In a season where there is so much pressure on the Lloydminster Bobcats to perform on the ice and win a national championship, on Thursday at Evening of Champions, the team’s annual fundraising event, they had a chance to relax and help raise some money for their own cause.
There is so much riding on this season as it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for many junior A hockey players in Canada to play in an RBC Cup. And since the Bobcats are hosting the event, each player is guaranteed that opportunity. And as the NHL on TSN personalities James Duthie and Bob McKenzie said to the team before the evening kicked off, it should be something they enjoy over the course of the season and don’t always let the pressure get to them.
“The thing we said more than anything else is, this is the time of your life,” said Duthie. “These are the greatest hockey years that most of these guys will have and so you have to soak it up and enjoy it. Everyone is thinking about what is next for me? Where am I going? What is the next level? But they will look back on these years as the best. It’s hard to do sometimes when you are 17, 18, 19 years old, but soak it up. Especially in a year like this when you have the biggest championship in junior A hockey coming to your town.”
McKenzie’s son played junior A hockey in Ontario but never reached an RBC Cup. Mckenzie said he knows what it is like to be so close to getting to the national tournament as his son’s team lost twice in the Dudley Hewitt Cup tournament. With junior A hockey running through many small towns, McKenzie called it the lifeblood of many communities throughout Canada and Lloydminster was no exception.
“I’ve never been to Lloydminster before but you can tell right away there is a lot of civic pride in the hockey team,” said McKenzie. “One of the things I told the kids is, make sure you enjoy it. To start a season and already know you are going to be in an RBC Cup, that’s pretty special. You got to make sure you earn it over the course of the year even though you know you are in it, you want to be worthy of being there. But you want to enjoy it.
“Sometimes you are looking so far ahead that you forget to live in the moment.”
Duthie and McKenzie have one of the most envious jobs in Canada, as they report to work each day to talk about hockey, breaking trades and watching games with colleagues who have become their best friends. Duthie said he never reached a high level of hockey himself growing up as a kid, but he loved the game so much that it makes it special for him to be able to call hockey his career.
“I loved the game so much growing up and for me to be able to sit there every night and sit beside Bob and Ray Ferraro and Aaron Ward and Jeff O’Neill and just talk hockey for a living, I just can’t believe how ridiculously lucky I am,” said Duthie. “I never thought I would get a chance to do these things. My dream was to be the local sportscaster in Ottawa and I didn’t dream any bigger than that. To get to this part where you get to go to Stanley Cup finals, Super Bowls and other things, I’m ridiculously lucky.”