For a young, aspiring hockey player in Revelstoke, the Grizzlies are looked up to — the closest thing to hockey stars we have here. For a trio of local youth, they will realize a dream by suiting up for the team this year.
“I think it will be fun,” said Nii Noi Tetteh. “When I was younger, I remember looking up to all the older guys and wanting to be a Grizzly. Now that you’re of age, it’s cool to be with the team.”
Tetteh, 16, Josh Pilon, 16, and Louie Federico, 17, all cracked the Grizzlies lineup, the first time they will be suiting up as regulars for the Junior B team.
“I’m excited to play in front of my home town,” said Federico.
All three players grew up playing minor hockey in Revelstoke — Federico one year ahead of his two teammates. The three would play together every second year. Pilon and Tetteh were key members of the Revelstoke Bantam Grizzlies team that went to the provincial championships two years ago.
As part of a small group of players, they formed bonds and close friendships.
The small size of their group gave them lots of room to get better as players, even if there wasn’t the same level of local competition as in bigger centres.
“I know I always got a lot of one-on-one with the coaches and a lot of ice time,” said Tetteh. “It helped us get better every day. I feel like playing in a bigger city makes it harder because there’s so many more kids.”
When it came time for midget hockey, all three had to go abroad. Federico played for Sicamous team and Tetteh and Pilon both played Major Midget with the Thompson Blazers. Pilon said there was some thought of going back to Major Midget, but that ended when they came to Grizzlies camp.
“We thought about it but in the long run and practicing with this group of guys, we thought it would be in our best interest to stay in our hometown and play for another year,” he said.
For Tetteh and Pilon, this was their first chance at joining the lineup. Federico, however, tried out last year but didn’t make the team.
“I felt like last year, it just wasn’t the right fit for me,” he said. “I just came back harder, worked all summer and tried to crack the team.”
All three have simple goals this season — work hard, crack the lineup every game, get better and move up to the next level of hockey, whether that be Junior A or the Western Hockey League.
“My goal is to make it to the next level and then keep going as far as I can and until I can’t go any further,” said Tetteh. “I want to play pro one day. That’s not always possible, but if I can I definitely will.”
They were all positive about this year’s team. “I feel like it’s a better atmosphere and culture,” said Federico, who practiced with last year’s team. “Last year was not the same level of intensity.”
I asked them to compare their playing styles to that of NHLers. Pilon said Tetteh reminded him of Claude Giroux, Federico compared Pilon to Jamie Benn, while Tetteh compared Federico to Pavel Datsyuk.
Grizzlies coach Ryan Parent praised Tetteh’s work ethic and intelligence. “If he continues to work the way he is he’ll have a bright future in hockey,” said Parent.
He noted Pilon’s size, and said once he figures out how to use it better, “he’s going to be a really effective player.”
As for Federico, he called him a big surprise and said he was a very skilled player.
“What I liked about the last game is he’s playing a real team game,” said Parent. “He’s not afraid to move the puck to get it back. He’s really sharing the puck and being a good contributing forward that way.”
Parent said all three fall in the middle of the team’s depth chart right now.
“Being as young as they all are, I think they’ll continue to climb up the ranks and move into positions where we can utilize them more specifically.”