Most three year-old American kids are still trying to master the fine art of walking without tripping over their own shoelaces. At the age of 3, Thomas Wray of Orlando, Florida was learning to ice skate. The following year he scored his first goal as a hockey player in the Mini-mites house league at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland. The Orlando Hockey Examiner wondered if Thomas could still recall that first goal.
“No, I really don’t remember the actual goal. That was a long time ago and a lot has happened since then, but I do know I scored it right here on the Pro rink at the RDV when I was 4. That’s why I’m number 4.”
That was a long time ago. Thomas Wray is now 10 years-old and playing in Tier l AAA Division Hockey in the Florida Alliance. A long time ago might seem like an exaggeration of 6 years ago, but that is a long time in a 10 year-old’s life. When he says that a lot has happened since that first goal, that is no exaggeration.
Since the age of 4 Thomas has advanced from Mini-mites to Mites to Tier l AAA in the Central Florida Hockey League (CFHL), where his team, the Tampa Bay Junior Lightning won their AAA divisional championship in Chicago last year and came in second in the nation when they lost to a top-seeded Detroit club 5-4 in the final. Thomas was an integral part of that team. Not known for his size, he nonetheless packs a huge wallup on the competition with his skating and hockey skills. Junior hockey scouts have given him 5-star ratings for those skills, making him one of the highest rated hockey players from his division in the country.
Two of the biggest contributors to Thomas Wray’s hockey career have been his father Tom and RDV hockey coordinator A.G. Yarbrough. His dad gets the nod as the #1 motivator, and drives the young hockey prodigy to and from all of his games and practices. Some of those games and practices have spanned the entire eastern United States and parts of Canada as well. When Thomas was playing for the Junior Lightning his home games were played on the west coast of Florida at the Clearwater Ice Arena. Since his home is in Orlando he would spend each weekday practicing at the RDV and the weekends playing in the Tampa area.
A.G. has been an extension of Wray’s father’s guidance on the ice at the RDV. If Thomas’ dad could be out on the ice playing with him and teaching him the game, he would do what A.G. does, which is basically seeing to it that the kid gets plenty of quality ice time each day during the afternoon skate ‘n shoots at the Orlando area ice rink. It must be paying off. Thomas is capable of playing in any scrimmage or drop-in game that might present itself during the week, no matter how old the other players are or their skill levels. That is a strong statement and can only be appreciated by another hockey player who has participated in any drop-ins or scrimmages at the RDV. They are tough. Ten year-olds do not usually play hockey with the teenagers and adults. It is not an easy game to slow down and even if it were, have you ever seen teenagers slow down for a 10 year-old? ‘Nuff said.
Thomas’ other interests are the Martial Arts, military movies, and video games of course. His dad thinks he is obsessed with the game Call of Duty, Black Ops. His favorite subject in school is, you guessed it, P.E. but he says he is also good in math. Good for Thomas because it is great for someone his age to have big dreams but a sound education is still the best bet for a bright future.
With any luck at all, and a lot more hard work, Thomas Wray does have a bright future in hockey. The Tampa Bay Lightning already has him on their radar, and chose him to perform in one of their 2011 pre-game ceremonies versus the Phoenix Coyotes. Best of luck to you Thomas. Go get ’em!