Steinbach Pistons forward Ty Naaykens announced his commitment to the NCAA Division 1 program, St. Lawrence University in the fall of 2021.
The 19-year-old Naaykens said the process of choosing St. Lawrence was different but he knew it was the perfect fit. "They presented a great offer on a Zoom call with my parents and I. The offer was too good to resist. It was something where my parents and I both met with the coaches on a Zoom call and they presented all the information on the school. It's a smaller school that ticked all the boxes for us. It's highly regarded academically, which was important to my family and I. It was the best fit, it's where I felt most comfortable."
After making the announcement public, Naaykens admits he went through a wide range of emotions. "It's a bit of everything. It's relief. It's excitement. There's a lot of excitement. It's a really exciting time so a lot of different emotions come with it."
Once the decision was made that he would take his hockey and education career to St. Lawrence, the Winnipeg native admits to taking some time to himself to think back on where he came from and how he got to where he is today. "There's a lot of people and time and work that went into this, not only from myself but from friends, family, coaches and teammates. I owe a lot to all of them. I think they know who they are all the way from PeeWee to Junior. There are so many people I want to thank, almost too many then I can reach out too. I know it doesn't take one person to go through this, I owe a lot to family and teammates."
A current Steinbach Pistons player was one of the first to reach out to congratulate Naaykens and it was a pretty special moment for him. "Codey Behun gave me a call right away when he found out" Naaykens says with a little laugh. "I didn't tell anyone I committed until it was released on social media, so Codey Behun was the first one. He called me, Face-timed me to congratulate me. It's very fitting it was him because we've been so close for many years. He's been one of my best friends. For him to reach out it means a lot."
The support coming from Steinbach also meant the world to Naaykens and his family. "It's awesome. Playing in a town like Steinbach, it was one of the upsides all the way back when I got traded here, the community support. It's second to none in the MJHL and it's a huge upside. Us as players greatly appreciate it from the town and it's why we play every night, I think. We show up and play because the fans come and support us. We're out there to entertain them and in return, they're going to support us with everything they got."
Now that the commitment is official, Naaykens admits that because there hasn't been any game action, the thought this might not happen so soon did enter his mind and says he was a little worried. "Absolutely" he says emphatically. "I had talked to (Pistons coach) Paul (Dyck) lots about it. He and I were communicating throughout the whole thing. He was keeping me positive and ensuring me that this shouldn't have too big of an effect because we're not the only league going through this and we were fortunate to get in some games. Those 8 games or whatever we got to play, other schools had said 8 was enough. St. Lawrence said the same thing, 8 was enough to judge off of and they could go back and watch games from seasons past. That reassurance from Paul was really nice and I appreciate it."
After making such a big announcement, Naaykens says he's looking forward to hockey starting back up but he's been chomping at the bit long before committing to NCAA Div 1. "I've been wanting to get on the ice for a while. I've been itching to get back on with the boys. It feels like we've been away forever. When we get the chance, we'll all be heading back to Steinbach and get on the ice. You really realize how much you miss the people and the things we get to do when we've been away this long."
As far as education, Naaykens is leaving the door open to a few possibilities. "Not 100% decided but something in sciences or business. Not totally sure, but I'll figure it out in the near future."
For a young man who loves the game and greatly values his education, getting to do both in a place like St. Lawrence, means the world to Naaykens and his loved ones. "You get the best of both worlds. I get to continue my education at a high level and play top end hockey. It's all very exciting. There's lots to look forward to and I'm really looking forward to it all."