by Lisa McRitchie on 04/15/12 at 11:30 PM ET
Making the jump from Bantam to Junior hockey is never easy and becomes especially more difficult when it means leaving your home, your friends and your family to live with billets and play in a new town or city. For some like Calgary Hitmen rookie centreman Greg Chase selected in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2010 Bantam Draft, the move was a fairly easy adjustment just moving three hours down the highway from Edmonton to Calgary. Well, easy for the most part.
Chase grew up hockey, the son of Kyle Chase who is a former Edmonton morning show host on sports radio channel the Team 1260. Greg Chase would have the opportunity to go to the station and see his dad work from time to time, but at home it was still all hockey talk. With that kind of a childhood, Chase always knew that he wanted a career in hockey; “My dream has always been hockey, if something happens that’s why I chose the WHL because I have school to fall back on. But my main goal is to hopefully one day play in the NHL. That’s what we strive to do every day.”
Before thinking seriously about a career in the NHL, Chase will first have to pay his dues in the WHL. And as a rookie, the road isn’t always easy. “It’s a big adjustment [to the road games]. Us rookies, we don’t get much space on the bus. We have to double up and it’s not much room, but you have to get as much sleep as you can for the game. It’s tough living on a bus, but you just have to work through it and we try to make it work as well as we can. We do have a pretty good road record.”
The stigma of being a rookie on the team isn’t just felt on the bus though, “Cleaning up the room, picking up pucks, loading up the bus, you name it, we have to do it. Its one year and everyone has to do it. So next year I’ll be the one watching. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll give them a hard time, but next year I’ll try to help them out and show them the ropes. Just be their mentor I guess.”
Even through the hard work Chase has been able to enjoy life in the WHL. At 16 and 17, playing in the WHL means hard work on and off of the ice. The team is looking to win games, but the players still need to complete their high school diplomas because as much as every player dreams of a life in the NHL very few will make it there. Despite the odds, Chase doesn’t have any regrets “It’s pretty fun and it’s a pretty cool experience. This is your first chance to experience you’re life is hockey. When you’re in midget you still go to school for five hours a day, and some days you don’t even practise but here you only got to school for the first part of the day and every day is hockey.”
Even when it comes to the actual schooling, Chase feels that it doesn’t pose any real hurdles. “It’s easy. We have our education advisor Bernie who helps us with what we need to get done. It’s been a smooth transition I think and everything’s been going pretty good so far.” In fact, Chase has maintained the high merit level grades he had before playing in the WHL.
Being from Sherwood Park [Edmonton] and growing up hockey, Chase’s favourite team was and still is the Oilers but Chase was able to put his feelings and preferences aside when it came to being drafted. Like me, he had to make the move from Edmonton to Calgary for work. “It was pretty exciting getting drafted, and being drafted here, it was still close to home.
“It is Calgary, and it is the Flames, but I’ve learned to cheer for the Flames too, and the Oilers, but mostly the Oilers. I just hope that the Flames do well too. Not as good as the Oilers” Chase explained with a laugh. He couldn’t help but laugh since my eyebrows rose as soon as he said he wished the Flames well. Chase is a very intelligent young man; he will always know what to say and how to phrase it throughout his hockey career. I knew exactly how he must feel though; he is now a member of the extended Flames family and you can’t help but have warm feelings for your family. Well, most times.
At least Chase is not alone when it comes to his favourite NHL team, “Me and Jaynen Rissling, we always try to watch them together and try to see how the Nuge is doing and all of those guys. We try to keep up with it as much as we can.”
There is another bonus for both Chase and Rissling, they get to play in Edmonton 4 times during the season and when they can’t go to see their friends and families, their families can make the trip down to Calgary for a weekend home stand something that most players in the dub do not experience and Chase knows that all too well “Lots of other guys they don’t get to see their families, they don’t get that privilege so I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
In his first season with the Hitmen Chase played 65 games, including 5 playoff games, scored 7 goals, put up 30 points, had 52 penalty minutes (11 of those from the 5 playoff games), and finished with a +2. Not bad for a rookie, but there is always room for improvement.
During the offseason, Chase’s goals are much like those of all WHL players, “Get bigger and stronger, that’s my goal. That’s all you can really do. You can work on your skill but there’s not much ice in the offseason. So you do as much as you can on the ice but it’s mostly off of the ice that really counts; getting bigger and stronger that gives you a big advantage when you’re working in the corners or driving wide on d-men.” At the age of 17 there will only be so much that young Chase can do. For some players it doesn’t matter how hard they try to get bigger or pack on muscle, that’s just not what their bodies want to do. Luckily for Chase, he has a great base starting point standing at 6ft and 182lbs.
Going home to Edmonton for the offseason gives Chase his choice of power skating coaches. In a hockey crazed city like Edmonton a plethora of skating coaches and hockey schools have popped up and now players can pick and choose what will work best for them. Many players choose the Edmonton Oilers’ power skating coach Steve Serdachny http://www.elitepowerskating.com/ but being such a high profile name carries with it a busy schedule and long list of students.
“I’ve actually been with Steve before, but then I switched over to Graham Smith power skating. Duncan Siemens plays for Saskatoon and a couple of other guys in the league, Brandon Magee, we all go to him. It’s just a little group of us and he’s taught us a lot of good stuff.
“Everyone has different ways of teaching and it’s a smaller group working with him and I like to be able to talk to the teacher more. With Steve, he’s an unbelievable teacher, but I just feel like I get more one on one with Graham.
Whatever Chase has been doing, it’s working. Still a year away from his draft eligibility Chase has made the scouts take notice. While the 2013 draft is looking to be quite deep early rankings have Chase as being a top ten eligible player of the WHL.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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