Baxter finds a home with Brockport
BRACEBRIDGE - Mike Baxter spent years travelling the hockey wilderness before finally finding a home in upstate New York.
The former Bracebridge resident is currently in his freshman year with the Brockport College Golden Eagles in the NCAA’s Division III.
The team has struggled badly out of the gate with just a single win in its first nine games, but Baxter sees better days ahead.
“Unfortunately, our team hasn’t started the season well and we’ve had a tough time getting everyone on the same page,” he said. “But we’ve changed a lot of things recently and our team is definitely on the way up. Hopefully, we’ll be able to compete for a championship against some fierce competition.”
Born in Richmond Hill before moving as a youngster to the Skeleton Lake area, the 21-year-old has spent his hockey career bouncing from club to club. If you can name a local hockey organization, chances are Baxter laced up a pair of skates in their dressing room at one time or another.
Baxter played minor hockey in both Huntsville and Bracebridge and eventually played stints with the Huntsville Otters, Couchiching Terriers, Seguin Bruins, Thorold Blackhawks and Fort Erie Meteors. He also played six seasons with the North Central Ontario Predators AAA, where he won a championship in minor midget alongside fellow Bracebridge native and NHL prospect Blake Parlett.
Along the way, Baxter got his fair share of bumps and bruises both on and off the ice.
“I had a very rough junior career to say the least,” he said. “On top of a season-ending injury, I sat on the bench for entire games, as well as in the stands, thinking that I was at the end of my career.”
Baxter said he had always wanted to play in the NCAA, and the situation began to swing in his favour when he signed with the Fort Erie Meteors.
“I was really given a shot at fulfilling that goal, which I thank that organization immensely for, and I finally put up some points, scoring 32 goals and 29 assists on a team in a rebuilding phase,” he said. “Finally putting up some numbers I attracted the attention of numerous Division III schools, but Brockport was the best fit.”
Baxter said he loves playing NCAA hockey and finds it fast-paced, hard-hitting and as much fun to watch as it is to play.
“The fans and the support that teams get in the states is, unfortunately, a lot better than in Canada and that’s definitely one of my top reasons for jumping across the border to play here,” he said.
Baxter said the Golden Eagles have a lot of scoring talent that hasn’t been clicking thus far, but he remains confident that things will turn soon and “the barn doors are going to swing open.”
Baxter hopes to get his own offensive game back up to the level he was at last year, and hopefully make the case for a professional hockey career over the course of the next four years at Brockport.
The ups and downs of Baxter’s hockey career have taught him that with enough determination and a little luck, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“If I look back to my first year in junior hockey when I was getting a shift a game, I would’ve never thought I would end up here at Brockport, but I made it and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.