Glasgow High Graduate Harley Eliason Sets Sights On Pro Hockey
It's hockey season in Glasgow and the high school boys team is putting their gear on for another practice.
A quick glance up as the team heads out to the ice and you spot him instantly. Even without the goalie gear on, Harley Eliason is a hulking presence.
When you cross paths with him off the ice, even if he's just meeting you for the first time, you encounter a young man with a calm, collected demeanor.
Cross that same path on the ice, again if he's meeting you for the first time, you're now crossing paths with a fierce competitor. A competitor that leaves opposing coaches in awe of his size and ability. A competitor that will be leaving the friendly confines of the Valley Event Center to Laconia, N.H., to play Tier III hockey.
Eliason was just 4 years old when he started playing hockey, an experience he doesn't remember much of.
"I guess I was more interested in making snow angels on the ice instead of playing the game," Eliason said.
The first couple years of organized hockey was just that to Harley, organized. Harley's dad, Mike Eliason, remembers the times when Harley would just skate around do his own thing.
"During games someone would shove him out on the ice and he'd skate around in a circle and wave at his mom," Mike said with a laugh. "Then the referee would bring him back and he'd go back on the bench. It was good times and almost embarrassing,"
As the seasons wore on and Harley continued to play hockey, he developed a fascination with goalkeeping, but not for the reasons one would expect.
"It started out as just something I did for fun," Harley said. "It's fun getting stuff shot at me and the gear is cool. After a while, I started getting more and more serious about it."
Harley stuck with hockey because it was a fast paced sport with a lot of contact, something few other sports could provide. As Harley became more serious about being a goalie, Mike became more serious about coaching.
"It's pretty awesome," Mike said as he reflected back on coaching Harley since the age of 6. "At first it's all hot chocolate and skittles and then he starts getting a little more serious. There was never a point where he no longer cared about playing hockey. There was always a goal there and he worked to do that."
That goal was to get more exposure and play competition at a higher level. Both of which being almost impossible to do on a consistent basis in Glasgow.
Harley would continue to hone his craft as a goalie and in doing so, coaches would remember the kid from Glasgow who would stop almost any puck at will.
Shortly after, Harley began playing on all-star teams. He would make these teams by performing well in state tournaments each year.
Harley said that the greatest experience he had with playing top competition for his age came this past winter when he made the Bozeman Tier II All-Star team, a team that would make it to the national tournament in New Jersey.
"That was the best team I could've been put on," Harley said. "It was a great experience and a level up from high school. It gave me a taste of better competition."
Mike pointed out that each of the opportunities his son had to play on all-star teams came from coaches noticing his play on the ice.
"Every time he gets that opportunity to play [on an all-star team] it's because someone saw him have an outstanding game," Mike said. "They're not all outstanding, but the reality is that Harley is a competitor and these coaches see that."
Even a goalie as talented as Harley is due for a bad game here and there and when those come, there's only one way Harley knows how to handle it.
"I just forget about it," Harley said like a seasoned NHL veteran would. "It's all you can do."
As Harley became a sophomore year in high school, he began working even harder at being the best goalie he could be.
He started going to the gym and worked on cardio and agility, anything that would make him more explosive and get to the spots he needed to be to block a shot.
Harley said that the time he got to spend with his dad coaching his team has been irreplaceable.
"As I got older, I started to notice it get more serious and him doing more work to be a better coach and these last couple of years have been awesome."
Fresh out of high school, Eliason will report to training camp later this year around the beginning of September. Until then, Harley will get ready for training camp by continuing to work out, something his dad believes might need some tweaking.
"Instead of going for the beach look, the coach might want him to work more agility and conditioning," Mike said almost teasingly.
Harley turned his head toward his father and assured him the beach look will still be around.
"The workout will double," Harley said reassuringly.
Harley hopes this journey to New Hampshire will lead him to better competition in higher levels of junior hockey or land him a Division I or III playing opportunity.
"That's what I'm looking for now, a college offer," Harley said. "Anything other than that would be awesome, but really right now all I'm looking for is college to be my next move."
Harley said that the college currently sitting atop his list is North Dakota.
"I kind of want to go to there because of their history and their rink is awesome," Harley said with a laugh.
Mike and Michelle are amazed at how far their kid has come. From his days in the family living room sporting his goalie gear and cowboy hat, to a Scottie graduate and professional hockey player, the experience has been something neither would trade.
Mike has had conversations with Harley as junior level hockey became more of a reality he made sure to leave him with some sound advice.
"I've told him it's about the journey, it's not about the success or failure," Mike said. "It's about giving your best shot and seeing where it takes you."
As any typical mother would say, Michelle said it will be tough to see Harley depart for New Hampshire later in the year, but that she's excited to see a new experience on the horizon for Harley.
"I'm really proud of him from everything he's accomplished," Michelle said. "Having the opportunity to go to New Hampshire is exciting."
As the Eliason family sat around the table and reflected on the journey the three of them took together through Harley's hockey career in, Mike pointed out that this kind of story is still new to a community like Glasgow.
"Every 8-year-old playing hockey thinks they're going to lift the Stanley Cup," Mike said. "That's an awesome goal and with Harley growing up in Montana, to get him out there for this opportunity is pretty incredible."