Michael Bullion is a long way from home – but it doesn’t always feel that way.
The 22-year-old goalie for Ontario Tech University’s Ridgeback hockey team was born and raised in the state of Alaska. At the age of ten, he and his dad moved to Oakville, Ont. to pursue Bullion’s goal of becoming a pro hockey player, but said his dad moved back to Alaska when he was 17.
Bullion manages to go home and visit his parents on Christmas and for a few weeks in the summer. He said he misses it a lot of the time.
“People are a little nicer I think, than in the big city,” he said with a smile. “You have a bit of a closer-knit community there, for sure. It’s definitely a different world than in Canada.”
Bullion’s passion for hockey began at the age of three.
His journey to playing hockey began with figure skating in Alaska. He said both of his parents were big fans and decided to sign him up.
On his first day of figure skating, things didn’t go too well.
“I obviously couldn’t skate particularly well. So, I went stampeding towards the line where all the little girls were,” he laughed. “I didn’t know how to stop and I just went barrelling through and knocked every single one of them down. The figure skating coach kicked me off right away.”
From there, his dad decided to go for the next best thing and put him in hockey, where he quickly established his forte.
“When I was four or five, I had a look at the goalie gear and I was like, ‘That stuff’s cool, I want goalie gear every year’,” he said. “I switched to being a goalie after that.”
Bullion said he’s played for various Canadian teams. When he was 17, he joined the Western Hockey League (WHL).
He said he was originally trying to go pro.
Bullion also said he considered playing at both Ryerson University and Waterloo University. Both were really interested in recruiting him, but the deals fell through.
In 2018, Bullion signed with the Ridgebacks. He said the recruitment process with Ridgebacks coach, Curtis Hodgins, really appealed to him.
“Curtis brought me out and showed me everything. He said…you’re going to have a chance to really make your mark upon it,” he said. “Leaving your mark and building something with your own hands is something that really appealed to me.”
He said he felt included right away. A few of his team members reached out and helped him through the transition.
“[They] made me feel like part of the team right away, which is something that, especially in the WHL, doesn’t happen a lot.”
Bullion has played more than 20 games with the Ridgebacks. He said he has quite a few pre-game rituals that get him through each match.
“I’m a big sewer ball guy…It’s hacky sack with a volleyball or a soccer ball. It’s just one of those things where I’ll play that for two or three hours before the game,” he explained. “Another thing I do is…eat a giant plate of pasta. Which is weird, because lots of people to eat three meals and get in a lot of energy.”
Bullion is taking political science at Ontario Tech University. He said it’s something he’s always been passionate about, and would like to one day move back to Alaska to pursue politics after completing his career in hockey.
He said he’s been able to manage both school work and hockey. However, he also said it’s easy to fall victim to the pressure of his position, but it’s important to understand that, in the end, it’s just a game.
“You just have to take it as a game, treat it as a game, relax about it. Because if you’re super wound up about, that’s typically when things don’t go well,” he said.
“When you’re relaxed and enjoying your time, that’s when things go a little bit better for you.”