It’s a busy day for the Winnipeg ICE, at an important time of the season.
Fresh from practice at The RINK Training Centre, the local Western Hockey League team loaded up the bus and hit the road determined to keep pushing in the race for playoff spots in the East Division.
Two points behind first-place Prince Albert, and four up on Manitoba-rivals the Brandon Wheat Kings, the ICE travel to Swift Current today ahead of tomorrow’s game against the Broncos to open four straight away from home.
Winnipeg is 3-and-0 against Swift Current this season, but taking nothing for granted against a team hungry to play spoiler.
The rest of the trek west is made up of two tests in Lethbridge and a visit to Medicine Hat, two skilled teams locked in a battle for position in the Central Division.
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
With all of that to get geared up for it’s easy to look past simply being healthy enough to go out and compete.
ICE forward James Form isn’t guilty of that though, the rookie is thrilled to have a couple of months of hockey under his belt after a roller-coaster start to the season.
Form suffered a serious upper-body injury in a game in Prince Albert in late September that sidelined him for nearly three months.
But after extensive rehab, plenty of help from the ICE staff and his teammates, and lots of encouragement from parents Daryn and Nicole, Form got back in the mix December 11th against the Kelowna Rockets.
“The feeling that you get from being able to play again, it’s almost like no other,” said James in-between today’s practice and loading the bus this morning. “Just being out sucks so much that when you finally get back to playing you’re having so much fun and you’re so happy again. The highlight of my season was probably just getting back to playing.”
Beyond the physical pain of dealing with an injury, and all of the work it takes to return to fitness, Form says there’s the mental side of not being able to do what you love to do and being unable to help your teammates.
“It’s definitely difficult because when you walk into the league your first thought is how can I be a part of this team? How can I add to the team? Where’s my role? How can I be better in my role? So the moment you become injured and the next three months of your life become rehab while your teammates are all improving, getting comfortable in the league, you’re kind of stuck sitting at home. It’s definitely difficult, but the fact that I knew I would come back to the team that was definitely hope that I’d be back there. That kind of got me through it.”
HIGHS AND LOWS
Oh yeah, the ‘roller-coaster’ part of this story.
Form wasn’t just excited to be a member of the ICE out of training camp, he was playing just his second game of the season when he got hurt in P.A.
A second game that was a night after his season-debut in Saskatoon against his hometown Blades.
“Interesting time, it’s my first game as a full member of the team and in front of my friends and family. I go into a game thinking yeah just work hard and it ends up being my first goal in the dub against my hometown team. It was pretty exciting!”
Talk about going from a night you’ll always remember to a game you’d rather forget!
All that behind him now, Form seems to have found a way to help the group down the stretch.
“When I’m out there it should be more so work your hardest, don’t get scored on. As opposed to, you know, go out there and try and be the guy cause that’s not what my role is. If I can get out there I can work hard. I can get the puck deep. I can do what I was told then I think I can come off the ice kind of happy with myself at the end of the day.”
Sensible approach from a player who’s grown this season through his experiences on-and-off the ice.
So what about this stretch of four straight away from the ICE Cave James?
“We just had a tough road trip against Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton and I think that kind of gave us the motivation that we need to pick it up a little bit.”
Wins over Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat since then support Form’s point-of-view, but if there are any lessons he’s taking from this season it’s be grateful for what you have and take nothing for granted.
You can catch the ICE versus the Broncos Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at winnipegice.ca, cjob.com, and WHL Live.