Levi De Waal has a unique skill set.
After all, how many hockey players can start the game by singing the national anthem and then let their play on the ice lead to first star honours?
But that is not out of the ordinary for the 20-year-old who both leads the Langley Knights junior B hockey club in scoring and serves as the national anthem singer most home games at the George Preston Recreation Centre.
De Waal first sang the anthem in his rookie season four years ago when the Knights franchise was in North Delta.
A healthy scratch that night, he offered to sing the national anthem instead of the usual taped version being piped into the arena.
“I thought it might be a cool thing to sing it and the boys got a good rise out of that,” De Waal recalled.
He didn’t sing the anthem again until last year, and this season — the Knights’ first in Langley — he has sung twice out of the team’s first five home games.
“I always like the comments on the ice after you sing,” he said. “You hear the odd chirp, but most of the boys, they all love it.”
And this season, it is more than just De Waal’s voice which is making him stand out.
Through the first nine games of the Pacific Junior Hockey League season, De Waal leads Langley with 11 goals and 13 assists. That puts him second in league scoring, although on a points-per-game average, he is tops at 2.7 points per game.
That includes a four-goal game last week (Oct. 8) in a 5-4 overtime victory against the Aldergrove Kodiaks at Aldergrove Arena, the rink he played much of his minor hockey with through the ranks of the Aldergrove Minor Hockey Association.
Despite his torrid scoring pace, De Waal is quick to deflect credit.
“Our line has been really productive so far,” he said about his wingers Carson Rose and Dylan McCann.
In fact, the night after De Waal’s four-goal game, Rose topped it by scoring five goals in a 9-6 win over the Delta Ice Hawks (see page 20).
“It is always easier to put up the points when you are prepared and you have good line-mates,” De Waal said.
Prior to this season, De Waal had primarily played on the third and fourth lines in his first three years of junior.
De Waal, who is six-foot-four and 185 pounds, had 13 goals in 43 games two seasons ago and a dozen goals in 44 games last year.
Knights head coach and general manager John Craighead — his coach since the 2012/13 season —said the off-season work De Waal put in is paying dividends.
“When I took over, I saw some great stuff in him, some great tendencies,” Craighead said.
“He just had to mature and continue to work hard and through that, he has been rewarded.
“He is a guy that needs to work hard and go the dirty areas and that is what he has been doing and he is getting rewarded for it.
“And in return, he is being put with good players for his hard work. Through team success comes individual success.”
Craighead added that De Waal is great at handling pressure and this season, he is leading by example, letting his play do the talking.
In his final season of junior hockey, De Waal is hoping to earn a call-up to the junior A level and to see where or how far hockey can take him.
He also has multiple options he can choose to pursue: for the past year and a half, De Waal has been working on becoming a fully licensed real estate agent.
But what also intrigues him is continuing his passion for music.
Since he was six years old De Waal has taken piano lessons through the Royal Conservatory of Music.
“I have been playing music as long as I have been playing hockey; they are my two passions in life,” he said.
De Waal is a self-taught guitar player and learned to play the saxophone in the high school band at Langley Christian — he played in his grandpa’s saxophone band, the Royal Heirs — and sang in his school’s jazz band.
He graduated from Langley Christian in 2012.
He has also begun writing songs and recording music. Last month, he released his first single in iTunes, a song called ‘Convertible.’
“I absolutely love it, that is something I will always have with me, no matter how old I get,” he said about the fact he has released a song.
“I think the sound that I have got is a real funky, groovy sound, which is different from today’s pop music.”
He would love to continue writing music with the hopes of one day hearing his songs played on radio stations and “spreading my work with the world.”
But in the meantime, he is just focusing on his two passions: hockey and music.
While hockey tends to take up a couple of hours each day with training, practice and games, De Waal makes sure to commit at least an hour a day to music.
“They are both completely different. On the one side, you have something that is rough and tough,” he said.
“And then on the other side, I can sit behind the piano and it is quite the quiet, laid-back thing.
“It is certainly nice to have them both, it adds a lot of diversity to my life.”
Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Langley Knights’ leading scorer Levi De Waal celebrates a goal during the junior B hockey club’s season opener last month at the George Preston Recreation Centre.