'Tears might have been shed': The mixed emotions when your son leaves home at 16 to pursue his dream

Leaving home is a sacrifice many teens have to make if they want to pursue their dreams of a career in pro hockey. But often it can be harder on the parents than it is on the players.

It's a sacrifice many young hockey players have to make, but it's often harder on the parents

Jacob Squires, middle, says goodbye to his mother, Cara, and brother, Cameron, before leaving for Rouyn-Noranda, Que., in August. (Submitted by Cara Squires)

It was a bittersweet moment for Cara Squires when she said goodbye to her 16-year-old son Jacob at the Charlottetown Airport on Aug. 16.

On the one hand, she was happy for him. He was moving to a small town in Quebec, chasing a dream only a select number of Islanders his age get the opportunity to take.

On the other hand, well, she was going to miss him.

"I kept myself in check and made sure he knew that I supported him and I'm happy for him and I'm a phone call away," she said.

"But when I walked away a few tears might have been shed."

You've got to make sacrifices to achieve what you want to achieve in life.— Jacob Squires

It's a decision most families of young elite athletes wrestle with. Will they miss their family and friends? Will they still get a good education? What if they don't like their billet family? Is the pressure too great?

The Squires aren't the first family on P.E.I. to weigh those questions, nor will they be the last. 

Jacob is one of 10 Island kids playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this year. Three are 16-year-olds leaving for what could be the first of three or four years living away from home in the winter months. A fourth, 17-year-old Keiran Gallant of Cove Head, gets to stay at home because he plays for the Charlottetown Islanders.

Jacob Squires has a picture of him and his younger brother Cameron on his bedside table. He's staying in the same room where Summerside-native Noah Dobson lived when he played for Rouyn-Noranda last season. (Jacob Squires)

Where the others went depended on which team drafted them last summer. Logan Kelly-Murphy, 18, of China Point landed relatively close in Cape Breton with the Eagles.

Squires, who is from Charlottetown, and Jack Campbell of Souris wound up in Quebec — Squires in Rouyn-Noranda, more than 1,700 kilometres away from home, and Campbell in Drummondville, about 110 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Squires said yes, he does miss his family and friends and they keep in touch often. He has a picture of himself and his 14-year-old brother, Cameron, on his bedside table. And he packed his own pillow to remind him of home.

He takes most of his school courses online, and will finish the second semester of Grade 11 at Colonel Gray when hockey season ends in the spring.

So far, he said, it's been well worth it.

Jacob Squires says he wants to make a career out of playing hockey. (Submitted by Cara Squires)

"You've got to make sacrifices to achieve what you want to achieve in life," he said. "Hockey is something I love, something I want to make a career of." 

Many players who make a career out of playing hockey have made those same sacrifices, including Summerside-native Noah Dobson, who played in Rouyn-Noranda last year and is playing this year for the New York Islanders.

He's a role model for his siblings and we certainly rely on him to be that.— Terry Campbell

In fact, Squires is staying with the same billet family, in the same room Dobson stayed in last year.

Cara Squires said it was comforting to meet Jacob's billet family when she and Jacob's father, Jeff, visited Rouyn-Noranda during training camp.

"He's living with a really great family, they're amazing," she said. "We're so happy that he had them for his billets."

Keeps in touch daily

Jack Campbell's father, Terry Campbell, said meeting their son's billets helped put him at ease as well. He said he and his wife, Krista, keep in touch with Jack daily, often through FaceTime. Last month they went to Drummondville for the team's home opener.

"We spent about five days there and I guess, to be honest with you, when we left and we left him there it was a bit of a tough thing for myself and my wife, just knowing that he's in a new area and away from home and starting another chapter."

Terry said they talked about it as a family — Jack, 16, is the oldest of four children — but "ultimately it was Jack's decision."

He said he misses Jack around the house, but is proud that he is chasing his dreams. 

Terry Campbell, middle, and his wife Krista say it was tough to leave after visiting Jack in Drummondville during training camp. (Submitted by Terry Campbell)

"Having your son here, your oldest son, your first born, he's a role model for his siblings and we certainly rely on him to be that," he said.

"He really likes the sport of hockey and he wants to pursue that as far as he can take it, while at the same time ensuring that he gets a good education and makes sure that he's well-rounded and has a good base, I guess, for wherever life takes him."

In the meantime, the Squires and Campbell families will continue to keep in touch with their sons and see as many games as they can.

Cara and Jeff Squires already made one trip to Quebec City to see a game last month. 

"We're planning our next seven or eight months around the Rouyn-Noranda hockey schedule," Jeff said.

Jack Campbell's family is looking forward to Nov. 7 when Drummondville visits Charlottetown to play the Islanders. (Submitted by Terry Campbell)

One date they have circled on their calendar is Oct. 11, when Jacob and Rouyn-Noranda come to Charlottetown to visit the Islanders. The Campbells are expecting a large crowd of family and friends at the Nov. 7 game when Jack and Drummondville play at the Eastlink Centre.

But the families also realize that after the game, they'll have to say goodbye again and hope for the best.

"As much as I would rather him be here, I know he's where he wants to be," said Cara Squires.

"That's what you raise your kids to do, right? Go off and live their dreams and do what they want to do."

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About the Author

Shane Ross is a former newspaper and TV journalist in Halifax, Ottawa and Charlottetown. He joined CBC P.E.I.'s web team in 2016.


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