Jody Sick is making his second straight appearance at the TELUS Cup, and this one seems just a touch better to him.
Last season the Red Deer native played with the host Leduc Oil Kings and was in the stands when the Red Deer Chiefs hoisted the trophy after a thrilling double overtime win in the gold medal game.
“Last year I got my feet wet, so I know what to expect this year and it’s cool to be able to do it for my hometown team,” said Sick, who said it was bittersweet to see the Chiefs win the title.
“Of course I wanted to win, but I had a lot of my friends on the team, so it was good to see them celebrate. This year I’m hoping to be part of that.”
Prior to last season, Sick was battling a spleen injury which prevented him from trying out with the Chiefs early in their camp.
“Because of the spleen injury he missed most of the training camp and by the time we got a chance to really see him we had picked our team,” explained Chiefs head coach Doug Quinn. “It really wasn’t fair to Jody as he couldn’t be with us, but we had to make the decision.”
“It was the way it worked out,” the six-foot-three, 200-pound winger said. “After I was let go my dad called Leduc and I was able to practice a couple of times with them and they liked what they saw. It worked out and it was good to get a chance to play in the TELUS Cup.”
This year there was nothing to prevent Sick from earning a spot with the Chiefs. He worked extra hard during the offseason on his skating and came into camp in top condition.
“Last summer I worked hard on my skating and it’s still something I focus on in practice and in games,” he said. “It’s come along and it’s something I’ll continue to focus on if I want to move up to the next level.”
Quinn liked what he saw from Sick in camp.
“He had a year of playing time in the league and understood it. He gives us more size and scoring and has been a positive role model. He worked on his skating and quickness and has made changes to his game. He came in as an offensive player, who needed to work a bit on his all-round game and he’s done that, working on his forechecking and defence.”
Sick admitted he didn’t spend a lot of time concentrating on defence before this season.
“As this season progressed I’ve turned more into a two-way forward … I can do more at both ends of the ice. Defence is something Doug stresses.”
Playing against the Chiefs last season, Sick got an idea of Quinn’s philosophy.
“The hardest part about playing Red Deer was that they never seemed to be in their zone,” he said. “As soon as the puck’s in their end it’s out. Being part of it I see that Doug wants us to focus on moving up as fast as we can and forecheck hard.
“I know (from experience) that’s hard to play against.”
Despite his size and good hands, Sick wasn’t selected in the Western Hockey League bantam draft, but hopes to play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League next season.
“I would like to play junior for a couple of years then get a scholarship,” he said. “I’ve talked with a few junior teams, but right now I’m concentrating on the TELUS Cup and when it’s over then I’ll look at my future.”
Sick plays with Jacob Schofield and Ryker Leer and while they’re one of the team’s leading offensive units, they’re not called the No. 1 line.
“We don’t have a No. 1 line,” said Sick. “We take pride in having four lines and six defencemen that contribute and in a tournament where you could play seven games in seven days you need that depth. That’s a major reason why Red Deer was successful last year.
The Chiefs also come into the tournament with their regular lineup after struggling with injuries in the playoffs. Both defenceman Colton Bobyk (appendix) and forward Garrett Engert (shoulder) are back.
“Everyone is back and healthy, which makes it exciting in that we get to go in with our original team,” said Sick. “But we won the province and then the Pacific (region) with the injuries. That showed a lot about the character of this team, which we’ll need at the TELUS Cup.”