Tuesday August 26, 2014

A game of fathers and sons


Taylor Thompson, 91

Turner Ottenbreit, 24 -  -

Turner Ottenbreit, 24

Three current Terriers have bloodlines connecting them to the team’s past, their fathers having laced up the skates for the organization.

Tayler Thompson is the son of Brad Thompson who played for the Terriers the year the team won its first league title.

Grant Ottenbreit played for the Terriers back in the mid-80s, and is well-remembered for setting a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League record for career penalty minutes. Son Turner is now taking a regular shift on the team’s blueline.

And Corwin Stevely is son of Derek Stevely, who was with the Terriers the year they competed in the Royal Bank Cup in Melfort in 1996.

“It’s amazing,” said Grant Ottenbreit, adding while Turner had played a couple of regular season games as an affiliated player, they had not expected the extended playing time for the 16-year-old rearguard through the Western Canada Cup and Royal Bank Cup.

“Just seeing him get this opportunity. It’s been just amazing.”

Grant said the Terriers initially had Turner attending a few practices when his classes allowed.

“Then in Dauphin he got the opportunity,” he said.

“It’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity. I’m really proud to be here,” agreed Turner.

As for following his father in playing with the Terriers Turner said, “It kind of, well hard to explain. It’s cool to be on the same team as Dad,” he said.

Grant said while Turner is focused on an opportunity to play with the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades, the run with the Terriers has shown his son that if he has to play in the uniform of his father, it’s a viable option.

“It is the goal (the WHL), but if I don’t make it, I’ll be proud to be here,” offered Turner.

Brad Thompson is also proud of his son Tayler.

“I’m just happy for Tayler and his teammates. They’ve had such a great run,” he said after flying in Saturday to watch his son in RBC semi-final action. Brad said this year’s Terrier team are a close knit group both on and off the ice and it shows in their determination.

“It’s definitely pretty special,” said Tayler, adding sharing the RBC run with family is important. “Family is definitely a major part of my life. It means so much more having family beside me the whole way. It’s a pretty special feeling.”

Tayler said he recognizes the connection he and his father have through the Terriers.

“Putting on the same jersey he wore, it’s pretty special,” he offered.

Corwin Stevely said the connection of family and team is pretty unique.

“It’s a good feeling just thinking about that 20 years ago Dad would have been in the same position, the same life I’m living now,” he offered.

Derek Stevely would go to three national events, winning as an AAA Midget in Yorkton, then coming up short at the RBC with the Terriers, and later at the Allan Cup with a Regina team. He called it “two heart breaks and a ring.”

Derek of course recalls the RBC keenly.

“We had a really, really strong team that year,” he said, adding that while they came up short in the RBC losing in the semi-finals, he will always remember “the support from the community.” He said it is an aspect of playing with the Terriers he still sees as his son settles into a role with the team.

So what does it mean for Derek to see his son wearing the same uniform he once did?

“I think the word that jumps into my mind is thankful, to see him out there experiencing all the things hockey provides,” he said. “Any parent, proud is the word, but I get caught up in the moment of the thankfulness of it.”

Hockey does create bounds that last. Corwin, for example, in now billeted with Lee Rusnak, who was a teammate of Derek’s. It is part of the Terrier circle.

For Derek it is also a new experience watching his son as a Terrier; “to see all this I went through as a player and now seeing it as a parent.”

Derek said at its core the game hasn’t changed. It’s still about “integrity and respect” and having players holding themselves accountable for their efforts on the ice.

Grant Ottenbreit said he just tries to keep his son focused on playing to his strengths, and enjoying the experience.

“We talk after each game,” he said. “I don’t really tell him too much, that’s what the coaches do.”

The key is having Turner confident enough to play his own game.

“He knows what his strengths are out there. He’s a defensive defenceman who looks after his own end first,” said Grant.

“I just try to keep it simple,” summed up Turner.

One thing Grant can tell Turner that championships are rare. In his tenure with the Terriers the team finished dead last his first season, and never held the cup.

Brad Thompson said while he talks with his son, advice is limited.

“I just tell him he has to go out and play his game, have fun, and bring home the cup,” he said.

And like Grant Ottenbreit, Brad Thompson knows winning is not easy.

Brad Thompson was a member of the Terriers the year they won their first SJHL crown.

“We won Game 7 in Weyburn,” he said, and then headed to Dauphin for the ANAVET Cup and a chance to go to nationals. The Terriers lost the opener 10-1. “They (the Kings) took us out four-games-to-one,” with Barry Trost anchoring the Dauphin blueline.

So Brad said he just wants Tayler to “enjoy the run,” because making it to the national final is a huge accomplishment win, or lose.

“He (Dad) talks to me,” said Tayler, “but he lets me find my own path -- my own way.”

And that path took Thompson and his teammates to the RBC.

“It’s really hard to put into words. We’ve worked so hard for this all year. Your whole Junior career you want to make it to a national final. It’s what your goal is.”

Grant said his son is “soaking in every bit of it, and obviously loving it.”

And he should said Grant, noting there are only a handful of 16-year-olds on the five RBC rosters, and only a couple are getting regular shifts.

“It’s a huge compliment to him, and a huge honour for him,” said Grant.

Corwin Stevely, 14 -  -

Corwin Stevely, 14

But it does help having a father who can relate to the Junior hockey lifestyle.

“It’s just knowing he’s been in the same place I am,” said Corwin, adding “He’s my number one guy I listen to.”

And what advice has Derek given his son.

“That you’ve just got to work your ass off every shift out there. Work as hard as you can and you’ll always get rewarded for it,” said Derek. “And never back down from anyone.”

That is one piece of advice the younger Stevely has taken to heart. He may weigh in at a listed 165 pounds, but he plays bigger.

“It’s a good feeling to get under the skin of bigger players,” said Corwin. “To come up with some of the biggest hits of the game from a guy you wouldn’t expect them from.

“It’s a good feeling to bring energy back to the guys after a shift.”

Derek said he just wants his son to enjoy all the experiences you go through as a Junior player.

“The game gives back so much as long as you give it all you’ve got.”



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