Bay Roberts native and World Junior Hockey Champion Dawson Mercer opens up on hockey, home, heroes and healing in our inspirational one-on-one
When The Herald spoke to home-grown hockey hero, 18-year-old Dawson Mercer, he had an apology to make right out the gate.
‘‘In my first game with my new team I got a puck to the face and I lost a few teeth and split my tongue. So, if you have a hard time understanding me, that’s why and I’m real sorry,’’ he opened sheepishly.
Mercer, who spoke to us from his new home-base of Chicoutimi, Quebec, joked that the only thing his mother said when he told her of his mishaps was; “Thank goodness we had those pictures done of you before that happened.”
Mercer, who wasn’t all that hard to understand under the circumstances, explains in his incredibly humble style that he’s living every hockey player’s dream.
Following my dreams’
“It’s a pretty big honour. Just being from Newfoundland and playing on the mainland, I feel blessed. It’s a nice feeling to be following my dreams and being one of the few from home to have played in a World Junior Championship and then to have won it, is a pretty special feeling.”
Of course, it’s already been a dream season for the Bay Roberts native. The crafty winger surprised some when he not only landed a spot on the national junior team but helped Canada win gold at the world championships in early January. His rise to junior hockey stardom has been swift.
After putting up solid numbers for the QMJHL’s Drummond Voltigeurs over the past three seasons, he caught fire earlier this season as the league squared off against Russia in a highly-touted exhibition series. He was sensational and carried that strong play into Team Canada’s training camp.
First round draft pick?
His stock has skyrocketed with some hockey insiders predicting him to go in the first round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Just how high is his stock? Well, following the world junior tournament he was dealt to the Chicoutimi Sagueneers in exchange for five draft picks – two first rounders, two second rounders, a fourth-round selection, as well as forward William Dufour.
That’s the kind of impact player Mercer is considered these days. Talented on both sides of the puck, he appears to be a complete player – with an attitude and hockey IQ that’s the envy of coaches everywhere.
He hasn’t disappointed. He has 56 points in just 42 games this season, including 14 points in just a month since being traded.
Mercer is quick to pass the puck, so to speak, when it comes to praise.
“The support has been really good from hockey fans at home, and that makes a difference. Obviously, when I went home after the (world’s) win to take a little break, there was a lot of support. The people I grew up playing hockey with and those from the hockey camps I grew up playing in, were so encouraging. It was cool to go home and relax, but also cool to get all that attention and support and feel the love everyone has for the game. It was special feeling for me and I love it.”
Raised with sports
But then a love of any game is how Mercer was raised.
“Fortunately, growing up we spent lots of time playing hockey and ball hockey and baseball and my mom played volleyball and basketball and the whole family played and were interested in all sports. Growing up, we all were playing sports, some sport or another in the summer and in the winter.”
Even when he returns home for a wee break he says his downtime is spent where his passion lies; being active and living a life that revolves around sports.
We ask if he gets nervous when he steps onto the ice before a big game. The short answer is never.
“When it’s something you’ve been dreaming of for a long time, there’s no room for nerves,” he explains.
“I wanted so much to have made the (world) team and then to win the gold medal? It was a special feeling. It’s been a dream since I was a little kid. So when you step on the ice we’re making sure that we play at our best level and so nerves don’t affect me much because this is what we do every day. It’s what we practice for and it’s what we dream of.”
And of course, when you love what you do, there’s just a whole lot of passion.
“This is what we do every day. This is what I love to do,” he says.
Missing the home team
We ask if he misses home. He does, he says, and oddly enough, especially when the weather is bad on the island.
“I see on Facebook there’s another storm and I think, ‘I’m missing out.’ It’s true. It’s like you’re away from home and seeing a snowstorm, and you’re wanting to be home in it with my brother and my cousins and friends, out on the ski-dos with no school. When you’re of a younger age, that’s what you want. You couldn’t wait for school to be out and canceled and you’re outside in the snow all day on the skidoo. So, yeah, you kind of miss it. But you know what? I’m lucky and happy doing what I’m doing, but it’s cool from a kid’s point of view to think about being home.”
We ask Mercer about his heroes. He has a few, but his dad is certainly front and center.
“Dad had a big impact on my hockey career. All my family really. I watched my family play and they watched me play, but all that extra time dad spent with me, I really appreciate it. He’s always supporting me and all my decisions. He’s helped me have a better shot at success and I’ve been lucky and blessed that way.”
Dawson also mentions another famous Newfoundlander, Danny Cleary.
“I grew up not far from where he grew up and seeing him winning the Stanley Cup and have such a great turn in the NHL was great. He represented Newfoundland.”
Dawson’s next goal?
As for someone he would like to model his own game after, Mercer mentions Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins.
His next goal? There’s the President’s Cup and the Memorial Cup followed by the 2020 NHL draft. It’s going to be a big year for Mercer.
With a life so wrapped up in hockey, is there any time for any other passions? Mercer laughs and says, “Just enjoying any time I get at home.”
“When I go home, I just love the outdoors and everything about it. I like to be here and I love the opportunities, but when I go home I just want to enjoy my time with friends and family and being outdoors. I love to be with my family, it’s how I relax. To get out in the outdoors and be in the fresh air and being in the woods just enjoying Newfoundland in general is what I love to do.”