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AKIM ALIU PAGE 4

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GAME DAY ROUTINE PAGE 8

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JANUARY 2012

BEN WALTER

finds success PAGE 3

Amy Williams Photography

N A M E D N O R T H A M E R I C A ’ S B E S T S U B U R B A N N E W S PA P E R S E C T I O N 2 0 1 0

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Walter following in dad’s footsteps Growing up as the son of an NHL star wasn’t always easy, but Heat centre Ben Walter has persevered and found success in the pro game

Amy Williams Photography

GaryAHUJA BLACK PRESS

When your father – a former NHL player – stands behind the bench as your minor hockey coach, there are certain external expectations that come as part of the package. That’s the situation current Abbotsford Heat centre Ben Walter faced during his formative years, following in the footsteps of his father Ryan. The elder Walter played more than a 1,000 NHL games with the Washington Capitals, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, winning a Stanley Cup in 1986 with

the Canadiens. “In minor and junior hockey, I know guys would say (to him), ‘How come you are not as good as your dad?’” said Ryan Walter, who serves as the Heat’s team president these days. “There were all those negative things. I am sure it bothered him but it didn’t seem to dissuade him at all. “Part of the maturation process of a professional hockey player is the mental toughness side,” he added. “It was probably a disadvantage when he was in minor hockey — you don’t

want your kids to go through that — (but) on the other hand, when they go through that, they learn a lot.” From the younger Walter’s perspective, those ripples of adversity were well worth the hassle. “I didn’t pay attention to that, I was just having fun playing hockey,” he said. “I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons, anyways.” From an early age, Ben Walter was hooked on hockey, and it was at the junior A level when he got his first inkling that hockey

could be a career. After a solid rookie season in the BCHL with the Langley Hornets — he had 30 points in 50 games as a 16-year-old — Walter had a sensational sophomore season, leading the team in assists (47) and points (76) while scoring 29 goals in 52 games. “During those years, it kind of dawned on my that maybe this was something I might be able to do,” he explained. “It was always a dream and I could always picture myself playing pro hockey.”

Walter’s play with the Hornets landed him an NCAA scholarship to UMass Lowell, where he amassed 49 goals and 90 points in 107 games over three seasons. It also got Walter on the NHL’s radar and the Boston Bruins selected him in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. Turning pro in 2005, Walter spent two seasons in the Bruins organization, mainly in the American Hockey League with Providence, and suiting up in 10 NHL games. Following a trade to the Continued on page 10

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Aliu relishes fresh start with Heat

w

DanKINVIG ABBOTSFORD NEWS

The best Christmas gift that Akim Aliu received in 2011 arrived a day late. On Boxing Day, the 22-year-old right winger found out he’d been loaned to the Abbotsford Heat by the Winnipeg Jets, the team that held his NHL rights. The news was a great relief to Aliu (pronounced ah-LOO), who had spent most of the fall and winter at home in Toronto after a falling-out with the Jets during training camp. “It’s been a long year,” Aliu acknowledged during a post-practice interview last week. “I sat at home for a long time trying to get an opportunity somewhere else, and Calgary (the Heat’s NHL parent club) was nice enough to give me an opportunity. Hopefully I can make the best of it and make this my home.” In all, Aliu spent the better part of two months cooling his heels at home, interspersed with short stints with the Colorado Eagles, the Jets’ ECHL affiliate, and EC Red Bull Salzburg, an Austrian club. Aliu didn’t go into great detail on what happened in Winnipeg, other than to say he and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t see eye to eye.

“Different things happened at different stages,” he said. “Myself and Kevin had been together in Chicago before (with the AHL’s Wolves in 2010-11, when it was the Atlanta Thrashers’ affiliate). Things didn’t work out. I’m just looking forward, and I’m really excited to be here.” In many ways, Aliu couldn’t have found a better landing spot than Abbotsford as he sets about recharging his career. Heat bench boss Troy Ward takes a “holistic” approach to his job – he’s as interested in how his charges are handling their responsibilities off the ice as on it, and he’s more sensitive than most coaches to players’ motivations and needs. Ward has had success in the past working with players perceived to be high-maintenance – Krys Kolanos’s all-star season being Exhibit A in that regard. Ward acknowledged that Aliu arrived with the reputation of being hard to manage, but said to this point, he’s been “awesome” to work with. “I have to rid him of old habits,” Ward Continued on page 13

