Chase Norrish is now a two-time Canadian hockey champion.
Norrish won his first championship as a member of the Yorkton Terriers capturing the Royal Bank Cup back in 2014.
It took five years before the opportunity to hoist a Canadian championship trophy presented itself, but Sunday Norrish and his Lacombe Generals teammates captured the Allan Cup with a 5-2 win over the Innisfail Eagles.
Norrish said he was actually surprised by the significance of the Allan Cup even though he was part of the Lacombe team for one reason, to help the team make a run at the long-standing championship.
“I was quite surprised how big it was out there,” he said from his home on the farm at Strongfield, SK. “… You walked into the rink and you know where you were (at the championship).”
Norrish said when he first looked into the story behind the cup he came to appreciate its significance.
“It was Wow! Some big names have been playing for this, maybe it’s a bigger deal than I thought it was,” he admitted.
The Allan Cup is the trophy awarded annually to the national senior amateur men’s ice hockey champions of Canada. It was donated by Sir Montagu Allan of Ravenscrag, Montreal, and has been competed for since 1909.
Since 1984 the Allan Cup has been competed for by teams in the Senior AAA category. The championship is determined in an annual tournament held in the city, this year Lacombe, with the host team playing off against regional champions.
The Cup has been won by teams from every province and from the Yukon, as well as by two teams from the United States which played in Canadian leagues, detailed Wikipedia.
The original Cup has been retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and a replica is presented to the champions.
Norrish said he had had no aspirations to pursue an Allan Cup. He had been playing with Colorado in the East Coast Hockey League and was about to retire.
So, why the decision to leave pro hockey, while twin brother Brady was still in the ECHL with Idaho?
“I get that question a lot,” he said, adding “I just felt for me it was time to move on.”
That meant back to the family farm.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, move back home and farm. It’s comfortable here as much as I miss the hockey lifestyle,” he said. “This was always in the forecast at some point, I just never knew when it was going to happen.”
Looking back on his short pro career, and four years of college at R.I.T. (Rochester Institute of Technology) Norrish said he played a lot of hockey, and maybe became a bit wiser along the way.
“It was a knowledge of the game,” he said, noting that meant coming to understand what it took to make the National Hockey League, and being self-aware enough to understand he probably was not going to make the climb.
Norrish said he could have stuck it out in the ECHL a few more seasons, but that was not what he truly wanted.
“In my mind there was more value in coming home than in all those extra years,” he said.
But, before leaving Colorado his coach suggested he look into playing AAA Senior hockey in Lacombe.
Once home, Norrish decided to give it a try.
“I tried it for a weekend at the start of the season. It was fun,” he said, adding the quality of hockey surprised him. “I wasn’t expecting the speed.”
Coming directly off his ECHL experience Norrish said the senior game was not all that different.
“Some of these guys play a pretty quick game,” he said, adding almost all the players have pro experience, or have played in Europe. “Everybody who was there knew how to play hockey.”
Norrish said a lot of the players were a bit older, he is only 26, but they still have the drive to play the game at a competitive level.
That was the lure for Norrish too who played on a local senior team in Saskatchewan, and when time allowed drove the six hours to play in Lacombe. Then on Jan. 10, as rosters had to be finalized, he committed to the Generals. He said he couldn’t make every game but the ultimate focus was on the Allan Cup the team was hosting.
So how did the Allan Cup championship compare to his RBC win as a Terrier?
“The RBC was a little more heartfelt,” he said, primarily because of four years going to battle as a Terrier.
The way the Terriers won too made it special, with a late goal to tie the final, and the win eventually coming in overtime.
“It was definitely a special one that’s hard to beat,” said Norrish.
The Allan Cup was a more reflective win though. Norrish said because players are all older “you realize just how difficult a thing it is to win … You definitely have to appreciate it. You don’t want to take it for granted. There was a lot of emotion for older players hoisting the Allan Cup and skating to the glass showing their young children the championship, which might just be the last big moment in their hockey careers.
“It’s just that intensity to play that competitive part of the game,” said Norrish.