For many Newfoundland Growlers fans seeing newcomer Riley McCourt live for the first time, it’s his flash and confidence with the puck that the 21-year-old defenseman stands out for.
Perhaps the only time McCourt is more expressive however is in the hours leading up to the game where his style choices have turned heads dating back to his junior hockey playing days.
“I’ve always liked fashion and dressing up, looking good and some of it stems from basketball players and how they dress, their style,” said McCourt of his style influences. “It’s something I’ve taken an interest in for a long time.”
Drawing inspiration from the hard court and looking to bring some of that creativity to the hockey rink, the first year Growler points to last year’s NBA Playoffs as an example of the influence fashion can have on fandom.
“Being an Ontario guy, obviously I follow the Raptors, but I’m kind of a Suns fan. They drew me in after the playoff run last year and I like Devin Booker and his style.”
As the youngest player on the Newfoundland roster, it would have been easy for McCourt to make the simple play on every shift and dress in line with the veterans as he adjusted to life with a new team.
It was upon learning that his former coach with the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, Eric Wellwood, would be joining him with the Growlers for the 2021-22 season that the transition into a new group became a seamless one for the St. Catharines native.
“It gave me a sigh of relief coming down here with Welly on board, just already knowing what he wants, the kind of coach he is and the style he runs.
“But on a personal level, it’s been big having that existing relationship. We have a good relationship, we’re always talking, and he’ll let me know when he’s not happy with me which is good for me because he’ll always give me a little kick when I need it.”
On top of his previous ties with Wellwood, McCourt also played with current Growlers forward Gordie Green as well as a trio of skaters who suited up with Newfoundland earlier this year (Noel Hoefenmayer, Bobby McMann and Jeremy McKenna) during his time with the Wichita Thunder last season.
When it comes to working with coaches and players from previous seasons, McCourt’s motto is simple: the more the merrier.
“Coming in with more familiar faces around, I think it just provides that comfortability to express your personality and just be who you are around the rink and that all shines through on the ice as well.”
As a highly skilled, dynamic defenseman, McCourt was given a unique opportunity during the most recent homestand to fully display his offensive talents when a series of injuries forced him to suit up as a forward for a pair of games.
In similar fashion to the way he pulls off his most eccentric outfit choice, McCourt met expectations as a makeshift winger and then some — scoring in both appearances on the Growlers second line.