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ABBOTSFORD NEWS

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New year, new beginnings

words from the

prez

Ryan WALTER

F A N

Thursday, January 12, 2012

“Leadership is inspiring people to a better future.” – Marcus Buckingham “I don’t worry too much about winning and losing. I focus a lot on practicing the details that give us the win!” – John Wooden Every January as I evaluate my last season (it’s not a year to me, it’s a season) and look forward to my next one, I rely on those two quotes for solid wisdom. Buckingham is so right; people want a glimpse of what the better future is going to look like. They will work twice as hard towards a goal or direction that makes sense to them, than they will if they are just coming to work. So, after we sneak a peek at the better future, then what? This is where John Wooden hits the slam dunk. Once we know our direction, we spend less time focusing on the result, and more working the process that gives us that desired result. Our on-ice and off-ice teams both utilize this process to accomplish our goals. I hope that it works for you too!

WHAT A JANUARY!

January is often a bad weather month outside, but inside, January is a great time to enjoy the home team wins. We opened the month against Detroit’s farm team, the Grand Rapids Griffins (Jan. 6-7). On Jan. 20-21, the Charlotte Checkers (the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate) come to town. Then on Jan. 24-25, we host the big games against the Canucks’ farm team, the Chicago Wolves. The Shaw TV broadcast of our Heat game in Chicago was very well received here in the Lower Mainland, so you can be sure those home games at the end of the month will be tough tickets to find.

GROUP SUCCESS

During December many associations and companies had a blast attending our games together as medium to large groups. Coming as a group really enhances the game experience. Two large groups are taking advantage of games in January. Jan. 7 at the AESC is Matthew’s House Night, brought to you by Vedder Transport; what an

awesome cause and sponsor! On Jan. 20 the Abbotsford Heat will be hosting Faith Night. We have invited over 50 Abbotsford churches to come out and enjoy our game that evening and hope you will too.

NOT-FOR-PROFIT SUCCESS

Many of our fans may not know that we have helped minor hockey in the Valley raise over $25,000 through our Fundraising Ticket Package. Many minor hockey teams have utilized this model so well that their parents do not need to write any more cheques – imagine that! Now, with our good partners at the City of Abbotsford, we are opening up our Fundraising Ticket Package to all not-for-profits. We invite you and your NFP to partner with our Heat team to help increase your fundraising capital. Call 604-7434328 or 1-877-452-4328 to talk with my teammates.

MORE GOOD NEWS

A friend recently sought me out to convey these words: “Ryan, you and the Heat get some rough press at times and

very little credit for what you are doing for our community. Let me share my story to encourage your journey.” He went on to talk about the Saturday night that he took his young grandson to a Heat game. They enjoyed the first period’s entertainment, the hot dogs and the pop, and then, in between periods, they bumped into me, and I showed the little guy my Stanley Cup ring. This youngster was old enough to really enjoy having his picture taken with the ring. Then together they walked over to get their photo with B.C. Lions offensive co-ordinator Jacques Chapdelaine and the Grey Cup. The game finished with a win for the home team. As the happy Grandpa and grandson headed home, the youngster turned and said, “Grandpa, that was the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” Our new Heat mission is “To GIVE our community a brand of hockey and a hockey brand to be proud of.” I am proud to be a small part of an organization that GIVES their community the opportunity to enjoy the best days of their lives.

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Open minds, open hearts E H T

In each edition of the Abbotsford News’s FACEOFF magazine, beat reporter Dan Kinvig chats with head coach Troy Ward about the state of the team. For future editions of FACEOFF, fans are invited to pose their own questions for Ward. Submit your questions for consideration via email to sports@abbynews.com, or via Twitter to @dankinvigsports. We caught up with Ward last week, as the Heat prepared for their first games of 2012.

Troy WARD

H C N E B

Q The Heat went 9-1-1 in the month

of December, and that was while dealing with a lot of adversity, with as many as 10 players absent due to injury or NHL recall. How did the team manage through that?

A “I think we managed it two ways. One,

I think the players were open-minded and open-hearted. Meaning, they let new people into their team that naturally aren’t always here. At the same time as they were open-minded about it, they were open-hearted about it – they had to assume new roles at times in different games. “A Gaelan Patterson had to move from being a checker to being a second-line centre at times, and vice

versa. We’ve had players go from being second-line players to fourth-line players. We’ve needed players to accept a Judd Blackwater in, and then they’ve got to see him play on the second line. ‘I’ve been here all year, and you’re not putting me up there?’ They’ve had to trust the process, and I thought that was a big part of our success. “And then my assistants (Luke Strand and Cail MacLean), they work extremely hard behind the scenes. They do an unbelievable job of educating the new players as to how we play – really quickly – and what the protocol is in how we manage a game. And you look at (goalie coach) Jordan Sigalet, taking a new goalie (Danny Taylor) from out of nowhere. How does this guy just come in and play in this system and play well? Well, in the science or tactical part of the game, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.”

