|Austin Puim (right) plans on becoming a fire fighter|
The 19-year-old is in his first year in Humber College’s pre-service firefighter education and training program, hoping to work in a field that’s similar to playing on a team.
“I know it’s cliche, but I love helping people,” said Puim, who grew up in Cambridge, Ont., before enrolling at Humber. “Firefighting is a rare chance to work in a team-atmosphere and help out in the community.”
Puim was captain for his high school team’s Monsignor Doyle Mustangs, where his work ethic on and off the ice was an example of leadership and maturation.
“When Austin Puim played for me, I named him captain after knowing him for a few weeks,” said Dan Fisher, Puim’s coach at Monsignor. “The decision proved to be a wise one. He was as hard-working a kid as I’ve ever coached and never let his teammates down in his role as a leader.”
“He’s been an adult his whole life,” said Ryan Fowler, Puim’s teammate throughout their childhoods. “It’s impossible to tell a teenager to work out every day and maintain good grades, but he found a way. His maturity is off the charts.”
Puim says these traits were honed by his two biggest influences: “My parents.”
“I wasn’t the best student,” said Puim, “but I got assignments done. My dad was a mechanic and used to get on my ass when it came to doing homework. Mom would have a meal waiting for me when I got back from class or the rink.”
“The best teammate I ever had,” said Mitch Camacho, Puim’s teammate at Monsignor. “A rare example of someone who knew what leadership meant. No one on the ice was tougher, both mentally and physically."
Apart from the school team, Puim developed in the Cambridge Hawks MD system, a shutdown defenceman whose abilities in his own end made up for his lack of offensive production.
“Austin was a responsible leader who could always be counted on by his coaches and teammates in stressful situations,” said Dane O’Neil, Puim’s coach in Cambridge. “He has a very high compete level and can adapt himself to intense situations.”
Once he became junior eligible in 2013-14, Puim signed with the Delhi Travellers of the Ontario Jr. C Hockey League. He played nine games, recording one assist before injuring himself and being forced to miss the rest of the season.
“It was frustrating,” Puim said, “you spend the whole summer training, then in less than a month it’s gone. What are you left to do?”
Puim took the year off after high school to focus on hockey, but suddenly found himself planning his post-secondary education. One option was going to university and playing
varsity hockey, but Puim said nagging injuries and a desire to work in firefighting made him choose Humber.
“I miss hockey, but being able to live in Toronto while studying for the career I want is an opportunity I couldn’t pass. I know I made the right choice.”
Note: this feature was written as part of an assignment for my beat reporting class in college. Thanks goes to Austin Puim and all others who helped in the making of this piece.