It's all the little things he does on and off the ice that make him so valuable to the team.
“It starts with his preparations for games and practices. On the ice he just leads by example, he’s an unbelievable skater, he’s got great hockey IQ and great hockey instincts both offensively and defensively. He’s strong and he has all the tools within him to be a leader,” says Powassan Voodoos Head Coach Peter Goulet regarding team Captain Alex Little.
The 6’0” 185 lbs. defenseman out of Minden, Ontario is in his second year as the team's captain and is putting together another strong campaign in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, leading the team in points through November 20.
“We’ve put together a really good team this year. There’s been a few changes, but as you can see it’s all been to the betterment of the team,” says Little.
With 23 points and 16 assists (going into the Saturday, November 19th game against Blind River), Little has led by example both on and off the ice.
“It was a huge honour and a total surprise,” he says about being named Captain last year as an 18-year-old.
“We had one 20-year-old, two or three 19-year-olds and then we were next in line on what felt like a really young team. To be that young and feel like you have to lead the room can wear on you a little bit, but I had a great co-captain in Cameron Lemcke and some great assistants that could help me keep the room in check. That allowed me to keep playing my game and not force me to be someone I wasn’t.”
That was also the message from both of Powassan’s coaches, Marc Lafleur last year and Goulet this year.
“The message was just be who you are. If you aren’t the talker or the guy that yells at everyone to get them fired up, don’t be that guy. Just lead by playing. Both of them had the expectation for me to do a big job, but it doesn’t feel like a huge expectation when you’re in a room full of good guys and they all respect you and listen to you.”
Little has had to earn that respect with new bodies coming in and out of the Powassan organization. The team has already been busy on the trade front, acquiring several new players within the first few weeks of the season adding names like North Bay native Chase Thompson, and Mitch Wilkie who has become Little’s main partner on the blue line.
As Captain, Little says it is part of his role to make sure all the pieces can fit together, no matter who is in the locker room.
“It can be hard to see guys leaving, especially since we have become such a tight group this year. Everyone that comes in though has been welcomed and has become a great part of the team. Even at the Junior A level, hockey is still a business and so that means guys have to come in and out and you have to be able to adapt,” says Little.
Little’s journey to the Voodoos began back in the 2019-20 season as a 15-year-old, when he believed moving north would help further his hockey career.
“I decided to come up to the North Bay Trappers because I was exploring the NOJHL as a young player and thought that I could really find a spot with some junior teams if I was closer to those teams. It worked out that Powassan decided to affiliate me that year.”
Little was billeted by Battalion Assistant Coach Scott Wray and his family.
“Just an amazing household to get into. I have two older sisters, but I got to live life with two brothers for a little bit with Owen and Masen. Got to play with Owen and got to shoot pucks with Masen (who was drafted in the 2022 OHL Priority Selection to the Hamilton Bulldogs),” says Little.
“When I moved in Owen had just been drafted by the North Bay Battalion. I got to go to Memorial Gardens and use the facilities and got to watch the games, so that was pretty awesome to get to step into the life of an OHL player for a few days and lucky enough I was drafted shortly after that too.”
Little was taken in the third round, #41 overall in the 2020, OHL U18 Priority Selection by the North Bay Battalion. This was following a period where he played in four games with the Powassan Voodoos before the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the remainder of the year.
“I was actually looking forward to spending the playoffs with the team before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down. I was going to practices and looking to get a shot at getting into the lineup as a 16-year-old. Unfortunately, the season ended and there were a lot of good 20-year-old's there that didn’t get the chance to finish their career in a good way, especially with a team that could’ve made a serious push for it,” says Little.
In the year that followed, Little didn’t see a single game of action while the sports world was mostly shut down.
“All you could do is stay positive during that time. There was also a lot of free time and so it was up to yourself to find ways to push yourself to become a better player. You can shoot pucks at home, you can work out at home, there were things you could do to drive yourself so that when we did come back to it, you could start off on the right foot,” says Little.
And the solo efforts during isolation periods paid off for Little last year. As an 18-year-old he put up nine goals and 19 assists in a 46-game season. The point totals are great to have from a player on the blue line, and Little says some of that has to do with the fact that he has played all over the ice during his competitive hockey career, including as a goaltender.
“I just played wherever they wanted to put me. On the offensive side you love to score, it’s just the best part of the game. Defensively before this year I would consider myself a shutdown guy, but the game is changing and you have to roll with what works and be able to adapt and play at both ends of the ice,” he says.
It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Little would be back with the Voodoos for the 2022-23 campaign.
“Sometimes you think you might just want a change,” says Little who was considering his options and contemplating furthering his career south of the border.
“I was going around to different camps to see what hockey was like in different places, learning some different play styles.”
Goulet, who took over as Head Coach at the end of July, says he checked in with Little periodically throughout the summer.
“You want players who want to come play here, you don’t want to have to beg guys to want to be here. I didn’t know a lot about Little before I got here, but Marc raved about him and after our first camp we knew he would be an unbelievable player for us and we wanted him back no question. But he had to make that decision. He got to explore what was out there and at the end of the day he didn’t like what he was seeing,” says Goulet.
"Sometimes you just realize that the grass isn’t always greener,” says Little. “Peter and Josh Dale are great coaches and we’ve got a great owner in Jim Bruce and a great General Manager in Chris Dawson so you really can’t go wrong in coming back to play for a great organization like the Powassan Voodoos and I’m happy I decided to come back.”
Goulet says, “I think Little coming back really speaks highly of the organization overall. It’s a huge bonus for our hockey team and our community to have him involved with the Voodoos.”
Little says, “I know it’s early but we have a really good team and I feel like we can make that push for a championship. It’s definitely something we are thinking about.”