A “It’s like raising a family. I often go to

that analogy, but I truly live and coach that way. It’s just like having offspring and watching them grow up and be successful. It’s the greatest gift you have in life – to be a parent and have successful kids. I look at myself as just a guiding father. “I’ve had a group of people come together and do special things, and I’m proud of them. At the same time, I’m very fortunate to be with people who are open-minded and open-hearted. They keep wanting to change, and everything revolves around the team. “Had I been coaching the all-star game, it would have been an honour for the whole team. I look at it like, I’m representing the Abbotsford Heat, what a great honour. I’m just managing the ship. I got on the ferry yesterday and went to Victoria, shopping. I used to have an assistant who had a buddy who was the captain of one of those ferries. He’d take me up, and you could sit in the chair where the captain sits. That thing’s as wide as this hallway, a big old white chair. I’m up there overlooking the ship, and that’s the position I’m in. I just look at it as, I’m the guy who’s supposed to guide the ship and chart how we’re going to plod along.”

Q You were very close to being an

all-star yourself. (The Oklahoma City Barons edged the Heat for the best record in the Western Conference at the end of 2011, which would have given Ward the right to coach the conference all-star team). What does this team’s success mean to you personally?

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Heat forw Desbiens ta the scenes fo

7:15 a.m.

Desbiens wakes up, fires up the coffee machine, and takes his dog – a Boston Terrier named Bear – for a walk. Then he heads down to the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre for breakfast at the team facility.

9 a.m. The Heat hold a trio of team meetings on game day – one that addresses five-on-five play, as well as power play and penalty killing sessions. Two of those meetings occur in the morning, while the third happens in the early

evening, prior to the game.

10 a.m. After taping his stick and stretching, Desbiens hits the ice with his teammate for the morning skate. "You want to get a quick sweat – a hightempo skate where you get your legs and your hands going," he explains. "Once you're off the ice, you know you're ready for the game that night." 10:45 a.m. After the skate, Desbiens has a protein shake, stretches again, then hops in the cold tub. He en-

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ABBOTSFORD NEWS

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AME DAY TINE

Thursday, January 12, 2012

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9

ward Guillaume akes us behind as he prepares or a home game

res the frigid water for eight minutes. "Not everybody likes it, and it's not fun," says with a wry chuckle. "But it helps e legs a little bit."

2 p.m.

Desbiens heads back his apartment to cook a pregame meal. s more or less the same every day – two icken breasts, some brown rice and getables. His fiance, Ally Nordgaard, lls the food out of the freezer while 's at the rink so it's thawed and ready cook when he gets home.

2 p.m.

The afternoon nap is a hockey staple, and Desbiens generally snoozes for an hour and a half. "It's part of getting your rest and recovering properly," he says. "It helps you relax a little bit, turn your brain off for a couple hours and not overthink the game. Once you get up, it takes a few minutes and a cup of coffee usually, and you're ready to go."

4:15 p.m.

Desbiens leaves for the rink, where he'll participate in one

final team meeting. He doesn't eat dinner until post-game, because he doesn't like to feel too full. He might grab some fruit or yogurt in the meantime. Some players have a pregame superstitions; Desbiens says he has a routine. "I like to put on my equipment in the same order," he says. "But if by mistake I put on my left pad before my right one, I won't be mind-boggled. "I'm not superstitious like that, but some guys are. I've seen guys leave their sticks in the bathroom. They did it once and scored a couple goals, and they think

that's the reason why."

7 p.m.

Game time.

10 p.m.

After a post-game meal, Desbiens heads home, where he'll watch TV until he falls asleep. Usually, that's not until after midnight. "I have a couple coffees before the game, and things like Gatorade and Powerade have a lot of sugar in them," he notes. "So once you get home, it's kind of hard to go to sleep."

