Alton native Aiden Elliott is in his second year at the prestigious hockey academy in Massachusetts

ALTON – Aiden Elliott is a busy guy, but he’s not complaining. In fact, he thrives on it. Even when he’s on Thanksgiving break, he’s putting in work.

Elliott is a 17-year-old senior who once upon a time played hockey for the Alton Redbirds hockey club. But since then, he’s moved a bit east, where he’s in his second year at the North Shore Hockey Academy in Middleton, Massachusetts, some 30 miles north of Boston. It’s a hockey academy that Elliott hopes will help him achieve his goal of someday playing professional hockey.

But first things first.

“Right now, my major goal is to play Division I college hockey,” said Elliott, who is home in Alton for Thanksgiving break. “Obviously, the NHL would be nice someday.”

Elliott previously attended school at the Elite Hockey School in East Alton. Trainer Tyler Elbrecht created that school in 2020. It included working out, skating and classes were online but done at the facility instead of at home.

Aiden’s off school for a few days for Thanksgiving and his home with his parents Jodie and Josh Elliott and his younger sister, Harper. But even on break, Aiden stays in hockey mode, working out and skating every day.

The setup at the prestigious North Shore Hockey Academy is somewhat similar to Elite Hockey School, except that classes are taken online in a study hall at the ice rink and players live with host families.

“It’s a great area to be in,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of exposure there to colleges and to juniors.”

Elliott played with the Alton Redbirds team his freshman and sophomore years. It was a fun experience for him to play on the same team as many of his friends. He also played for the Twin Bridges hockey club and for the high-profile AAA Blues club team.

Splitting time between Alton and the Junior Blues benefited Elliott and the Redbirds. In fact, he played enough for Alton High that he earned Telegraph Player of the Year honors. He played 11 games in 2021 for the Redbirds during the MVCHA’s pandemic season tournament format. Even though he’s a defenseman, he still led the team in scoring with eight goals. As a freshman, Elliott scored 12 goals in 10 games with the Redbirds.

“It was fun,” Elliott said of his time with the Redbirds. “We didn’t win as much as we wanted to, but I really liked playing for my school.”

The North Shore Hockey Academy was launched in 2020. It features teams in the Under-18, Under-16 and Under-14 divisions. The school, hockey and training facilities are all housed there. The classwork is online.

NSHA is a hockey development program that, in alignment with USA Hockey’s Long Term Athlete Development model, strives for mental, cognitive, and emotional development, through physical fitness and psychosocial well being.

“I get a lot more exposure there,” Elliott said. “A friend of mind (from the AAA Blues) told the coach there about me and we started talking.

“There are a lot of really good hockey programs out there, Boston College Boston U., Harvard. There aren’t that many opportunities here.”

Elliott started skating when he was 2 years old and started playing hockey when he was 4. Darin Kimble a former Blues player, was his coach for the first four years he played with Twin Bridges Hockey Club in East Alton when he was a student at Alton Middle School.

Eventually, at Kimble’s insistence, Elliott started playing hockey in Chesterfield for the Central States Squirt Division, and in the Spring played for STL Elite which is a feeder team to the AAA Blues. He played a year on the Central States team, when he was invited by the coach of the AAA Blues to come to spring hockey.

And now, he’s a New Englander of sorts.

“My roommate has a car and we drive to the rink,” Elliott said. “We stay really busy with practice, games and school work.”

That doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but Elliott said that’s fine.

“I’m staying with a really great family,” he said. “Their son is a DI football player at Vanderbilt, so they have some extra room available.

“We have school on the rink on certain days and on other days, we can stay home for it,” he said. “There are players from all over the country. There aren’t really many differences in style no matter where you’re from.”

Elliott plays for the North Shore Under-18 National Team, which includes players from Texas, Arizona, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Montana and Vermont. The team’s schedule usually includes two games a week on Friday and Saturday.

The team also played in, and won, a tournament in Texas earlier this season. The competitive season began in late August. All national teams compete in the Beast League Full season and play an independent schedule against top teams in the area. Rosters are designed to maximize play time and development.

In addition, Aiden was drafted by the Utica Junior Comets of the National Collegiate Development Conference. That team owns its rights for that league. He is still eligible for the NAHL and USHL drafts. the NCDC is a 14-team tuition-free junior hockey league in the Northeastern United States.

While his situation has changed since his days as an AHS player, one thing that hasn’t is the position Elliott plays on the ice. He’s still a defenseman. So far in the competition, he has a goal and four assists.

Elliott also has his sights set on a stint in junior hockey following his tenure at North Shore.

Junior hockey involves players of high-school age moving to their team’s home city, living with a host family and attending high school classes in that community. Several Alton-area players have played junior hockey, the most notable being former Alton High standout Dakota Mermis.

Mermis, a player in the Minnesota Wild organization, followed a similar path to the one Elliott is on. Mermis, who now lives in Godfrey during the offseason, eventually made his way to college hockey and eventually the NHL.

Even though the hockey academy is some 1,200 miles from his hometown and family, Elliott said he’s only homesick when a trip home is coming up.

“Like for Thanksgiving,” he said. “When it was about a week or so away, I started thinking more about it and got kind of homesick. But usually, I’m too busy to think about it.”

Besides, his next trip home is already on the horizon.

“I’ll go back to school on Monday, then two or three weeks later, I’ll be home for Christmas.”

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