It’s been a season of changes and firsts for Newfoundland Growlers defenseman James Melindy, who is home for the first time since he was barely a teenager, and now playing for his hometown hockey club. But perhaps the biggest change of all came on November 14th, when the 24-year-old Goulds native was named the first captain in Growlers franchise history.
“Being from here and playing for your hometown team is special, but then being named captain is an honor and a privilege”, said the well-spoken blue-liner following the announcement.
“James is a tremendous player and person”, said Head Coach Ryane Clowe on the decision to name the 6’3, 185-pound rear-guard captain. “He is a passionate player and a fierce competitor, and I’m confident that he’ll be an excellent leader during our inaugural season”.
It’s business as usual for Melindy though - “not much changes for me and how I interact every day and stuff like that – it’s just about coming to the rink and being a good pro”.
Melindy first donned the “C” on November 16th against the Reading Royals, after starting the season with an “A” on his sweater, and the rugged defenseman is quick to point out that although he is the captain, it’s a leadership by committee group with a couple of former NHL players on the Growlers roster in Adam Pardy and Kyle Cumiskey.
“The way (Adam) Pardy holds himself, he’s a very professional guy. He’s been around for a long, long time, and spent most of that time in the NHL. I’m always asking him about little pointers and things I can incorporate into my game, so it certainly helps having him around. And getting a guy like Kyle Cumiskey, another guy with a lot of NHL games and a Stanley Cup brings that winning atmosphere to the team”.
The well-travelled Melindy says it’s good to be home – something he has only been able to do in the summers for the last decade, as hockey has taken him all over North America.
He moved to Saskatchewan at the tender age of 14, playing midget at Notre Dame College. Moncton was the next stop, playing three years with the Wildcats of the QMJHL. After his sophomore season in Moncton, he was drafted in the third round, 88th overall by the Arizona (then Phoenix) Coyotes.
Before joining the Growlers, he made stops in the AHL in Portland and San Diego, and in the ECHL in Gwinnett, Rapid City, Wheeling, Wichita, and Utah.
“It’s a bit crazy, I’m definitely not used to being home this time of the year”, he says laughing. “It’s the first time I’ve been home in 11 years. My family is out of this world excited, and then my friends who I couldn’t hang out with besides in the summers are super excited too”.
Playing at home is also a lifestyle change off the ice, but one that the sixth-year pro welcomes with open arms.
“When you’re finished at the rink you can go back to living somewhat of a normal life, where when I was away, you’re hanging out with your teammates a lot more. Now I can see friends and family and it’s not communication through the phone”.
It would be hard to find a player that has a bigger support group than Melindy – 25 of his relatives were on hand June 23rd, 2012 in Pittsburgh when he was drafted – but having family and friends at Mile One Centre every game doesn’t faze him.
“The first time I came back with Portland, it was a little more of an adjustment because I was young and everything was new for me, but now you do your job and tune out everything around you. Everything is the same inside those glass walls”.
Having fellow Newfoundlander’s on the roster is also something Melindy enjoys, as there’s an immediate connection away from the rink.
“Myself, Zach (O’Brien) and Marcus (Power) all grew up playing with and against each other, we always skate together in the summers and became good friends and it’s nice having someone that can relate you to outside of the rink on a personal level too about being home”.