By Mervin Brass

Everett and Eathan and Mom

Ethan Bear wearing his bronze medal from the U18 World Hockey Championships. His brother Everett and mother Geraldine travelled to Switzerland to cheer on Team Canada. Photo courtesy of Geraldine Bear.

Ethan Bear needs to buy a suit for his high school graduation that’s coming up on the third Friday in June.

A week later, the Seattle Thunderbird’s defensemen will be in Florida wearing the same suit waiting to hear his name called during the NHL Draft.

“Sometimes it does slip in the back of your mind, but really it makes you want to play harder if anything,” says Bear about the upcoming entry draft. “It makes you want to be more consistent in your game.”

Early in the season Bear and his teammates – the ones who are also eligible for the draft – were called to a meeting with their coach Steve Konowalchuk.

“A couple of games in, he came and talked to us, brought in the 97s and a couple late 96s and said ‘I know it’s coming up and I know a lot of you guys are looking forward to it,’” says Bear. “’But you got to focus on the season and the team.’”

The talked seemed to keep Bear focused on his development as a player.

When the NHL Central Scouting released their mid-season rankings Bear was listed number 133 and by season’s end he ended up ranked 97th.

Konowalchuk doesn’t place a lot of stock in the rankings but nonetheless questioned some of the other defensemen who were ranked higher than Bear.

“I have high regards for him, and as far as some of the defensemen who rated higher than him early, I was like, well, okay,” says Konowalchuk. “I didn’t worry that he wasn’t that high the first time and I wasn’t surprised he moved up the second time. He’s just a good all around defensemen that can play both ends of the ice.”

When Bear’s WHL season ended, he was selected to join Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Switzerland.

At first his mother and father were not planning to attend the international tournament until they watched Canada’s Sunday game.

“I told my husband something doesn’t feel right. One of us should be there with him,” says Ethan’s mother Geraldine Bear. “ He said, ‘okay you go,’ I wasn’t going to ask twice.”

From the very first time Geraldine Bear watched her son skate and play hockey at age five, she knew he loved the game.

“He was playing as an underage,” says Bear. “He was quite the little skater. I just remembered being really proud watching with the other parents in the stands. He was playing hard for his team. He wanted his team to win.”

Coach Konowalchuk also sees the love Bear has for the game and says that makes things easier when it comes to dealing with adversity.

He says he would tell Bear the same thing he tells other promising hockey players who are waiting for draft day.

“It’s nice if you get drafted but it doesn’t mean anything as far as your future goes. There are guys that get drafted that end up not playing. There’s guys that don’t get drafted and continue to evolve and get better,” says the former NHL player. “If you get drafted, congratulations and enjoy the day, but get back to work. Because nothing really happened, because you’re not in the NHL and you still got work to do.”

Bear tries not to pay attention to the media stories about the upcoming draft but admits it’s cool reading about yourself.

“I see family and they’ll share a little story and I’ll probably read it but it’s not something I’ll really pay attention to and think about when I’m playing or anything like that,” says Bear. “But if it’s there, it’s cool to read, a nice little article, it’s awesome actually. It’s great.”

Bear and his family will attend the NHL draft on June 26 and 27th in Sunrise Florida where the Florida Panthers play.

His favourite team is the Montreal Canadiens.

He’s quick to respond should the Canadiens call his name on draft day.

“Montreal is a wicked hockey city,” says Bear. “That would be sweet.”

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