Northbridge’s Derek Lewis Signs With The Eastern Hockey League
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Northbridge defenseman Derek Lewis has signed a one-year contract to play junior hockey with the Worcester Railers of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). Lewis was scheduled to begin training camp in late August with the 40-game season beginning on September 17.
Prior to training camp getting underway, the Northbridge resident has been working out at the Worcester rink and is looking forward to his career on the ice getting started.
“I am hoping that this is the start of my career. I’ll play one year and if I like it as much as I think that I will, I’ll come back for another year,” Lewis said. “The Railers are a team that is really good at getting kids into college and although I’m not sure where that will be, this is a great place to start that journey.”
The Railers’ mission states that their program is dedicated and committed to finding the best academic and athletic fit for their student athletes. They educated and guided all their players in the hockey and college recruitment process on how to advocate and represent themselves to scouts and coaches.
It was earlier this year that Lewis realized that he could actually play the game so he begam skating at the New England Sport Center where his skating coach happened to know the Worcester head coach. She reached out to him regarding Lewis and at the same time his high school coach was doing the same thing trying to get him an interview with the team.
Before he even entered the New England Sports Center Lewis had been putting in the work with the Worcester Junior Crusaders, where he had played up until the eighth grade. It was here that George Maris saw him play and invited him to play for his summer team the Canadian Hockey Club.
“Maris saw something in my game. I put in the work, but I really didn’t think that I could make it,” Lewis said. “I saw myself as being terrible compared to the other kids on the team and while Maris told me that I had talent I just didn’t see it until this past season.”
With a newly founded confidence and an in with the Worcester Railers things were beginning to change for the Northbridge hockey player. After skating a few times with the Worcester Coach in February and March, Lewis was eventually asked to come back for another skate and eventually an invite to play the upcoming season with the team.
Growing up hockey was not a sport that anyone in his family had played, so he found it weird that at the age of five years old he was suddenly interested in the sport.
“I had a friend who was playing hockey and I got his father’s telephone number to give to my mother to call him to get the information on how to go about getting involved with the sport,” he said. “My mother didn’t believe that my friend was playing hockey at such a young age so she wouldn’t call. Eventually, after a lot of continuous nagging on my part, she called him and got me into a learn to skate program.”
Lewis was unsure of what really pulled him in to play the sport, but he was intrigued by it. He recalled being on the ice was totally different than anything he ever did, and he was enthralled in every aspect of the game, including the Zamboni that cleaned the ice.
However, while his mind was totally into the sport, he was quickly finding out that he may not be right for the sport itself.
“The learn-to-skate program was tough and I wasn’t even sure that I’d graduate. I was bad and kept falling, coming off the ice soaking wet,” Lewis said. “Watching me my mother and grandmother both figured that it was only a matter of time before I quit, but I didn’t and kept going.”
As he entered high school and made the varsity squad at Northbridge he was still somewhat skeptical of his game as he was this little scrawny kid only getting a few shifts a game.
Once Lewis hooked up with Maris, he found out that his mentor was very big on deception and started to help this youngster take his game to the next level. Maris taught Lewis to become elusive on the ice because every second counts and with his teachings the Northbridge skater was not only improving his game, but he was also become mature as a player. In addition to going to the gym more and working out seriously, Maris became a very big part of Lewis’ development over his high school years and played an important role in getting him onto the Railers roster this fall.
“I knew that I wanted to play hockey for the rest of my life, it is my soul passion,” Lewis said. “I am not sure where I’d go to play college hockey, but to do so is a dream of mine and it is a really big step for me to be playing in the EHL with the Worcester Jr. Railers.”
Playing in the Central Division of the Eastern Hockey league Worcester went 30-14 last year to finish first in their division. They were the third best team, record wise, in the league and eventually lost to the Eventual EHL Champion, the Boston Jr Rangers, in the third round of the playoffs last year.
While it would be amazing for Lewis and his Railer teammates to once again make another deep run through the play-offs, he is really only looking to improve upon his skills and someday play hockey for a college program. That’s the immediate dream, at least for now.