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HARD-WORKING, HIGH-SCORING CHMELKA NAMED COYOTES MVP
When Colin Chmelka was called up to receive a trophy as the Most Valuable Player on the Osoyoos Coyotes, the announcement caught him by surprise.
“I was kind of shocked actually,” said Chmelka, who also took a trophy for being the team’s top scorer at an awards presentation and banquet held at the Sonora Community Centre Feb. 20.
“I didn’t know I was going to get it, but I’m happy to have it,” said the tall forward, who comes from Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I’m really honoured to have it … It was a toss-up between a lot of guys. A lot of guys could have got it.”
Although Chmelka picked up a couple of the most prestigious trophies, a number of teammates, volunteers and sponsors were also honoured at the event.
Along with most of those teammates, Chmelka’s hair was dyed blond in preparation for the playoffs. The Coyotes are battling the Princeton Posse in the first-round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Osoyoos played game four at home Tuesday night. They led the best-of-seven series 2-1 heading into the contest.
Like many players, Chmelka got his start in hockey at a young age in Colorado Springs with encouragement from his father.
“When I was young, Dad laced them up, pushed me on the ice and told me to skate, and I skated and I’ve loved it ever since,” Chmelka said.
Hockey in Colorado may not be as popular as it is in Canada, but it was becoming more popular when Chmelka was young, he said.
He played most of his hockey in his home state, but last year he played at the AAA midget level in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his first time playing away from home.
“This is my first junior year and it’s with the Coyotes and I wouldn’t have it with any other team,” Chmelka said.
“He was a real find for me,” said Ken Law, head coach of the Coyotes. “I was down in Colorado and he came out to a camp so that I could see him and right away I knew he was perfect. I knew right there that we had to get him.”
Law praises Chmelka’s “intestinal fortitude,” his work ethic and leadership.
“He makes sure he goes to the net hard and he has an incredible shot,” said Law. “He’s the kid the guys look up to because he always gives it his all. You know that you’re getting 110 per cent every time he’s out there.”
Although the assistant captain is quiet, he shows leadership and the players gravitate to him “because he’s such a good kid,” Law said.
Chmelka likes Osoyoos.
“It’s a great town,” he said. “The community’s really awesome. All my teammates are amazing. I wouldn’t be the top scorer without my teammates.”
Still, Chmelka plans to try out for Junior A hockey next year with the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) or North American Hockey League (NAHL).
If he doesn’t earn a roster spot at a higher level, he plans to come back to Osoyoos.
Last week’s event was also a chance to celebrate the accomplishments of the team, which bounced back from a slump early in the season to take third place in their division and a spot in the playoffs.
Team owner Randy Bedard, who acted as Master of Ceremonies at the awards banquet, told about 125 attendees that the best move he’s ever made was to become the team’s sole owner.
He quickly dispelled any speculation the team would move anywhere else.
“As long as I’m around, I can promise this kind of gathering will continue for years to come, as will the Coyotes,” Bedard said.
Other players also received trophies.
Evan Last was named Rookie of the Year and also received an award for Scholastic Achievement, for keeping up his grades while playing solid hockey.
Brandon Watson was picked for the Fans’ Choice Award, and Alex Grupe took the Three Stars award. Troy Maclise was named Most Sportsmanlike Player, Garnett Kucher, the captain, was honoured as Most Inspirational Player, and Cam Dobransky was named Top Defenceman.
Austin Lee took the newly introduced Unsung Hero Award.
“Austin is a kid you can put in any situation,” Law said, adding Lee never complains about anything as he’s an ultimate team player.