By: Monty Mosher
Just as it might have been inevitable that defenceman Alex Peters would play hockey, it may have been just as inevitable that he ended up at Saint Mary's.
Hockey, it seems, is the family business, with older brothers Justin and Anthony making their way as professional goalies. Sister, Brittany, also older than Alex, was a blue-liner, making for an even split in the household.
Alex Peters had his path cleared to the Huskies by Anthony, who had a standout career in the AUS and was named U Sports goalie of the year in 2015.
Anthony Peters, 27, now plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa. Justin Peters, the eldest sibling at 32, played in 83 NHL games for Carolina, Washington and Arizona and is playing in the Czech Republic this season.
Heading into his final year of junior hockey with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL, Alex Peters determined he would embark on his road to professional hockey through the Canadian university system.
That's where Anthony came in.
'He paved the way for me'
"He recommended Saint Mary's," the 22-year-old Alex said this week. "Obviously, he had a great time here. He developed some great relationships with the coaching staff and everyone here and he still comes back to Halifax in the summers. He paved the way for me."
The family is from Blyth, Ont. Peters, at six-foot-four and 220 pounds, is a strong pro prospect after the Dallas Stars selected him in the third round of the 2014 draft. Knee injuries around that time eventually led the Stars to let him go.
In the 2016-17 season at Flint, Peters earned the Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy as the OHL captain best exemplifying leadership on and off the ice.
He had three goals and 10 assists in 24 games as a rookie for the Huskies last season. He has five goals and six assists in the first 16 games this season.
"I didn't really know any of the guys other than playing against them," he said of taking on the challenge of coming to the Huskies under head coach Trevor Stienburg. "So for that part I came in blind. But I knew through the experience of my brother, and the knowledge of the school that he gained from his time here, that I was coming into a great spot."
Goaltending might easily have been the trail for Alex as well. From his earliest days in minor hockey he wanted to be like his older brothers. If there was a floor hockey game, he was always the first one to strap on the pads.
"But when it came to the ice, I don't think I could stand still that long. I don't think I could stay in the net. I always wanted to get out and skate around and play. There were a couple of times when I played goalie and maybe I didn't have it in me like my brothers."
Still blocking shots
Before long he played anything but goalie and it wasn't long after that he was a regular on defence.
"We would have had enough gear for hand-me-downs my entire way up growing up," he said. "I always chirp them and say I'm the smarter one. 'Why would I want to stand in front of the puck?' But then what it works out to be is that, as a defenceman, I'm still blocking a bunch of shots but with less gear on."
Stienburg sees parallels between Alex and Anthony.
"While Anthony Peters proved to be the best goaltender in the country while he was here, he was also one of the greatest leaders as far as inspiring his teammates both on the ice and off. Alex is following right in his footsteps.
"While Alex is a defenceman, he is also an all-star at his position, an incredible leader and human being off the ice and academically one of the brightest student athletes to come through our program."
The Huskies are plenty competitive in AUS men's hockey this season, sitting alone in second place at the break. But there are no easy nights in the conference and Saint Mary's lost three in a row to finish the semester, once to league-leading UNB and twice by a single goal to UPEI.
"The hockey is really good and it is tough in terms of the physicality. It's a higher-paced style than where I was in the past. It's more of a man's game."
Peters was athletic growing up, playing soccer, baseball, track and field and volleyball, even in high school.
He knew that hockey would be the sport where he would place the greatest emphasis.
"I knew from an early age that was the goal," he said. "When I was six-years-old, Justin left to go play in the OHL. I idolized him and I always wanted to be just like him. From at least six I was always geared toward hockey and always wanted to use hockey as my path."
He said the brothers try to stay in contact as best as possible given the age spread and the miles between them. Even with a five-hour time difference, Justin and Alex will communicate after games.
Peters is an academic all-Canadian in business, but he would like nothing better than to have his chance at pro hockey when his varsity days are done.
"It was one of the biggest reasons I came here. I knew they would help my development. That's another thing Anthony mentioned. He said it would be a great place to get myself geared up to get ready for pro. That's definitely my goal when I get my degree."
On Tuesday, Peters was named to a team of U Sports all-stars to play Canada's national junior team prospects next week in a three-game series in B.C.
(Monty Mosher is an award-winning sportswriter with more than 30 years covering university sport in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)