A hockey team is often referred to as a family. That certainly holds true on college campuses like Robert Morris, where the small campus and shared facility contributes to a tight-knit hockey community among the men’s and women’s teams. In 2019, three members of a traditional family, the Hebert family of St. Andrew’s West, Ontario, will be members of that community.
The first member of the Hebert family joining the Colonials will be Grant, the oldest of the siblings. He will be joining the men’s team for the 2018-19 season. The following season, his younger brother Cameron will join him, while their younger sister Ally will be joining the women’s team.
It will mark just the second time that a brother and sister will play for both of the Colonials’ hockey teams. Jacki Gibson played for the women from 2006-2010, and her brother Greg spent 2012-2016 playing for the men. The Heberts will be unique, however, since the family will have players on both teams at the same time. It is an exciting opportunity for the siblings, and it was definitely clear in talking with the three of them that they are all looking forward to joining the Colonials’ family.
Their story begins in St. Andrews West, Ontario, a small town located in the northeast of the province, outside of Ottawa. As one might expect, they grew up and are still passionate Senators fans. Grant and Cameron enjoyed watching players like Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Danny Heatley and Mike Fisher growing up, while Ally, a defender, names her favorite player as Erik Karlsson.
Grant started playing hockey around age four or five, while Cameron began around the same time, when he was three or four. Ally also began playing at age four, two years after her brothers started. Not long after starting, the boys had an exciting experience with their favorite team, an early memory that stands out to Cameron.
“My dad was coaching my brother’s team, and they won some sort of contest to do a scrimmage before the Sens game,” he explained. “I wasn’t old enough to be on my brother’s team, I got to go on the ice with them. I didn’t play that much it was just kind of to be there. We got to meet Mike Fisher and go in the dressing room and stuff after the game, that was pretty neat.”
In their hometown, the Heberts grew up in a neighborhood full of kids around the same age. The town also had a local outdoor rink, which they frequented often when the weather allowed. When it wasn’t cold enough for hockey, the neighborhood kids would play street hockey, baseball and numerous other sports.
For three siblings close in age, that meant that they could all spend time playing together, which undoubtedly contributed to their closeness as they grew up. However, it also made certain characteristics evident within them. While Cameron has more of a laid-back personality, Grant and Ally have significant competitive tendencies.
“Everyone says that Grant and I are alike in the fact that we are both extremely competitive,” Ally said. “It’s always a competition to see who’s in first with us, whereas Cam is more laid back I would say than Grant and I are when it comes to that stuff.”
Cameron, the middle-man in the group, certainly agreed with his sister’s assessment of their older brother.
“Grant was always a lot more competitive between us,” he shared. “So he would always be the one that if he’s not winning, he was going to try cheating to win. So that would get me mad, so I would go extra hard because I didn’t want him to cheat and win.”
These competitive tendencies helped them feed off each other as they looked to advance their individual hockey careers. They also had the benefit of a strong upbringing, with both parents contributing to their growth as players both on and off the ice. All three state their parents as their greatest influences on their careers to this point, for a variety of reasons.
“My dad has been my biggest influence, he coached me all the way until probably bantam,” Grant reflected. “He always pushed me to be better.”
Cameron echoed that, while also explaining some of the ways that each parent contributed in different ways.
“My mom’s kind of been the off-ice one that always pushes me, and she’s really strict with the meals, protein shakes, all that stuff, she’s really hard on all that,” he explained. “My dad was always the one on the ice, power skating, always doing stuff like that.”
Their parents set a strong foundation for the three as hockey players. However, as they advanced through different stages of their careers, they were also able to find inspiration from each other. For Cameron, he was even able to spend a season playing on the same team as Grant in the CCHL.
As Grant became more successful, Cameron was able to witness it and learn from him first hand. This pushed him to improve his game. Ally was able to look up to both of her brothers as they found success in the junior ranks.
“I always had something to look up to, especially when Grant started going really far and he was kind of talking about the scholarship route and stuff,” Ally shared. “It kind of always pushed me to be as good as they are. Growing up they were always the top ones on their teams, so to me it was kind of something to look up to and try to be like them.”
Grant’s success has been very noteworthy of late, and was especially evident last season. He spent it with the Cumberland Grads, which wound up being his last in the CCHL. He scored 27 goals and added 64 assists for 91 points in 60 games. His point total led the league and he was named the MVP.
“My line was really good last year, I had good chemistry with my linemates there,” Grant said. “The coach, Sylvain Favreau also helped there, he pushed me to be better every day there. I had him for two years as a coach and he really helped.”
Grant is now playing in the USHL for the Fargo Force. While the transition between the leagues can be tough, he has adjusted well. He has 34 points in 41 games, which leads the team. Once again, his teammates and coach have helped with that.
“I have a really good team here and a good coach in Cary Eades, he’s been really helping me out with the transition from the CC to the USHL,” he shared.
During Grant’s last year in the CCHL, he and Cameron played on a competitive team together for the first time. That of course would end up being a preview of what the two will experience in college. The first instance was one that both enjoyed. They also got the chance to play together for part of the season, and definitely noticed some chemistry.
