From U7 hockey to the Truro Bearcats to Team Canada East, Simon Mullen is representing his hometown at the 2023 World Junior A Hockey Challenge
“When I was in my second year of [U13], I volunteered with my brother Owen and his [U15] team as part of the ice crew for the tournament in 2017,” Mullen recalls. “It was a huge experience for me, especially at that young age. I would look up and see these junior guys and think they’re so much older and see how good they are, and now here I am in that position.”
Mullen is the lone local product to crack the Team Canada East lineup for the 2023 edition of the tournament, and just the second Bearcat ever – joining Stephen Horyl, who had a goal and four points in four games to help East to silver in 2008.
But unlike Horyl, who came to the Maritime Hockey League (MHL) team by way of River Ryan, Nova Scotia, Mullen is Truro through and through – a born and raised product of the community, on and off the ice.
From learning to skate at the local Deuville’s Rink to his first years of U7 hockey with the Truro and Area Minor Hockey Association, the 18-year-old has spent all but one year of his career at home – he played the 2020-21 season with the Pictou County Majors of the Nova Scotia U18 Major Hockey League.
“Truro is a special place,” the defenceman says. “I’ve played every single year of hockey here except one, so to have a chance to play at an international level, this is special.”
Never one known for his offensive contributions from the blue line, Mullen has instead focused on work ethic and playing the right way in his own zone. But the offence has started to come this season – his 20 points (1-19—20) in 23 games are as many as he had in 82 games combined in his first two seasons with the Bearcats.
He also played his 100th MHL game a few weeks ago, becoming the youngest defenceman in Bearcats history to reach the century mark.
His improvement is most evident to the ones who have seen his career evolve.
“He has a quiet confidence in him that allows him to be proud of what he’s accomplishing,” says Ainsley Mullen, Simon’s mother. “The fact that he’s chosen to stay home is an added feather in the cap and shows that he’s proud to be from here and represent the Bearcats. This full-circle opportunity to represent Team Canada in Truro is a pat on his back for that commitment to play at such a high level while staying in Truro.”
Despite getting that taste of international hockey six years ago, when he had a front-row seat to Team Canada West claiming its most recent World Junior A Challenge gold medal at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre, Mullen wasn’t sure where hockey would take him.
It wasn’t until his rookie season with the Bearcats in 2021-22 that everything truly began to fall into place.
“In my 16-year-old year, I didn’t have many goals or expectations, but I ended up playing a lot of games around really good coaches and leaders and they led the way for me,” Mullen recalls of helping Truro reach the MHL final. “Now as I’m older, I want to bring those habits and work ethic into my game now and work with the younger guys and in the community.”
Talking to Mullen, there’s that one word that keeps coming up – community. He knows he wouldn’t be where he is without the people around him, and he has never hesitated to give back to a town that has long been behind him.
He volunteers his time alongside his Bearcats teammates with local minor hockey programs during the season, and pays it forward in the summer when he’s not working at the local golf course.
But there’s no better way to say thank you to Truro than by giving his all during the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, and hopefully adding a gold medal – which would be the first ever for Team Canada East.
“There’s no words to explain the moment I step on the ice with Canada here,” Mullen says. “Seeing all the kids with the signs and looking down at the logo on the jersey, it’s just something you dream of. I’m going to do my best out there and hopefully open some eyes.”