In a country such as Canada the sport of hockey is everywhere. When we are in our early youth ages we heard all the adults talk about hockey. Our friends talked hockey. We all may have not skated but at minimum we all held a stick in our hands.

Then there’s basketball; one of Canada’s fastest growing sports. For some, basketball is handed to them from day one. For others, they must find the love, the passion and the drive for such a game. Though, basketball has become more than a just a game – it’s a diverse culture.

For a young Rick Pidgeon, hockey was never for him and basketball was something he found the love, the passion and the drive. He grew up in a household that watched, played and spoke hockey. With pucks, pads and sticks left all over the driveway and yard, along with a brother that was highly scouted as a goaltender. However, Rick never found the same passion for hockey that his father and brother had.

“I hated hockey until the age of 14,” said Rick. “I followed the Canadian men’s team on their way to gold in Vancouver 2010.” It allowed Rick to grow a love for the Canadian sport. He just was not ready to forget the game of basketball.

Rick was born in Truro, Nova Scotia and was raised in a smaller community just outside the town of 18,000 people. He was like any other kid – any chance he got he was outside running around and when the Canadian weather prevented going outside, Rick was inside playing video games.

Some people can relate to the 19-year old, going on 20, most however, will be inspired. Rick was a young man who never let money outweigh his happiness. Living on his own as a teenager he struggled to pay his bills. He wanted to illustrate that he could find an innovative path to success without having to work a nine to five.

Rick didn’t find the love for basketball till his teenage years. Unlike the majority of basketball athletes we speak of and write about, he was different. Basketball was not going to take Rick to prep-school, nor was a major D1 NCAA school knocking on his door. As a Canadian he was not getting any calls from Canada’s university basketball programs, either.

Falling for the game of basketball in high school, Rick never let go of a ball. “I always had a ball with me,” said Rick. “The school, the mall and even graduation.”

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That passion was never recognized by his High School coach. Rick was consistently one of the last cuts when trying-out in High School. In his eyes he was an extremely good defensive player, on the other hand his coach was more offensively minded. Rick was like every basketball player that was not as skilled as a future prospect. He was one of the hardest working players with great hustle. Rick just never became the point guard the High School coach was looking for. Ironically, Rick was a poor ball-handler, another reason he was cut in High School, but now ball-handling is a major reason for who he is.

Never getting discouraged and never losing the passion Rick become an innovator. An entrepreneur for the game of basketball.

Always having a ball in hand helped Rick improve his skills. He learned how to spin a basketball on his finger – something many people can do, but from there he grew. “I continued to learn more tricks; learned juggling, learned how to spin two, three, four (basketballs) at a time.”

Rick kept growing into what today’s basketball world would call a “basketball freestyler”.

If you are confused of what basketball freestyle is, think Harlem Globetrotters. Basketball freestyling is where the competitive nature of the game is forgotten, and we are reminded of what the game is really about: the love, the passion and the drive. This style of basketball brings back the schoolyard enjoyment of the sport.

“Basketball freestyle as a sport has exploded in the last five years,” Rick explained. “Surprisingly a lot more in Europe and especially Japan than in North America.” In Japan the game has advanced so far into popularity that they have battles and competitions.

Only a few years back the World Freestyle Basketball Association (WFBA) was formed. The WFBA has been a huge part of organizing a lot of the competitions that have been taking place in Japan and overseas.

Rick has become one of only three freestylers in Canada and the only one doing it professionally. It started with a three minute performance for his school talent show and now it has grown into bigger crowds and events. For the past four years Rick has begun entertaining professionally all over Eastern Canada doing halftime shows, festivals, fundraisers and other events.

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“The absolute number one reason why I’m drawn to performing is the interaction with people,” said Rick. “Whether it’s busking on the streets and having long conversations with people who tip you or having a couple words with fans at a basketball game.”

Recently, Rick had a chance to perform halftime shows for the National Basketball League of Canada, more specifically at the NBL finals. He even had a chance to perform with the very popular Harlem Globetrotters. The very proud Canadian will also have some major shows and television appearances towards the end of May.

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Other tasks Rick has taken on is hosting clinics and workshops for the youth in Canada to get them into the sport. “With the overall growth of basketball in Canada it’s only natural freestyle will continue to grow alongside the game in the coming years.”

Rick’s work ethic has led him to the record books as well. In 2013, the then 17-year old broke a Juggling World Record just days before his 18th birthday. Off the charts juggling ability continues to be one of the staples of his show.

With Canada basketball on the rise and Canadian talent playing all across the world Rick has found a different approach to continuing his love for the game. He’s bringing the game of basketball to Canadians in an innovative way that is still entertaining. It is a style of basketball anyone can find the love and passion for, just like the game itself.

He’s never worked for anybody else his entire life and takes great pride in being his own boss.

Rick has some inspirational words for the youth of Canada: “Find something you love so much you can’t go a day without thinking about it and work relentlessly towards the goal you have. You can have anything if you put the time in. Sometimes there is a different path you can take to get where you want to be, like my path towards a career in basketball outside of the actual game.”

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Once a small town boy from Nova Scotia, Rick has become an innovator, an entrepreneur, an entertainer and a world record holder. He’s proven that if you have a passion for something there is always a way to achieve your goals. Sometimes you just need to find a different path than others.

Basketball continues to become a major sport in Canada, and there continues to be expanding coverage from the professional level all the way down to High School. Basketball freestyle in itself continues to grow, in Canada and around the world. It has brought a different approach to a game we all love and for Canada, Rick is doing a fantastic job representing the north.

You can follow Rick Pidgeon on Twitter – @Rick_Pidgeon 

Follow Satbir Singh on Twitter – @SatbirSingh_ & make sure to follow @HoopsHypeCA your number one source for Canadian Basketball