To paraphrase the late, great Hank Snow: Sean Day’s been everywhere, man.
Born in Leuven, Belgium, and now residing in Mississauga, Ont., the 17-year-old defenceman has travelled to two dozen countries, soaking up the culture
that each has to offer while getting a taste of the gypsy life that comes with being a high-performance – and future professional – hockey player.
When Day was only a year old his family moved to Singapore. Here, of all places, is where he first skated. Or, so he’s been told. Then only a toddler, Day
has no recollection of taking a spin around the rink in a Singapore shopping mall.
“The first time I did skate was in Singapore,” he says, “which is weird because it’s such a hot place. But the first time I remember skating is when I
moved to Michigan and started doing this thing called the Future Wings program with my brothers.”
Despite an inauspicious start in the sport – “I hated it [the first time],” he says. “The skates didn’t fit.” – Day eventually embraced it. Having two
older brothers “kind of dragging me along” to their games as well as an instructor who, recognizing Day’s natural skating ability, encouraging him to take
up hockey played a big part.
Day played his minor hockey in Detroit, but the sport took him both back to Europe as well as north to Canada, his parents’ birth country. He was named Top
Defenceman at the Tournoi international de hockey pee-wee de Québec in 2011. As a member of various select teams he travelled to Russia, Germany and the
Czech Republic to play.
In addition to hockey-related trips Day also travelled with his family, his dad’s job allowing them to see different parts of the world. He estimates he’s
now been to 24 countries, including the Netherlands, France, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. Pull back the curtain on any minor hockey
tournament and you’ll likely see players engaged in a game of mini-sticks anytime they’re not on the ice. The Days put their own twist on that.
“At some of the places [we visited] we rented out big conference rooms and played ball hockey in there, so it was pretty sick,” says Day, smiling at the
Having been on the move literally all his life – both for play and for pleasure – Day is well-versed in the art of travelling, a major component of a
hockey player’s life.
“Every other day you’re basically flying to a new place to play games,” he says. “I’ve travelled so much that I think I’m kind of used to it. Even car
rides or bus rides help with that, where you’re used to that jet-lagged feeling.”
Not that Day is complaining. Even when a memory from a trip isn’t what most people would consider warm, he still can’t help but smile with recollection.
(“I remember going to the Great Wall of China [when I was three or four] and the stairs were literally straight up,” he says. “My dad carried me on his
back all the way up and I thought I was going to fall off. I think I cried the whole way up.”)
It wasn’t until 2013 that Day had a physical home in Canada. Now in his third season with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League, Day
lives with billets in the city just west of Toronto. And despite having spent his minor playing days in Hockeytown, he’s happy to finally have a home rink
in the home country of hockey.
“Going to London and Sault Ste. Marie and all those other places all over Ontario to play, they pack the rink every night, so it’s a lot different than the
minor hockey I grew up in,” he says.
Day lists Germany as the favourite place he’s visited, but it’s safe to say he wouldn’t be too upset if the next two stamps in his passport are from the
Czech Republic and Slovakia, sites of the 2015 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
Day has played for Hockey Canada on two prior occasions: at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Cape Breton, N.S., he finished fifth with Ontario;
and at the (Nov.) 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sarnia-Lambton, Ont., he finished fifth again, with Canada Red.
A successful audition at Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team selection camp would put him on a plane immediately bound for Europe and give
him the chance to represent a united Team Canada for the first time.
“It would be a great honour, because last year there were three Team Canada’s,” he says. “This year it’s one team, it’s the best of the best, so to make
that and kind of prove yourself and get to wear the jersey is huge.”