The best hockey players in the world under the age of 17 strutted their stuff earlier this month at the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and Medicine Hat, Alberta. And among the players taking part was Eeyou Istchee’s own Israel Mianscum, who donned a Team Canada jersey for the first time in his international hockey debut.
The Mistissini native’s work on his game has paid off in a big way this year. The 16-year-old rookie with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phœnix is turning heads.
“It was a dream come true,” said Mianscum after the tournament, where his Canada-White squad managed a win, loss and an overtime loss in three outings.
“I’ve gotten used to doing tournaments, and I’ve learned a lot since I went to Sherbrooke, but this was amazing,” he added. “Playing against some of the best players I’ve seen was hard, and it taught me that I still have a lot of work to do.”
The work is nothing new for Mianscum. In addition to attending a Hockey Canada selection camp over the summer, he spent extensive time working on his game with Montreal Canadiens’ conditioning coach Pierre Allard in preparation for his QMJHL debut. Mianscum’s preparation has contributed to a solid start with the Phœnix that has seen him register a goal, two assists and 14 penalty minutes over his first 14 games.
Used primarily in a bottom-six role at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, Mianscum was held off the scoresheet at the tournament. But as he has quickly learned, success in hockey has as much to do with a strong work ethic and good habits off the ice as do points scored on the ice.
“It was pretty intense,” Mianscum said. “I suppose the most important thing that I’ve learned is how important it is to take care of my body. At a tournament like this, we are playing every day, and it can be hard. The coaches taught us a lot about diet, and how to take care of ourselves so that we can handle it.”
Indeed, with a 68-game QMJHL regular season and a potentially deep playoff run awaiting the top-ranked Phœnix, Mianscum now finds himself playing the most rigorous schedule of his life.
But while it would be easy to get lost in the grind of a long season, Mianscum is taking it all in stride, and remains very aware of the opportunity he now enjoys.
“Sometimes, I wake up in the morning, I open my eyes and I think ‘Wow, I’m living the dream’,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, and now it’s paying off, and I want it to continue.”
Mianscum has not been alone in the pursuit of his hockey dream. While there has been no shortage of coaches, scouts and trainers to help his steady climb up the ranks, the one constant has been his family, who has encouraged him at every step.
That continued in his recent journey west, where he was joined by his mother, Tiffany Neeposh, who was on hand for his Team Canada debut.
“From the very beginning he was very competitive,” said Neeposh in a recent interview with Hockey Canada.
“We knew from there he was going to be different. He was so determined. He was always on the rink doing extra stuff like shooting pucks. He was always competing. Hockey is his passion.”
The importance of family is not lost on Mianscum.
“My mom has always been there, and she’s the one that everyone sees when people look for who supports me. But my dad has been really supportive too. Without their support, I don’t know where I’d be.”
With the U-17 tournament now complete, next summer’s Hockey Canada selection camp for the Under-18 tournament awaits. Mianscum, who turns 17 in April, remains focused on improving his play and helping bring a Memorial Cup championship to Sherbrooke.
“I am just enjoying the moment, taking it day by day right now. And we’ll see what the future holds.”
If 2019 has been any indication, it holds plenty of good things for Israel Mianscum.