by Christine Ulmer
Some of Logan Mick’s earliest memories of hockey include the Vernon Vipers.
He grew up in Vernon, and before the age of three was on skates and at Vipers practices with his dad, Troy, who served as head coach of the Vernon team that won the city’s fourth national championship in 1999.
Now 17, Logan gets the chance this week to make his own RBC Cup memories as a member of the team he grew up watching.
“Playing in the RBC Cup is really big for me,” he said. “There’s a bit of added pressure because we are the host but it also gives us confidence. We have a proud past in this tournament and would like nothing more than to give this community another championship.”
The 2014 RBC Cup will be just as special for his father.
Currently the head coach and general manager of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Troy Mick has a history with the Vipers that reaches back decades. Like his son, Troy grew up in Vernon and played for the team (then known as the Lakers) before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
He came back to Vernon in the 1990s and won a pair of national titles, first as an assistant in 1996 and then as head coach of the 1999 national champs.
“This is a pretty surreal experience for me,” said Troy. “I’ve been involved with this team in so many ways. I’ve been a player, I’ve been a coach, and I’ve been the enemy on the other bench. I’m really excited to be able to just be a dad at this tournament.”
As a father, coach and former player, Troy understands just how extraordinary this opportunity is for his son and both agree that playing in Vernon for the home crowd will make this tournament just a little bit more special.
“I used to come to all the games as a kid and the fans have always been great,” said Logan. “They’ve been really good to us this year. We’ve had some ups and downs, but they’ve been there.”
His dad knows the fans, and the Vernon hockey community, only too well.
“Back when I coached the team we played in the Civic Arena and it was a really special atmosphere,” said Troy. “We had the best fans. The same people that supported us then are still supporting the Vipers. You see them sitting behind the penalty box. They may be a little greyer and a little older, but they’re just as rowdy. It really says a lot about the community and hockey’s place in it.
“Logan spent a lot of time in that old arena. He was two years old and the team would push him around on his skates. Those were some pretty special moments. I look back and wonder where the time has gone.”
In the 15 years since Logan teetered around the ice with the 1999 national champions, a lot has changed in his hockey development. He attributes his success and growth as a player to the skills he learned from his first coach – his dad.
“My dad has really been my coach my whole life,” said Logan. “I have learned everything I know from him. Shooting, reading the play, finishing checks, keeping my feet moving – those are all skills I learned from him. He is my greatest supporter and has been the number one influence on my game.”
Troy is quick to point out his son’s strengths, but hesitates to take the credit for them.
“Logan’s skating is really good,” said Troy. “I watch him and sometimes I wonder if he is my kid. He must get those skills from his mom because he’s a much better skater than me, and he plays really physical. I’ve had the chance to coach him a few times but I’m really glad he’s been able to learn from others. He has been blessed with exceptional coaches who have taught him a lot and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Logan routinely checks in with his dad before and after games and the two text back and forth in what has become a bit of a pre-game and post-game ritual.
“He’ll text me before the game and give me some things to work on and then we’ll do some analysis after the game,” explained Logan. “He gives me great advice and picks up on things that I may not notice.”
But this is Canada’s National Junior A Championship, and the usual pre-game tips just wouldn’t be enough.
The advice Troy gave his son prior to the RBC Cup was a little different.
“I went to see him before the first game and I told him to enjoy every minute of it. You just never know if you’ll get another opportunity to play in a national championship. Hockey really isn’t about the wins and losses, hockey gives you a lifetime of memories and I want him to take the time to really experience it.”