt having only skated in a handful of games. Despite that, he did manage to score three goals and pick up two helpers in just three contests. Not a bad stat-line for an MJHL first-timer.
“It all started with the Oil Capitals’ head coach Tyson Ramsey who I had at Midget AAA in Brandon,” Hunt said. “That just made the decision-making process really easy. Not to mention I had lots of former teammates playing in Virden as well. It was a great experience, and of course I’d never played MJHL hockey before, nor had I even played a real hockey game for seven or eight months before that. It definitely took a little bit to get myself back to game speed, but I think I got better as the games went on. It was fun while it lasted and I definitely made some friendships through that experience as well.”
Interestingly enough, Hunt got to enjoy a brand new experience while with the Oil Capitals.
“Yeah, there is actually a guy named Trevor Hunt on Virden, no relation,” Daemon Hunt laughed. “But it’s actually kind of funny. I’ve never really had ‘D. Hunt’ written on the back of my jersey before. So it’s actually a pretty interesting and highly unlikely experience having two Hunts on the team. I’ve definitely never experienced that before.”