Dylan Sikura with the Chicago Blackhawks in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Photos credit: Dr. Jonathan Eto.
TORONTO — In front of 40-or-so friends and family at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Dylan Sikura stepped on the ice for warm-up, donning a Chicago Blackhawks uniform for his first NHL game in his hometown.
As 19,000 fans filled the seats for an Original Six matchup, the energy radiated throughout the rink and for the up-and-coming Japanese Canadian hockey player.
From puck drop, it was less than four minutes into the period, with Sikura driving to the net, defenceman Duncan Keith took a point shot and opened the scoring, giving the Blackhawks an early lead. Two goals later, with just over a minute left in the opening frame, Sikura with incredible hand-eye coordination knocked down a weak clearing attempt by Leafs’ defenseman Zaitsev and spotted linemate Brandon Saad in the slot, sliding it past the Leafs netminder and giving the Blackhawks a commendable 4-0 lead.
The second period started with the Leafs making a goalie change, but it didn’t help their luck as the Blackhawks went up to a 5-0 lead. But the Leafs clawed back the rest of the game. In the fleeting seconds of the game, a flurry of shots from the Leafs had fans on the edge of their seats, but the visiting Blackhawks earned the 5-4 victory.
Sikura’s first homecoming game was a success, scoring an assist (his seventh of the season) and a +2 rating. Sikura still hasn’t scored his first NHL goal but had several great opportunities. He played well at both ends of the ice, making a great steal at the blue-line to create a scoring opportunity, creating nice passes and using his quickness to get to the net.
“It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing, for sure.” Sikura told the Nikkei Voice. “That’s something you can’t really describe until you feel it. I was coming to these [Leafs] games three years ago, not even, even less, two years ago. So, it’s a life changing experience and I know my family will be proud.”
Sikura was born and raised just north of Toronto, in Aurora and is of Japanese and Slovakian descent. The youngest child of Lorie (Edamura) and Glenn Sikura, their family has an interesting history. Sikura’s paternal grandfather John Sikura Jr. immigrated from Czechoslovakia as a teenager and founded the well known Hill ‘N’ Dale Thoroughbred Horses Farm in 1960. His maternal grandfather Henry “Hank” Edamura is a highly decorated professional engineer that played an integral part in the development and planning of the Toronto Pearson International Airport, and was a former president of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.
While Dylan’s eldest sibling, Karlie is a chiropractor, older brother Tyler also plays professional hockey for the Blackhawks organization, currently with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. United, the Sikura brothers attended the Blackhawks training camp to start the 2018-19 season and played together in an NHL pre-season game in Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre against the Senators in September. It was the first time they’d play together since their high school days at St. Andrew’s College when Dylan was in grade 9 and Tyler was in grade 12.
“It was unbelievable, the chances of seeing it happening is almost nil,” said grandfather Hank Edamura of the experience. “They play well together, they’re quite good and of course both Tyler and Dylan played together in the AHL, Rockford for a while as well.”
During Sikura’s transition into a professional hockey player, they both spent the majority of the season playing for the Rockford IceHogs .
“He’s a good mentor to me, and he’s someone I look up to and he’s taught me a lot this year,” said Sikura of his brother, Tyler.
Let’s hope they have continued success and have the opportunity to play full time together in the NHL sometime soon.