By Carter Brooks
Photos by Dylan Asmundson

This past fall, the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels signed RINK U-18 Defenceman Tate Dolinsky at their annual black and white camp. And according to Dolinsky's head coach Rob Smith, if all pans out as he expects, the young, strong skating blueliner will likely find himself in Red Deer next season.

“Tate has been in our program for a few years, and he’s one of those guys who is a big part of our family here,” coach Smith said of the 16-year-old. “We’ve seen him grow up; he’s taken a lot of strides. Tate’s hockey journey is a little bit streamlined since he’s signed with the Rebels. It’s just my opinion, but he’s probably going to fit in nicely there next year. His path is kind of determined, or more so, it’s his to lose. Let’s put it that way.” 

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound defenceman describes himself as a “puck-moving, pass-first kind of player”. Dolinsky has an even distribution between his goals and assists on the year and is second to just teammate Reece Gault in defensive scoring for the U-18 RINK Prep squad.

Incredibly, Dolinsky wasn’t even interested in hockey as kid… that was, until his father Ken planted, watered and nurtured the seed in his son’s mind to grow up to be just like dad: an offensive defenceman for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Selkirk Steelers – Take of that information what you will… 

“I actually didn’t really want to play hockey when I was younger,” the younger Dolinsky told Game On. “But my dad said he’d help coach my 7/8’s Corydon Comets, so that’s why I started playing. I then got better every year and actually started to like it more. And that’s why I’m here now.”

The River Heights product moved on from his club team to climb the ranks through Hockey Winnipeg’s system, ultimately deciding to land on an offer from the RINK. And that decision was most likely the best choice he could have made for his hockey playing future.

“After the COVID season, AAA was expanding to three teams and I didn’t know what the competition was going to be like,” Dolinsky said. “RHA then offered me a spot on their U-15 team, and I knew how good that team was, so I definitely wanted to play there. Since then, I’ve found out that RINK is really good at maturing its players both on and off the ice. I feel much more confident because of that. We do a lot of mental performance stuff that is making me stronger mentally, and obviously, lots of time is spent in the gym, so I’m seeing a lot of growth there too.”

As much as Dolinsky has learned on the ice, he has also grown off it. He is appreciated in the dressing room and his confidence has reached an all-time high over the past three years. Despite coming across as quiet guy, coach Smith says Dolinsky has the ability to really get the room laughing. 

“These kids have a lot of resources at their fingertips,” Smith said. “And sadly, not all of them use them either. But Tate definitely does. He has taken a good developmental path, playing his U-15, U-16 and now U-18 hockey here with us. Guys like him that are developed like that, it's a slow and steady process. He’s taking strides every step of the way, and he’s gotten better every year.” 

“He's very witty,” Smith added. “He's the guy in the room that everybody respects because he's not the guy who is talking the most. He's got a quiet intelligence to him, and when he speaks up, he's usually bang on. So, he's very smart in that way. And the guys know it too. They call him undercover funny. Tate’s a funny guy, but you don't see it all the time, right? We’ve seen a lot of growth from him. He went from being nervous and a bit timid to being of very strong character now.”

As enjoyable as Dolinsky has been for Smith, the veteran coach knows that their time together is drawing to a close. 

“He went to Red Deer’s camp and almost made their team this year,” Smith said. “He had a phenomenal camp. And from my communication with the organization, they are just real excited about his development and how much he's progressed. He’s really come along nicely and I see him fitting into that team next year very well as a young player. Yes, it will be a loss for us, for sure, but that's what we want at the end of the day, right? That's why we're here, to help them along their way.”

Carter Brooks | Game On Magazine