Monday, 22 December 2014

Dead Poets Hockey? Maybe Not So Dead

I used to love that movie Dead Poets Society.  Three months removed from Robin Williams' far too early death, there are many people remembering that great old film of the late 1980s. The film depicts Williams, an English school teacher on the faculty of an esteemed New England Prep School. Williams' students are young adolescent boys around the same age as many of the Victoria Grizzlies players. His character introduces them to poetry and life but most of all he teaches them to be human and to trust one and other. The film evokes all these beautiful themes. Its not very often that you get the privilege of witnessing young men brave enough to read poetry aloud as Williams' character managed in the film.  Its even harder to do it in front of each other or in public. Well I just happen to know a group of young hockey players who are more than capable of doing precisely that.

Photo Credit Garrett James
A lot can change in 3 weeks.  Stocks can climb and fall.  The Canadian dollar can lose ground to the Greenback and Hollywood movies can get shut down by "unnamed foreign powers" who are apt at computer hacking. Lots can also change or so it seems in the BCHL.  And while change was the plan for Craig Didmon and company when he took over Head Coaching duties on November 30th, could anyone have really deduced that there would be this much positive influence in such a short time? Well I didn't and I see these guys nearly every day.

But here is a secret for you: the team's strategic goal after Didmon arrived was to be in 2nd Place by Christmas. They were well outside of 4th Place at the time he set upon that lofty enterprise. I will be perfectly honest with you, when I first heard that I thought it was a bit of a case of A Bridge Too Far.

But let's move forward to the present. I mean, what can you really say about a three game road trip where you get 5 out of a possible 6 points and move up pretty much two full spots in your divisional standings in the space of three days?  Well I think I can think of something to call it: fantastic!  It almost makes taking a late Sunday night return ferry home a pleasure.

Photo Credit Garrett James
The Victoria Grizzlies currently sit in 2nd Place overall in the Island Division standings with 33 games played, 16 wins, 10 losses, 1 tie and 6 OTL for 39 points. Nanaimo sits at 49 points but has played 36 games, so the Grizzlies have 3 games in hand on them, while Powell River now sits behind the club for the first time in months and now has 37 points and we have a game in hand on them as well.

To sum up, the team is really on a roll.  Team morale is high, the players make adolescent fun of each other constantly and that takes trust.  Trust me, I was that age once too you know.  In our last 10 games the team is 6-1-1-2.  Dane Gibson sits at 13 goals and 29 assists for 42 points on the season. Brett Gruber who in a few hours will be on a plane flying home to Wisconsin sits at 18-18 for 36 points, while Jay Mackie is at 14-21-35. Garrett Forster's numbers are 12-20-32 and Matt Kennedy is at 13-16-29. Rounding out this offense is a defenceman, Meirs Moore who is at 4-22-26 on the season.

Photo Credit Garrett James
What does this all mean?  The Grizzlies have no less than two very potent lines who can score for fun and they are backed up by fast, confident puck moving defencemen who really are excellent, all of them.  But wait there is more.
Photo Credit Garrett James

Our goalies are very good too.  Cleary is 4-5-1 in 13 games played with a GAA of 2.91, Stiliadis is at 12-11 in 23 games with a 3.62 GAA.

Let's look at the last 3 games as a sort of microcosm of the season.  The Grizzlies have scored 11 goals with only 6 against.  That is good for a 2.00 GAA over that period of time and it tells me that the trends are improving, the goals against are coming down. The team just wins.

So what do we have here?  This is a confident team, a happy team. This team is full of ambition and trust, lost of trust. The players are lose, they are having fun, they are committed to each other and they have totally bought into the coaching system and method. Most of all they seem to all trust one and other. I am seeing lots of that. And I haven't even mentioned how well they move the puck, these guys can flat out play. Its not uncommon to see this team make five or six passes en route to a shot on net. Not many teams in this league can do that.
Photo Credit Garrett James

Trust, commitment, respect, hard work, fun, these aren't just words, they are the very tenants of this hockey club. This team cares deeply about one and other and they care deeply about their performances and the results. But perhaps most of all they trust one and other.

And if you don't believe me, just wait until you watch them recite that most famous of Christmas tales, Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 classic poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas. We should have it up very soon by our video guy, Roy and when he does finish it off, I am certain it will look splendid on Facebook or YouTube or wherever Roy decides it should go.

And that about sums up the present condition of these talented Grizzlies, they get stronger every day. This group is so strong in fact that they are comfortable enough to read poetry aloud in a busy restaurant, on a Sunday afternoon, in front of one and other and a couple of hours later pound the South Surrey Eagles 6-1 on the road. Suddenly the Dead Poets Society doesn't seem quite so dead anymore.  Merry Christmas everybody. -CC 

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