Four years ago Taylor Mulder was unsure if he would ever play Junior A hockey. But the Lacombe, Alta., native is the captain of the host Lloydminster
Bobcats at Canada’s National Junior A Championship, the RBC Cup.
Mulder played for the Junior B Blackfalds Wranglers in the 2012-13 season and was the team’s top scoring defenceman with 24 points in 35 games as a
17-year-old. It was an impressive season, but even Mulder had no way of predicting the next three years of his hockey career – 173 regular season games for
the Bobcats, 73 points, 503 penalty minutes and two seasons spent as captain.
“Back in Blackfalds I definitely did not imagine myself being the captain of a team hosting a national event like this,” said Mulder. “It definitely didn’t
cross my mind. I came here hoping I would make the team; I didn’t really know what to expect.”
He certainly couldn’t have expected to have such longevity playing a position he never played growing up. Mulder played defence growing up through Lacombe
Minor Hockey and did so with the Red Deer Rebels White Bantam AAA team in 2009-10.
He even made the Bobcats in 2013-14 as a defencemen, though he ended up playing forward and finishing fourth on the team in goals with 14.
“We were short a forward one game and had spare D so I jumped up and kind of stuck ever since,” Mulder explained, joking that, “I kind have forgotten how
to skate backward since.”
The move made sense, however. Mulder, at 20 years old, is listed at 6’4” and 230 pounds and plays a physical, in-your-face game. And with a decent skating
stride for his size he is able to get in quickly on the forecheck and help turn the puck over to create offensive opportunities.
It was a switch that was suggested by another Lacombe native, the Bobcats’ coach and assistant general manager Garry VanHereweghe. The veteran Alberta
Junior Hockey League bench boss and former police officer actually recruited Mulder to Lloydminster while the latter was with the Wranglers in Blackfalds.
“He hadn’t made the Midget AAA team (in Red Deer) and why I’m not sure,” said VanHereweghe. “He’s such a big, strong, physical, character guy who knows
what his role is. I knew his grandparents very well from when I grew up in Lacombe and his parents; it was really a good fit.”
Both VanHereweghe and Mulder have provided stability to the Bobcats in different ways. Lloydminster had one of its worst seasons in franchise history in
2012-13 and was looking to bring an established name into the fold for the following season. “They were really looking for someone that was going to come
in and build more of a long-term program than just that constant players in the door and out the door (situation),” said VanHereweghe, who signed on as the
team’s coach and general manager.
As the team made a bid for - and ultimately won - the right to host the RBC Cup, it began loading up. VanHereweghe and the Bobcats welcomed former Fort
McMurray Oil Barons coach Gord Thibodeau to the staff for the 2014-15 season.
And since the beginning of this season, with an eye on the RBC Cup, the Bobcats have been somewhat of a revolving door with players coming and going as the
team tried to piece together a winner. Only six players that dressed in the tournament’s opening game were part of the 2014-15 team, while Mulder is the
only full-time player that remains from the 2013-14 Bobcats.
“It sucks seeing your friends get traded, a lot of guys have gone and a lot of guys have graduated from the system too. Coming into every season before the
deadline everyone is nervous,” explained Mulder.
“I just went out there and played my best. It’s all you really can do.”
He was given the captaincy not just because of his longevity, however. Mulder is a quiet leader, but he’s one who knows when to speak up.
“Taylor is one of those quiet leaders. But when there’s something that needs to be addressed, whether it’s inside the dressing room, on the bench or on the
ice, Taylor does a good job of getting that across,” said VanHereweghe. “And I think because he manages those opportunities so well, when Taylor speaks the
guys pay attention to him.”
In a sense, he’s an authoritative figure for the Bobcats and like VanHereweghe in more ways than one. Years ago, after retiring from the force,
VanHereweghe returned to the Calgary Police Service under contract to recruit hockey players. One of those recruits is Mulder, who recently committed to
playing hockey for Grant MacEwan in Edmonton next year, where he will take police studies.
“It’s such a good career for hockey players if they want to get into it sometime down the road when hockey comes to an end,” the coach said. “We’ve
actually been very successful with it in getting a lot of graduating players.
“And Taylor will be a tremendous police officer.”
For now Mulder is hoping his on-ice policing can help lead the Bobcats to their first ever national championship.