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Langley’s Walter savours homecoming Continued from page 3

New York Islanders organization, Walter played the bulk of his time with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but he did manage his first career NHL goal in a game against Tampa Bay. Walter then spent a season in the New Jersey organization and then last season with the Colorado Avalanche. He led the team’s AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, with 70 points in 77 games, good enough to finish ninth in league scoring. His hockey odyssey continued, landing with the Calgary Flames organization this past off-season. The Langley product has been a staple for the Abbotsford Heat, returning to the Lower Mainland after an extended absence. “This year it was just strange being close to home, being able to see my family whenever I wanted,” he said. “I had Thanksgiving with my family this year, which I haven’t done in a long time.” As of press deadline, Walter was third on the Heat with 25 points in 35 games. And while Walter — like his teammates — strives to play in the NHL, he bides his time, waiting for another shot. “People always say the hardest part is sticking (in the NHL),” he said. “You just have to stick with it and stay hungry and work to get back there.”

Having the right outlook is essential. “At the end of the day, you still get to play hockey for a living, which is great, but you still have to have that drive to try and get better,” Walter said. Last season, Walter captained Lake Erie for the second half of the year, a new experience for him. “I enjoyed it, it was certainly something new, especially at the pro level,” he said. While some leaders are the type who may deliver a fiery locker room tirade to rally the team, that is not his nature. “I am not the kind of guy who is going to stand up and make speeches all the time; I am the kind of guy who is going to lead by example and say something once in awhile and hope that it means something.” Walter marvels at his father’s public speaking skills — the elder Walter is a renowned motivational speaker and author — something he admits he lacks. “I have always been kind of nervous when I have to speak in front of people,” Walter said. Instead, Walter lets his actions on the ice do the talking. “I have always tried to keep an even keel on the ice,” he said. “That is my personality off the ice as well, so I think it just transfers over. “The biggest thing is just leading by example; you don’t want to say too

much or try to be an ‘in-your-face’ guy.” Heat head coach Troy Ward called Walter “a quiet guy who leads with his stick.” “He is a calming influence who has great poise with the puck and makes the players around him better,” he said. “A great demeanor – never too high and never too low.” And while some players may develop a negative attitude for what they may perceive as not getting their shot, Walter remains the consummate pro. “He understands the business,” Ward said. “He just keeps plugging away. He knows if he keeps working, he is going to get his chance.” Even though they are competing to catch the attention of the Flames and earn a call-up, as one of the Heat’s elder statesmen — Walter is 27, the fifth-eldest on the team — he takes pride in showing the younger guys how to be a pro. “You have to look at it like you are the example, you have to show them the way to be a pro, how to conduct yourself on and off the ice,” Walter said. “I looked up to the older guys (when I came into the league) trying to see what they were doing. “Off the ice is the biggest challenge for any young pro hockey player; you learn along the way and try to pass that on as you get older.”

Amy Williams Photography


ABBOTSFORD NEWS

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STATS SCORING STATS AS OF JAN. 6

GOALIE STATS Leland Irving Danny Taylor Joni Ortio

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THE 10TH ANNUAL FRASER VALLEY

ABBOTSFORD HEAT Krys Kolanos Jon Rheault Ben Walter Clay Wilson Greg Nemisz Dustin Sylvester Quintin Laing Brendan Mikkelson Guillaume Desbiens Paul Byron Lance Bouma Jordan Henry Joe Piskula T.J. Brodie Raitis Ivanans Gaelan Patterson Chris Breen Akim Aliu Brett Carson John Armstrong Roman Horak Patrick Cullity Logan MacMillan Justin Dowling Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond John Negrin Danny Taylor Leland Irving Jason Dale Aaron Lewicki Judd Blackwater Bobby Robins Joni Ortio Mitch Wahl Stefan Meyer Russ Sinkewich James Martin Carter Bancks Ryan Howse

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John NEGRIN Q A

If you were not a pro hockey player, what line of work do you think you’d be in? “I’d be a musician. I just really enjoy playing the guitar, I enjoy singing, and I’ve always had a passion for music.”

Q Who’s the most famous person whose number is in your cellphone? A “(Heat teammate) Dustin Sylvester.” (chuckles) Q Aside from hockey, which sports trophy would you most like to win? A “The Super Bowl, as a quarterback. It would just be cool, I think. I’ve never played the position, but those guys are pretty cool.”

Q A Q A

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you pick? “I’d probably pick Tiger Woods. He’s an interesting dude, he’s been through a lot, and he’s got just as much determination for golf. I like how he’s making a comeback right now, too.”

I know there’s a lot of talk that goes on on the ice – what’s the best trash talk line you’ve ever heard? “Oh, man. I’ve heard a couple times about my red hair. But there’s not one line in particular that really stands out.”

Q Does that sort of thing ever get under your skin? A “No, not really. It’s all just part of the game.” Q You’re from West Vancouver. What’s your perfect day in the off-season? A “The perfect day in the off-season would probably be waking up, playing a game of golf, then hitting the beach.”


