Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
You know you’re truly friends through hockey when you date the time you first met through divisions instead of years.
Brockville Braves Eric Holland and Jonathan Hill have been friends for a long time. Neither are exactly sure how long ago it was when they initially met, but both are sure that first encounter came in their early days on the ice.
“I couldn’t give you a timeline, I wish I could,” said Hill when asked how long he’s known Holland for. “Way back in our first minor hockey days. I think minor atom was our very first year.”
“As long as I can remember,” said Holland when answering the same question in a separate interview. “I think we started playing together in minor atom. It’s been so long and he’s been such a good friend to me.”
They grew up playing on the same hockey team in Whitby, Ont. for about six years and even played summer hockey together. They were always friends, but different high schools and teams separated them a bit.
Now that they’re back together in one arena at the Memorial Centre their friendship, “definitely took off,” said Holland.
The two of them are closer than ever now, going from friends to billet brothers with both of them billeted by Jaime McDougall, who also acts as the Braves director of operations.
“I guess he’s grown on me a lot more now. I guess you could call him my brother, right?,” said Hill, playing in his second year with the team. “I spend everyday with him.”
Hill described Holland as calm, easy-going, a bit of a jokester, and a steadying positive presence in the locker room.
“He’s probably one of the easiest guys to get a long with ever. Nothing is ever really negative with him,” Hill added.
Holland described Hill as an early riser – early being 9 a.m – who motivates him to get up before his typical noon wake-up call and as someone committed to always getting better on the ice.
“He always likes to go to the school skates as well and even if I’m a little tired or slept in a little bit he’ll motivate me to get my ass going and come to the skates, come to practice and work hard,” Holland said.
It’s fitting the pair included onice attributes when describing the other considering it’s hockey that connected them in the first place.
In the end, Hill said, the pair balance each other out and, “we don’t really get into too much mischief.” That would be a question for McDougall, though.
Like any good friend, they poke and prod to get the best out of the other.
Coming to Brockville wasn’t in Holland’s original plan. He figured he would go to Queen’s University and play for the Kingston Voyageurs in the 2017-18 season in a league he was more familiar with having played the two seasons prior in the OJHL.
Hill acted as a middleman to get his friend from Whitby to Brockville. He mentioned to Holland the idea of coming to the Braves and relayed his thoughts to coach Jesse Winchester and general manager Dustin Traylen.
“I didn’t know much about the CCHL, but I was talking to Johnny basically everyday and we hung out a few times in the summer and I would say he definitely influenced me,” said Holland. “I couldn’t be happier being here thanks to him.”
In the end, everything worked out.
By the time the off-season came around, Holland was in a Braves jersey and, along with Hill, earned the status of alternate captain right out of camp. Hill is leading all CCHL defencemen with 44 points, while Holland is second on the Braves in scoring with 42 points.
Last week both announced their commitments to college with Hill moving on to Niagara University next year, while Holland will be going to Utica College. Both will be suiting up for their respective college hockey programs.
The decision to choose a college was hockey related, so, of course, the pair kept each other in the loop regarding their thoughts about the future.
They’ve come a long way since their minor atom days.
Original Story at Recorder.ca