It’s been a long offseason for everybody in the hockey world, including Newfoundland Growlers fan favourite Todd Skirving.
Growing tired of the endless cycle of workouts training for the upcoming ECHL season, Skirving reached out to a family friend in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario in search of a part-time job to help fill his days.
This past Friday, he had his phone in his hand, ready to make the call to accept a new gig with a delivery company, when he had another offer fall in his lap that would completely change his job prospects.
Skirving got a call from a friend in the coaching world, Ehren Menard to discuss a possible assistant coaching opportunity out west. Skirving knew the Menard family well, as Ehren’s brother Brennan was one of the coaches at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where Skirving would get in some on-ice sessions before his season each year.
Menard explained that he was heading to Cranbrook, British Columbia to work as an assistant coach with the Cranbrook Bucks, a junior team playing in the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), arguably the top Canadian junior league outside the Canadian Hockey League (CHL).
Menard floated the possibility of the Bucks adding another assistant coach to close out the remaining games of their season, and Skirving jumped at the idea.
“I said, ’absolutely, 100 percent’. I didn’t hesitate,” Skirving said.
“I didn’t think much of it, because there are a lot of great coaches out there. That all happened at 2:00 on Friday. I got a text from coach Ryan Donald at 6:00 PM, got on the phone with him at 8:00 PM, and by midnight, I had my flight booked. I flew out to Edmonton on Saturday at 5:30 pm and spent the night there with Ehren and we drove up to Cranbrook on Sunday.”
Skirving will have to acclimate quickly, as the Bucks’ schedule is daunting for the remainder of their season. Following their current two-week quarantine, the Bucks and just two other teams will bubble up in nearby Penticton, British Columbia for a gruelling stretch of 18 games in 35 days.
While Skirving has no official coaching experience, he admits he has always been intrigued by the instructional side of the game and feels he has a lot to offer to these promising young players.
“Coach Ryan Donald was a little skeptical to bring in a guy who hasn’t coached before,” Skirving admits. “But I told him, if I’m out there, anything you need me to do, I’ll do it as best as I can. Just tell me what to do. I even called (Growlers Head Coach John) Snowden about it. I asked him what he thought and he said it was a great opportunity. He gave me his support and said to take my knowledge as a penalty killer and faceoff guy and bring that to the table. With the Growlers having been so detailed in those areas these past two seasons, I have a lot to bring to the table.”
Cranbrook head Coach Ryan Donald was quickly swayed by Skirving’s attitude and experience and believes his expertise can be extremely valuable in this condensed season.
“Although he has been staying sharp and preparing for next season, coaching is something that he has grown interested in, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get his feet wet.,” Donald said via press release.
“As a former BCHL, NCAA, and current professional player, our guys will greatly benefit from his first-hand knowledge and experience.”
As light-hearted and easy-going as ever, Skirving joked that the ECHL grind he has endured as a member of the Growlers has him beyond prepared for anything this unique situation may throw at him.
“It’s just like the playoffs with the Growlers,” Skirving said.
“You get to focus on two teams and really break down what works and what doesn’t. It’s a lot like a playoff series. I feel comfortable with the schedule because essentially we did this. We play through a similar grind in the ECHL. This is going to be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to really get started.”
While this new opportunity could open many doors in hockey down the line for Skirving, he has made it clear that this doesn’t mean the door has closed on his playing career.
“I’ve been training for months to play again in the fall,” Skirving said.
“I don’t want Covid ending my playing career. I want to go off on my own note. I’m always open to any opportunity that might be too good to turn down, but ultimately the goal is to still play next year. I’m being given a great opportunity here in Cranbrook because they’re really letting me feel it out. I’m just trying to be present, in the moment, and make the most of this opportunity and these connections here.”