By Scott Taylor
Photos by Dylan Asmundson

Winnipeg's Ayden Collins had a tremendous time at the 2023 Canada Games in Nova Scotia, but he can't wait until he suits up for Indigenous Team Manitoba at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Winnipeg this May.

Ayden Collins loved his experience at the 2023 Canada Games in February. He can't wait to see what's in store for him at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in May.

"The Canada Games were super fun," said Collins, a 6-foot, 150-pound defenceman with the RINK Hockey Academy's U16 Prep team. "It was great to play with the guys on our team. I've been playing with or against most of them since I was nine years old, so it was nice and it's fun to play with guys you play against all the time. They all have different styles but they're all really great players. It was a fun experience. 

"The NAHC is going to be super awesome. It's great that we're going to host it in Winnipeg this year. I'm a veteran of this team and Michael Ferland is our coach so it will be fun having an NHL guy as our head. coach. That's super cool." 

Jeff Borse Ayden Collins Quote

For RINK U16 head coach Jeff Borse, Collins is just about the perfect stay-at- home defender. He's not flashy, he's not going to bring a crowd to its feet, but at his best, he's a near-flawless defensive defenceman. 

"He's in his second year with us and he's a really great kid," said Coach Borse. "He's really, really respectful, polite and mature. He's a hard-working kid. He's not going to put up 60-70 points as a D-man but he defends really well. He plays hard, is physical and he's going to catch some scouts' eyes. He also has a little burst of speed he can throw in there. That helps him push the pace. 

"He did really well at the Canada Games by doing what he had to do. He defended really well. He made simple plays and played smart defensive hockey." 

Through his first 36 games, Collins had a goal and 15 points, but his job isn't to score, it's to be a leader on and off the ice and make sure the opposition doesn't get a sniff of the RHA net. 

"He comes from a great family here in Winnipeg and our goalie, Brady Lowe from Brandon, is billeting with them," said Borse. "They're a big part of our program. He's a great kid and we love having him in our program." 

Collins spent the early years of his life in South St. Vital and strangely, he didn't take to hockey as a youngster. 

"I started playing Timbits hockey, but I wasn't a big fan of hockey when I first started because I couldn't stay on my feet," he said, with a laugh. "But I remember once, my coach fell down and everyone started laughing, but that's when I realized that everybody falls down, so I just thought that if I fall down, I'll just get back up.

"After Timbits, I played for the Seals. Then we moved and I played Railcats, then Warriors and now I'm at the RINK. I did the R-1 program before and with teams I played for in the past, we trained at the old RINK facility, so I knew a lot about the program. I know I'm in good hands here. I'm 100 per cent improving here. IR "The best part about playing here is that you get to skate, play hockey and workout every single day. I know I'm getting better."

Like so many players who are having positive hockey experiences, Collins credits his parents for all his success. His dad, Jim, is a sales rep and his mom, Leslie, is an agent at MPI. He has one sister, Brooklyn, who plays hockey for the Saints. It's definitely a hockey family.

"My parents have been everything to my hockey. They drive me to the rink, and they encourage me to get better. They're really important to my success and I couldn't do this without them."

After the 2022-23 season and after the NAHC, which runs from May 6-13 at the Seven Oaks Sportsplex, Collins intends to work hard in the off-season to reach his most immediate hockey dream.

"I'm hoping to play for the Winnipeg ICE in the WHL next season," he said. "Maybe one day, I'd like to take a shot at the pros."

Scott Taylor | Game On Magazine