Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Am I allowed to pick favourites? I guess I have!

Broadcasters are not supposed to have favourites on the team they cover. And if they do, they aren't supposed to let anyone know. Mum's the word. It is believed as a media member you will evaluate their performance in the sporting ring in a more favourable manner without taking a critical eye at the mistakes they make. For me, I only hold those so called 'favourite players' to a higher standard. I don't give them the easy way out because of the players and individuals they have become in what is usually four or five short years of major junior hockey. The neat thing for me is getting to know these players as people first and as hockey players second. As fans, it's often the other way around. That is the fun part about being allowed access to the players that only a home broadcaster can. Who are my two favourite Kelowna Rockets players that are on the back nine of their hockey careers in the WHL? Read on and I will explain who they are and why they are considering special to me. 

Cole Martin:
 When I met 'Marty' in the fall of 2011, the only thing that intrigued me about this smallish 17 year-old defenceman was the Texas twang in his voice and the fact that he was raised in the Lone Star State. This guy won't be able to play major junior will he? He will be homesick in a week, I told myself. My first interview with Martin led me to believe he was a focused athlete who knew what he wanted to accomplish. He informed me that he left home at an early age to pursue his hockey career, so young in fact; that many kids his age now are only concerned about how many hours they can spend in a day playing Xbox. 'Marty's' maturity blew me away. 

The now 21 year-old admitted to me this fall that he was contemplating returning for his overage season. That's typical Cole Martin. In every interview I've ever conducted with him, no stiffness, and no fake answers. Every comment is heartfelt and honest. He is personable, focused - not cocky - but confident in his abilities. Instead of putting in a half heart effort heading into his 20 year-old season, Martin returned to Kelowna as a physical specimen. He worked out diligently to put on muscle to make his smallish frame more durable.

On the ice, 'Marty' has turned into a terrific player. I was cheering for him last season when he became the WHL plus/minus leader. Never one to say much unless I put a microphone in front of his face, Martin has always put the team before himself. Not every junior player, even the good ones, is built that way.

Martin will go down as one of my favourite 20 year-olds all-time. Our interactions over the years have been excellent and I will be sad to see him go. I guess that's what happens when you see a player mature over four years and grow into one of the best defenders in the WHL.  

Tyrell Goulbourne: I have seen this player come into the organization as a 16 year-old and I've had the privilege of interacting with him for five seasons. 'Goulby' grows on you. What I remember in my first interaction with him was this kid from Edmonton wanting to play with the Rockets as an affiliated player, but couldn't, after he was suspended by his midget league for something he did in a playoff game. In the fall of 2010, this shy rookie with tattoos on his arm could sing. Sing? More about that later. 'Goulby' wouldn't say much to me in his first year with the Rockets. I think he was scared because of the mic I had in my hand. He was always reluctant to do interviews because he believed he wasn't very good at public speaking. I thought otherwise, and with a little help, I wanted him to get more confident with his interactions with the media. He was an engaging personality. I just wanted to get it out of him.  After four years, with his effort not mine, that goal has been accomplished. He looks relaxed on television, specifically, and his answers for the media are pro. 

As hard as this may seem to believe, Goulbourne wasn't an overly tough player when he came to the Rockets. That part of his game evolved. So did his skating. 
I knew Goulbourne had a great personality when I first heard him bellow out on the bus the song, The Star Spangled Banner. Every once in a while he would break into other songs without prompting. The guy could sing and sing well. With more confidence around his teammates, he too became more vocal and our interactions increased. In his 19 and now 20 year-old season, he often would mimic me calling play-by-play on the bus with a scoooooooores at the end to the laughter of his teammates. This was almost common place after every win. His impression of me was pretty accurate. I would pretend not to hear it from my seat at the front of the bus, but it was clearly audible. Inside, I found it funny and flattering. 

Tyrell Goulbourne isn't all about joking around though. We would often have good talks before games while simply sitting in the stands looking at the ice surface in front of us. My proudest moment involving him came last summer when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. I didn't see that coming when he was 17. But again, what's been so rewarding for me is to see him mature, gain confidence and ultimately, with great coaching, become a better player. 
Like Cole Martin, Tyrell Goulbourne will be a success story in whatever challenges he faces. Will he/they play in the NHL? You need commitment, opportunity and a little bit of luck doesn't hurt either. 
All I know is that I've been privileged to cross paths with both of these elder statesmen as they attempt to achieve their dream. I'm just glad I've been able to get to know them both personally as the team's broadcaster.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love this story about Goulbourne. He's one of my favorite Rockets players - one I first noticed because he dropped Joe Mahon in a fight, seemingly effortlessly - he's a solid and quietly tough. Nice to see him getting a chance at success at the next level.

I think this is partly why you're a fan favorite in Seattle. Like Thom, you remind us all that these are kids, sons, friends, teenagers. It's the human side of a business that a lot of people don't think about, and I like that you and Thom do. :)