Halifax Mooseheads value the experience of the winger they acquired in a summertime trade
There are obvious reasons why leadership comes naturally to Liam Peyton.
The 20-year-old winger is entering his fourth season in the QMJHL and that experience was a key reason why the rebuilding Halifax Mooseheads targeted him in a June trade with the Charlottetown Islanders. But there was more to the Mooseheads' logic than the simple fact Peyton has 179 games played on his resume. He is also the son of a brigadier-general and it doesn't take long to recognize he has inherited certain intangible qualities from his father.
"He's a pretty high-ranking officer at this point," Peyton said of his father Paul, who was born and raised in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
"He's been in (the military) for about 32 years now. He got in when he was younger than I am now, so he's been in for a long time (and) he's really experienced. He's a big influence in terms of leadership in the Canadian Forces and he's someone I obviously look at as a role model.
"We're not following the same career path, but there are a lot of lessons I've taken from his life over the years."
Like most military families, the Peytons moved around constantly when Liam was a kid. He was born in St. Albert, Alta., and then bounced around Canada for the next several years, with a stint overseas mixed in.
"I actually had the opportunity to go over to the Middle East for a year," he said. "I lived in Kuwait while my dad was posted there so that was exciting. After that, we went back to Ontario for a little bit, then out west again and then to Ontario again. Hockey started taking me away on my own and I got the opportunity to come out east to Charlottetown and now Halifax."
"Not that long ago, my mom moved down here (to Nova Scotia) because my dad's posted overseas in Iraq," he added. "Her family is originally from here — my grandparents — so she wanted to come to be close to them while he was overseas. And that was before the trade even happened, so everything kind of fell into place really well."
His paternal grandparents, John and Lilian, who now live in St. John's, are travelling to Nova Scotia this week in hopes of being able to see their grandson play in one of the Moosehead's season-opening games.
"We're not following the same career path, but there are a lot of lessons I've taken from his life over the years." — Liam Peyton, on his father Paul
Peyton's father will be away for a year for his current deployment. Not having him around for a long stretch like that still carries plenty of anxiety for Peyton and his family, but he said it's easier now than when he was a little kid.
"I'm a little bit used to it because this isn't his first rodeo," he said. "He's been overseas quite a few times. He did Bosnia and Afghanistan when I was younger and it's a little bit different now because I'm older now, so the things you rely on your dad for are a bit different. At this age, you have more important questions to ask than when you were a kid and you were just really missing your dad. But it's something I just learned to deal with. I'm fortunate enough that he's able to have a Facetime with me every once in a while."
On the ice, Peyton won't be expected to be the Mooseheads' top scorer. He had 21 points in 60 games for Charlottetown last season, but at six-foot-one, 209 pounds, he is a two-way physical presence who will likely slot in on the second or third line. Being a mentor to the many first-year Mooseheads players is where his worth will be felt most.
"Confidence is a huge part of this league and confidence comes from experience, in my opinion," he said. "I struggled when I was 16 and 17, just trying to figure everything out and learning the ropes. It takes time to get going and find success in this league. That's something I think I can help with on this team. We obviously have a lot of rookies this year and a lot of young guys so I feel fortunate I get the chance to help some of those guys out. Hopefully, it'll better me at the same time."