July 23rd, 2024

Hat’s Gladu making most of it

By Sean Rooney on August 30, 2017.


As far as coming-of-age stories go, Zac Gladu’s has a bit of everything.

The 19-year-old from Medicine Hat is in Val d’Or, Quebec right now, about to make his major-junior hockey debut for the Foreurs. French immersion has come in handy.

Two weeks ago he was in Edmonton, at the Alberta Indigenous Games. His grandpa is native; the games were about a lot more than the five track and field medals he won.

Thanks to sports, Gladu is seeing a bit of everything lately, and he knows he’s better for it.

“It’s eye-opening to know you could have such a big background and not know anything about it,” said the 6-foot-2, 219-pound athlete via cellphone.

It’s been a long ride to this point, but Gladu always had athletic talent. At Crescent Heights High School he went to track provincials a couple times, excelling in the throwing events. In hockey he wasn’t a star but did play on local AAA teams, getting invites to a few junior and major-junior camps.

He tried out for the Red Deer Rebels a few times, but it wasn’t meant to be. After some time with Drayton Valley and Kindersley’s junior A teams Gladu finally played a full season in 2016-17. In La Ronge, Sask. he had five goals and two assists in 38 games, plus 64 penalty minutes for the Ice Wolves.

“I’ve been around a bit, to say the least,” he said with a laugh. “Everybody’s hockey dream is to play pro, I’m going to pursue that to the best of my abilities. I’ll go as far as my body takes me. I love the game, everything about it.”

His trainer in La Ronge, Pat Lacelle, helped him wind up in Val d’Or via an agency he works for. Gladu wasn’t entirely sure it would work out though.

“I packed light, wasn’t sure if I was going to stay or not,” he said. “I heard a lot of no’s in Red Deer. I heard no a lot for three years in a row so finally I’m getting a yes and it’s really nice to hear.”

Technically, he’s hearing “oui.” The Foreurs look at him as a big body, someone who can drop the gloves when needed but also be a physical prescence on the puck. They’ve got a young team, he says, and the smaller players need to be protected.

In three pre-season games Gladu has 19 penalty minutes.

“That role is diminishing quickly,” he said. “So there’s more things I had to work on; this summer I went to North Dakota to work on my skating for two weeks. No team’s going to pick just a fighter anymore; you have to be able to skate, shoot, pass, compete and be fast. Especially in this league I’ve found it’s fast, very transitional. If you’re not quick you’re going to be three steps behind.”

He credits Medicine Hat trainers Tom Wylde and Fotis Lambiris, plus physiotherapist Dale Deis (who worked on his injured back) for getting him ready for hockey season. Training camp’s been a blur; the regular season starts in a few weeks.

“Their camp is so much different than a WHL camp,” he said. “We had two days within the team and the third day we were on the road for pre-season. They had cuts after the first practice, they didn’t even see kids in a game and they were sending them home.”

How do the Indigenous Games fit in with a hockey player’s schedule? Well, they really don’t. He heard about the Aug. 13-17 games and his mom signed him up for them.

He’s glad he went.

“There were lots of competitors, there were a couple that were really close but a couple that were just there for the ride,” said Gladu, who won gold in shot put, discus, high jump and long jump (plus silver in javelin). “But they were all good sports so it was great.

“It’s about getting aboriginal people together, competing and learning more about the culture, too.”

His wins qualify him for the World Indigenous Games next year in Hawaii.

He admits he didn’t grow up with a lot of native culture, but he’s learning about himself as he goes. The past is important to Gladu, as shown by the No. 83 tattoo he sports in homage to his late grandfather, Clifford Adam.

For the first time he’ll get to wear 83 on his hockey jersey, too.

“It’s going to be huge, I’m super excited,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to play major-junior for five or six years now, it’s been one of my dreams. To finally be here, it’s surreal.”

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