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Aliu a ‘special player’: Ward “We have a special player here. I think he can help us. You can see loads of skill, but at noted, “to help him become a successful the same time, you have to look at the bigger player and and successful person. picture. It’s about his day-to-day activity as “We’ve got to look at how we change a person that will override his playing ability, behavioral patterns and how we change and that’s what we’re working on right now. relationships with teammates, relationships And to his credit, he’s been totally open to with coaches, how he handles the equipthat. I think he feels there’s an open door ment staff. Those are the things we’re going here.” about now. As we work on those Aliu said he’s willing to take on things, we’ve still got to work on whatever role Ward needs him to the player.” fill. Less than two weeks into his Aliu brings an intriguing blend of tenure in Abbotsford, he already size (6’3”, 205 pounds) and skill to feels at home with the Heat. the table, befitting his status as a “Honestly, it’s been awesome,” former second-round draft choice he said. “They’ve all been very welof the Chicago Blackhawks (56th coming, and they’ve been teaching overall in 2007). He scored two me a lot in the first few days here. goals in his first four games with It’s a great group of guys, and the Heat. they’ve made me feel warm and ALIU Ward wants to see Aliu establish welcome.” himself as a reliable checking forAliu has a unique background ward at the AHL level, before being entrusted – he was born in Okene, Nigeria, then moved with more of a scoring role. It’s a developwith his family to Kiev, Ukraine before his ment arc that fellow Heat forward Guillaume second birthday. He got a relatively late start Desbiens followed as a younger player, when in hockey, only beginning in the sport after his he was a member of the Manitoba Moose. family moved to Canada when he was 10. “He’s going to have to play a role here he’s Many hockey fans still remember Aliu’s never embraced before,” Ward said. “If he name from an ugly hazing-related incident in can learn to check and play smart and play 2005-06, early in his junior hockey career with with some discipline, I think he’ll be a big part the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Aliu, 16 years of our team. Continued from page 4

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old at the time, was involved in an altercation during practice with current Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steve Downie, an older teammate. Aliu reportedly had refused to participate in a hazing episode, and Downie knocked out three of Aliu’s teeth with a blindside cross-check before dropping the gloves with the youngster. The ensuing publicity shone a bright light on the issue of hazing in hockey. “It happened a long time ago, and I’m kind of still hearing about it,” noted Aliu, who said he’s sick of talking about the incident at this point. “But I’m fine with it. I’m trying to get

past it.” Aliu has looked right at home on the Heat’s third line with cagey centre Quintin Laing and rough-and-tumble left winger Lance Bouma. Laing, the Heat’s captain, has been of particular assistance to the newcomer. “Lainger’s been good with helping me out during practice, with drills and understanding the team concept, the way they play here,” Aliu said. “Booms is obviously an energy guy – he finishes his checks, and you know what you’re going to get from him every night. They’ve been great at helping me out, for sure.”

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Pilots loaded for bear

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DanKINVIG ABBOTSFORD NEWS

Down the stretch of the regular season, bear hunting is the order of the day for the Abbotsford Pilots. The local junior B hockey club currently sits second in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League’s Harold Brittain Conference, and with a 17-point cushion on the third-place Port Moody Black Panthers, it’s highly unlikely they’ll fall any lower. All that’s left to fight for is first place in the conference – the Pilots sat just four points back of the Aldergrove Kodiaks as of press time, with each team having 16 regular season games remaining. Pilots coach Jim Cowden is quick to note, though, that overtaking the Kodiaks is of secondary importance in his mind to simply getting his team

healthy and firing on all cylinders come playoff time. The Pilots have been hit by a devastating wave of injuries over the past month, with a half-dozen players watching from the press box at any given time. Currently, the Abby squad is missing forwards Kevin Lourens, Riley Lamb, Brandon Daase, Brock Wellicome and Dakota Schipper, and goalie Riley Parker. Cowden said that while he won’t sacrifice his team’s health in order to catch the Kodiaks, he still believes it can be done. “I think we still can take them,” he asserted. “They have a tough schedule coming up – this week they play Delta and Richmond, and we’re still only four points behind. I think our biggest problem is, when we get close to

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Chris Vinette of the Pilots intercepts a pass against the Aldergrove Kodiaks. them, we seem to drop winnable games.” Indeed, the Pilots sandwiched a big regulationtime win over the Kodiaks on Dec. 23 with losses to

the Black Panthers and the Ridge Meadows Flames – both teams with records well below the .500 mark. “These are teams that we should beat,

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