“It was really cool,” Cameron remarked. “At the beginning of the season he was on the top line but it was my first year, I was a rookie, so I started on the fourth line and he started doing really well and I started moving up the lines and we got to play with each other.”
That chemistry can obviously be credited to the fact that they are brothers. However, their chemistry might even be more substantial than other siblings considering how close they are. They have similar habits, interests and mannerisms both on and off the ice.
“We are pretty similar I guess,” Grant said. “We are best friends off the ice which is nice. We definitely are similar people and what we do together is pretty similar so it’s really nice.”
Even today, while they are living over 1,200 miles apart from each other, they remain connected. The two both enjoy playing on their PlayStation 4’s together. This of course means they sometimes play “NHL” against each other, which Cameron was quick to announce that he is superior in.
“Oh (the winner would) 100% (be) me, he might argue that, but you have to know I’m telling the truth,” Cameron exclaimed.
On the ice, Grant, Cameron and Ally all have various skills that helped them get onto the college radar. Of course, they will all be taking these skills to Moon, to play for the Colonials. As for what fans can expect from these three:
“I’m a power forward,” Grant answered. “I like to go into the corners and stuff like that and I can also finish.”
“I’d say a two-way forward,” Cameron replied. “Unlike my brother, my brother’s always been the goal-scorer, he gets all the points. I like my defensive play and I think I can contribute to the offense too. My biggest asset would have to be my speed. It’s something that coaches have always liked about me.”
“I’ve always been told I’m an offensive defenseman,” Ally responded. “I grew up playing forward most of my life and then I switched to defense. I would say my strongest asset would be my skating.”
With skillsets like these, the three will surely be exciting players to watch with the Colonials. The excitement goes both ways though. It took just one visit to campus for each of the Heberts to know it was the place they wanted to attend college and play college hockey.
Grant toured campus first, going on a visit without either of his siblings. As with any student-athlete, he made considerations both on and off the ice when choosing RMU.
“The school is really nice, Grant said. “I like the placement of the school, the location, I like that we are 10 minutes outside of downtown Pittsburgh, that’s pretty cool. Then the hockey aspect, they are doing pretty good in their division each year, so that attracted me there. And then I’m going into business next year and there is a pretty good business program at Robert Morris so that really helped.”
Grant was the first of the three to commit to attend RMU. He shared his thoughts on the school with his siblings after the tour, but wasn’t overly descriptive.
“He never said anything about the campus at all, he just said ‘It’s nice,’ didn’t say much,” Cameron explained. “So when my sister and I went to visit we realized then just how nice it was. It was really nice, all the hills and stuff, and then how small it was, I think that was something that really attracted us.”
Of course, the hockey played a role for him too. Once RMU was on his brother’s radar, the family started paying attention to the team and their success. In addition, some of the nationwide recognition Colonials have received was attractive.
“They are an up and coming program,” he remarked. “They haven’t been around for long but last year they had a great season and just to see how far they’ve come for being such a newer team, I find that really attracting. Also it’s pretty cool what Brady Ferguson is doing there, how he’s having another amazing year and getting so much attention.”
Ally committed around the same time as Cameron, after they had toured the school together. Once her two older brothers both committed to the same school, she definitely felt inclined to follow in their footsteps. After growing up close with one another, they could now have the ability to go to college together. On top of that, the team’s success and a good experience with the coaches on her visit made her excited to join the Colonials.
“The fact of having all three of us there was kind of one of those (deciding) points, for my parents especially, so that they can visit all of us,” she shared. “And then I love the campus, it’s beautiful. I don’t think I could picture myself at a big school, and Robert Morris is a good size for me, especially growing up in a small town.”
They will all be at RMU together starting with the 2019-20 season, but they all still have some time left in juniors to prepare for it. Grant, in his final season, is hoping to prepare for the college game so the transition is as seamless as possible. Cameron, with one full season after this one ends, is hoping to bulk up and get even faster. Ally, also with another full season after the current one, is working to improve her shot.
Grant, Cameron and Ally Hebert are all excited and ready to join the RMU community.Grant is looking forward to playing college hockey on the same team as his brother and best friend. It will be an opportunity for all of them to live close to one another, and also allow them to experience college and college hockey together.
“I’m excited for the college atmosphere,” Cameron remarked. “I’ve always looked for that and wanted that. Even though it’s not the biggest school and stuff just the fans the games and stuff, that has always been really cool for me.”
For Ally, she is very excited to be back with her brothers, and also excited to be a part of the tight-knit women’s hockey team at RMU.
“I think I’m most excited about being on a university team and how you do almost everything with your team and how close you’re going to be with that team,” she reflected.
The three siblings from a small town outside of Ottawa will soon be living on a small college campus outside of Pittsburgh. Instead of playing hockey on the outdoor rinks, they will be playing at the RMU Island Sports Center. While playing the game they love and getting a college education at RMU, they will be bringing the term “Colonial hockey family” to a whole new level.