By: Steph Coratti
Sitting at home on the couch – that’s where Guelph Storm forward, Liam Hawel, was the day he was selected in the fourth round (101st overall) by the Dallas Stars this past June.
“I was sitting at home watching on the couch, and not knowing if I would even go at all,” Hawel said reflecting on the accomplishment. “And getting picked as early as I did, it was a huge excitement for me.”
The Arnprior, Ontario native was with his parents, Maureen and Andrew Hawel, when his name was called.
“The phone rang in the background and I initially told my husband not to pick up because I didn’t want to get tied up talking on the phone while the draft was going on,” Maureen explained, adding that herself and Andrew were doing things around the house, while Liam was also trying to study for an exam. “For some reason, I looked up at the screen and saw Liam’s picture – I yelled at my husband to get the phone quick. Luckily, he did, because it was Liam’s agent calling with good news.”
“It was such an emotional day – one I don’t think any of us will ever forget,” Maureen continued.
Not bad for a kid who had a rocky beginning with the sport.
“Let’s just say it didn’t go very well,” Maureen offered, sharing that four-year-old Liam had a hard time standing up on his skates, and involved lots of tears. “He really wanted to get off the ice, and his dad felt so badly for him he was ready to pull him off, but I knew if we did, we would have a hard time getting him to try again.”
All it took was a hockey stick, though, as Hawel was taught to lean on it for balance.
“Once he got the hang of that, there was no looking back,” Maureen said.
From there, the 18-year-old and now NHL prospect credits his dad, Andrew, for where he is today.
“He’s pushed me through my whole life, with training and practice,” the third-year OHL veteran explained. “He’s done everything for me.”
Hawel also credits his teammates, specifically fellow Storm forwards and 2017 NHL draftees, Nate Schnarr and Isaac Ratcliffe, for helping him through what he says to be the most challenging year to date of his career.
“Heading into my [NHL] draft year… starting out in [Sault Ste. Marie], not knowing if I would even get drafted at all, and then coming [to Guelph], I got more opportunity but just dealing with the whole trade situation and adapting to different places,” Hawel explained of being traded to the Storm mid-way through the 2016-17 season. “Nate and Isaac were good to me right when I got here, and helped me get comfortable.”
“It was good to have good friends right away – I didn’t feel lonely at all,” Hawel added.
With challenges faced along the way, the six-foot-four, 174-pound forward recognizes just how far he’s come.
“When I got to [Sault Ste. Marie], I was super nervous – I didn’t really talk at all. Even on the ice, I didn’t try to shoot at all, I would just try to pass it to the older guys,” Hawel explained of himself as a rookie. “Now, I feel a lot more comfortable both on and off the ice. In my first year, I was pretty scared of the [veterans], but now I feel I can talk to anybody… I’m just more comfortable, and confident.”
While for Maureen and Andrew Hawel, pride is as simple as it gets.
“He is so resilient and takes everything in stride,” Mauren said, adding that Liam showed this both when moving nine hours away from home to Sault Ste. Marie at the age of 16, and again with his trade to Guelph as an OHL sophomore, attending three different high schools in the same academic year, still managing to graduate as an Ontario Scholar. “He got traded while on a road trip with his former team, so he arrived in Guelph with only his hockey equipment, a suit, and very few belongings and had to wait a week before [everything else] arrived.”
“Like any parent, we are so proud of the person Liam has become.”