The phone call came four sleeps before Christmas. By the time he hung up, Thane Anderson already knew what he was going to do.
He was going to join the Cariboo Cougars, who were just days away from playing their opening game at the world-famous Mac's AAA Midget Hockey Tournament.
For Anderson, moving up from the Tier 1 Coast Inn of the North Cougars to the major-midget Cariboo club was, in his words, "a no-brainer." At the same time, walking away from his Coast Inn teammates was tough.
"I really liked my old team and I didn't really want to leave them," said the 16-year-old forward.
Anderson, however, brought to mind a conversation he had with Coast Inn head coach Jason Garneau at the beginning of the year and knew he had to take advantage of his new opportunity.
"He told me at the start of the season that his goal was to get us all to the next level," Anderson said. "He was happy for me and was able to check one player off his list."
Anderson had already skated for the Cariboo Cats in league games against the Vancouver Northwest Giants on the Dec. 15-16 weekend but that was as an affiliated player. Now he was going to be a carded member of the team, a replacement for Michael Bell, who decided he'd rather pursue a job in junior B hockey.
At the Mac's, held in Calgary, Anderson was a little awed by what he saw.
"That was definitely an eye-opener, to see some of the skilled guys that are playing elsewhere in the country, to play against them -- maybe guys that you're going to be fighting with for spots on different teams in the future," he said. "It really gives you an idea of what you have to work on and how much better you're going to have to be."
Anderson helped the Cougars to their best-ever showing at the international event. They finished with a 3-1-1 record, their only loss a 3-2 overtime setback to a Czech Republic team in the playoff quarterfinals.
Last weekend, Anderson and the Cougars resumed play in the B.C. Hockey Major Midget League with a pair of home games against the Valley West Hawks. The teams split a doubleheader, the Cats winning the opener 3-1 and the Hawks rebounding for a 4-2 victory the next day.
The current assignment for the Cougars is a two-game set against the North Island Silvertips, who are in town today and Sunday. The teams will face off at 1 p.m. today and 10:15 a.m. Sunday, both games at CN Centre. The third-place Cats take a 19-7-0 record into the weekend, while the eighth-place Silvertips sit at 6-14-4.
Anderson, a five-foot-nine, 160-pound right winger, has been skating on a line with Kirk Hards and Brad Morrison and has been showing head coach Trevor Sprague some good things.
"With his speed, and having him play with Hards and Morrison, he's able to make sure they get pucks," Sprague said. "He makes them better and obviously those two guys make him better in our end.
"It's just the physical part of the game he needs to work on," Sprague added. "He needs to be confident in every single area of the rink and play with some grit and authority and he'll be fine. He's a good guy to have in the mix for the next couple years. He's a guy that's going to develop and grow quite nicely with our organization."
Anderson is still looking for his first goal at the major-midget level. He'd love to snipe one against the Silvertips.
"I'd like to get the first goal out of the way, obviously," he said with a grin. "Once I get that, I'd like to get some more points and get some experience. Hopefully the playoffs go well for us and we can make it to the Telus Cup [national championship tournament]. That's our biggest goal right now."