Ethan O’Mailia started playing hockey 11 years ago after he watched a Moffat County Bulldogs club hockey team game.
Now a junior at Moffat County High School and a defenseman on the same Bulldogs club team, O’Mailia is getting the chance of a lifetime for any hockey fan.
After being nominated by his coaches, O’Mailia was chosen by the Craig Chamber of Commerce Board to skate with the Colorado Avalanche during the team’s warm-up Friday against the Anaheim Ducks at the Pepsi Center.
“I’m ecstatic, it is just amazing,” O’Mailia said. “I have always been an Avalanche fan and I always will be.”
O’Mailia said he was always a big fan of retired center Joe Sakic, but is happy to be participating, even if Sakic won’t be playing.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I think it shows hard work does pay off.”
Bulldogs head coach Mark Samuelson said O’Mailia is an example of what he and other coaches look for in a young player.
“We wanted to pick someone who is an exceptional youth that can represent their age division proudly,” he said. “Ethan has overcome difficult odds to get where he is.”
O’Mailia’s father passed away when he was a child and he has been raised by his grandparents since.
Samuelson said O’Mailia’s contribution to the Boys & Girls Club of Craig was also a deciding factor.
“We look for someone who gives back to the community and we saw that in Ethan’s job at the Boys & Girls Club,” he said. “It is hard to find someone that young who can and will give back and not just be worried about what is best for them.”
O’Mailia’s teammates, Michael Samuelson and CJ Walt, got the same opportunity to skate with the Avalanche the previous two seasons.
O’Mailia will receive a customized Colorado Avalanche jersey with his name on the back and get to hang out in the locker room before the game with the players.
During the team’s final warm-up, O’Mailia will skate out on the ice and stand in the team line during the national anthem.
O’Mailia will also receive four tickets to the game.
Samuelson said O’Mailia’s leadership and sportsmanship separated him from his teammates.
O’Mailia, however, said his team is his favorite part about playing hockey.
“I usually don’t work well by myself,” he said. “In a group, I work better and it helps me utilize my skills more.”
O’Mailia said he would like to continue playing hockey after graduating high school.
“I’m not looking for anything too big, but probably the men’s team here in Craig,” he said. “As long as I get to play, I’m happy.”
As for his opportunity Friday, O’Mailia said it wouldn’t be like anything he has ever done.
“To suit up with the Avalanche players is pretty cool,” he said. “I just hope to stay out of their way as they get ready to win.”
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