Hockey is more than just a sport to some. That seems to be the case for the "Hockey Jedi," Ontario resident Zac Bell who has gained thousands of followers on Instagram for his impressive and sometimes downright amazing puck skills.
With over 130,000 followers on his "alwayshockey" Instagram, the teenager from Muskoka, Ontario, has channelled his hockey skills into a social media presence that brings joy to his thousands of fans.
And those skills are so impressive that they've even been featured by the likes of the NHL, NBC, and Sportsnet.
However, as Bell told Narcity in a recent interview, the road to recognition was not easy.
"I began creating hockey skill videos in my driveway in 2015," the 19-year-old told Narcity.
"I have always had a unique skillset since I was a young boy. I get my skills from my dad, who is a bit of a trickster with the stick himself."
It's not been an easy road, though.
"I experienced a lot of online hate on my videos," Bell admits. "This hate drove me to stop posting for two and a half years to play AAA hockey and go to New York to play junior hockey, and chase my college hockey dream."
That dream was sadly cut short due to two head injuries — on the very same day — he received during training camp.
Since then, Bell has been unable to play competitively and felt lost facing a world in which he couldn't even play the sport he loves so much.
"The emotion of being away from the game was a shock," he admitted. "Hockey is what I have done my entire life, I felt lost when I was told I couldn’t play the game I loved anymore."
So, he says, he decided to turn back to his videos as a way to maintain his hockey skill, as well as to bring joy to his followers.
That support was needed, too, as Bell shared that his mother has recently been diagnosed with cancer.
"Although her battle is just beginning, it was and still is an extremely touchy topic full of emotion I didn’t exactly know how to handle.
"So many amazing people talking to me about their own experiences, and how my videos helped them through it. Now, when I needed that same support, my fans were there to catch me and keep me striving," he explained.
And while he's struggled with trauma both on and off the ice, it hasn't even remotely diminished his talent.
Bell's videos have received wide acclaim, and he revealed he even has a hookup with the big leagues.
"I keep in contact with the NHL via Instagram, they have shared my videos multiple times, including on Sportnet Central."
At the end of the day, though, the teenager is just a normal guy sharing hockey videos in order to make people happy.
"I never thought AlwaysHockey would take off like this," he concludes. "I didn’t and still don’t make my videos for views or publicity, it's something that just kinda came along with it.
"Now, I wake up blessed to be able to talk to a whole community of fellow hockey players, who support me and what I do."
And, if we may say so, what he does is pretty pucking cool.