Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Cutter. What a captain...what a coach.
So long for now, but I know we will talk again.
Kelowna Rockets assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert surprised many, me included, this week when he announced he is leaving the team for personal reasons.
Cuthbert spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the WHL franchise after his pro hockey career ended prematurely by a series of concussions.
My connection to Cuthbert goes back to our days growing up in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. We were born in the same city and it was neat to see him make the Kelowna Rockets roster at the tender age of 16 while I was in the broadcast booth calling games for the hometown Swift Current Broncos. I remember interviewing Cuthbert and fellow southwest, Saskatchewan resident Vaughn Watson who happened to be a goaltender with the Rockets at the time Cuthbert was cutting his teeth as a raw rookie. We did a quick interview prior to the game at what was then the Civic Centre. Watson was like a prairie mouse and wouldn't say but three words for every question he was asked while Cuthbert was a reporters delight as his long, thought out answers made the interview flow with ease.
Cuthbert was well spoken off the ice and it translated into tenacious play on it. Never overly big, Cuthbert's heart and determination caught the eye of all who watched him play and he slowly became a fan favourite for a franchise that would eventually make him captain.
I have tremendous memories of his red beard and almost blood-shot eyes raising the WHL championship trophy over his head when the Rockets won the league title in Red Deer back in 2003. That mental picture of Cuthbert can now be found in a painted mural outside of the Rockets dressing room. That great moment will never be erased.
I also remember the tears he shed when I interviewed him outside the dressing room at the Memorial Cup in Quebec City when he, Kiel McLeod and Jesse Schultz realized that their playing days in Kelowna were over. I felt his pain that day and had a hard time asking him questions following his last game wearing Kelowna colours. All I really wanted to do was give him a hug to somehow ease the pain.
This time as Cuthbert leaves the Rockets organization, unlike 2003, his head is held high as he is excited about what the future holds. Am I sad to see him leave the Rockets organization like I did when he was a player back in 2003? No question. But this time a hug isn't required. A good old fashioned, solid southwest Saskatchewan handshake will do the trick for an individual who is as great a person as he was a player.
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- Cutter. What a captain...what a coach.
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