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Former Virden Oil Capitals defenceman Tristen Cross is pleased that his hockey journey took him west

After suiting up for his hometown Oil Caps for three and a half seasons, the son of Rick and Donna Cross decided to study and play at Selkirk College. Before heading to the Castlegar, B.C., the only teammate Cross knew was former Oil Cap forward Blake Sidoni.

“I’ve never been in a situation where I knew only one guy on the team going into it, and everyone involved in the team is great,” Cross said. “As a team, we are very close on and off the ice. As well, as having a coaching staff that we can be open and honest with.”

The Saints, who compete in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League, were certainly pleased to have Cross join them. Head coach Dave Hnatiuk said that the first-year player brought a lot of great attributes to the program. Cross was named a BCIHL First Team All-Star.

“He plays a key role on our special team units and logs a lot of minutes every game,” Hnatiuk said. “His play is consistent, and we always know that Tristen is going to give us everything he can every game. Tristen is well on his way making a name for himself in the league with his big shot, his offensive abilities and his smooth skating, which allows him to join the play or get back to his defensive responsibilities.” 

Cross was third on the team with 17 points through 22 games. He had 13 assists and four goals. Cross scored all of his goals in four consecutive games. In December, he was named the BCIHL Player of the week after accumulating two goals and two assists over two games.

In addition to his fine play on the ice, Cross also provides leadership to the Saints. He served as an assistant captain.

“He leads by example on and off the ice,” Hnatiuk said. “One thing about Tristen is that he is very consistent is his work ethic at the rink, in the gym and in school. He strives to get better every day and he puts in the work.”

Cross is enrolled in Selkirk College’s School of University Arts & Sciences. He is interested in pursuing an engineering degree and would like to get into some kind of environmental program. Going back to school was an adjustment for the 2016 Virden Collegiate Institute graduate.

“It wasn’t easy to transition back into going to school, but as long as I manage my time well and plan ahead for tests and assignments, I find there is usually time to get my stuff done,” Cross said.

He has been enjoying what Castlegar has to offer. Located in the Selkirk Mountains, the West Kootenay community of Castlegar has a population of about 8,040. 

“I like that it’s not a big city, it’s about twice the size of Virden so it has a few more options for stores and restaurants but not too big a town that it’s constantly busy,” Cross said. “It has a small town feel to it that I really enjoy. I bought a season pass at Red Mountain and have been up there a few times this year to snowboard. It’s a blast.”

In Castlegar, Cross lives with Sidoni and another teammate. A gritty forward, Sidoni was acquired by the Oil Capitals partway through the 2018-2019 season. This past winter with the Saints, he had five goals and 11 assists. In October, Sidoni had two goals and two assists one weekend to earn the BCIHL Player of the Week award. He grew up in Trail, which is about a half hour from Castlegar.

“Blake is a big reason that I came here in the first place, so it’s been awesome to be able to play another year together,” Cross said.

Throughout his hockey career, Cross has been backed by his family.

“My family has always been extremely supportive of anything I do and continue to do so from 1,400 kilometers away,” Cross said. “I wouldn’t be in this situation if not for my parents’ help throughout my life. My grandparents’ support is also unwavering, and it makes a difference knowing that there’s people rooting for you from back home.”

 

Story by Robin Wark