Colorado Rubber

Colorado’s and Utah’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Quebec-born Rioux developing game with Thunderbirds, getting junior time with NAHL’s Grit

 

Playing this season with the Colorado Thunderbirds’ 16U AAA team, Sheldon Rioux impressed enough to earn a call-up earlier in the season from the NAHL’s Colorado Grit.

He impressed there, too, and recently signed a tender with the Grit for the 2024-25 season.

“It goes back to last spring when we heard of the Colorado Grit ID Camp,” said Rioux, originally from Val-d’Or, QC, and now living in Aurora. “I thought it would be great local experience and competition. It’s not everyday that you can have that level of hockey without having to pay for travel. We originally thought it would only be a weekend thing.

“After a good ID camp, I was invited to the main camp where I preformed really well. I had the opportunity to continue with the Grit at the beginning of the season but because of school, I decided to stick with the Thunderbirds for a second year to build my confidence and gain more trust. The Grit were very supportive of my decision and said they would offer me games along the year, which they did in November and December where I had the opportunity to play my first six junior games. They are a great organization and when they offered me to tender for them at the end of January, I did not hesitate one second.”

Rioux knows that a tender isn’t a guarantee, and plans to be ready for whatever next season brings him.

“I will be honest that my goal is to get drafted and play in the USHL next year but if it doesn’t happen, playing for the Grit in Greeley would be awesome,” Rioux said. “Having said that, there is no guarantee as the Grit will continue to get better and competition will be tough to make the team, and I don’t want to take anything for granted, but If I have the opportunity to play for the Grit, it will be an honor. I already had the chance to play in front of the crowd in Greeley and this is something I am really looking forward to experience again.”

Growing up, Rioux’s hockey experience has been spread across two countries.

“We just moved to Colorado in July 2022 and I have been playing for the Colorado Thunderbirds since,” said Rioux. “I started skating where I was born in Val-d’Or, and played most of my youth hockey as part of the Nashville Jr. Predators. Jordan French back in Nashville is the coach that had the most impact on my development so far as I spent the most time with him, give or take, eight years, and I still skate with him every summer. Harlan Pratt, who is now the hockey director in Aspen, also had a great impact on my development for a good five-year period while he was in Nashville. Since I moved to Colorado, the staff of the Colorado Thunderbirds and of the Drill House hockey center have also been great to me. On a personal note, David Clarkson has been an amazing advisor to me and my family since we moved here.

“I had the opportunity to go to nationals with Nashville in 2022 and it would be great if our Thunderbirds could this year as this been the highlight of my youth hockey experience so far. The thing I love the most about Colorado hockey is having the opportunity to play strong, local competition. Coming from Nashville, there was no other AAA hockey organization within a five-hour drive, so having the opportunity to play three other teams locally is great. In terms of my hockey memory here in Colorado, I would say it has to be my first local game for the Grit in Greeley last December where I had the opportunity to record my first two points in front of my family, friends, and teammates.”

Looking back, Rioux said hockey has been all he’s known.

“I was not even two years old as I stepped on the ice for the first time and I felt right at home,” Rioux said. “I wanted to walk in the house all the time with my skates. Both of my parents’ families are huge hockey fans and I guess playing hockey is just part of being a Rioux. I had the opportunity to have my dad coaching me until Bantam, so this also definitely had an impact on my motivation as I was pushed hard to be better every single day.”

Moving forward, Rioux’s goals are simple, yet lofty.

“One of my short-term goals with hockey as of right now is to have a successful junior year next year,” said Rioux. “I would love to be able to perform well and be a game changer on the team. As for the long term, the obvious answer is the NHL. However, getting a good education and playing NCAA Division I hockey would be a dream.”

Photo/Andrea Miller

— Matt Mackinder

(February 14, 2024)

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