Hockey play­ers on front line in wild­fire sea­son

Coy­otes’ top scorer last sea­son won’t re­join the team un­til mid­dle of Oc­to­ber

Penticton Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By AN­DREW STUCKEY

Osoy­oos Today

OSOY­OOS — Colin Bell ex­pects to play hockey for the Osoy­oos Coy­otes later this fall. Right now, though, he’s busy fight­ing wild­fires.

The Coy­otes’ lead­ing scorer last sea­son — he notched 25 goals and 71 points — the 20-year-old Bell is fin­ished with school and now con­sid­ers him­self a work­ing man.

“It’s a re­ally good sum­mer job that keeps me in shape and helps me out fi­nan­cial-wise to be able to play ju­nior hockey,” he ex­plained from a stag­ing area near the Fin­lay fire be­tween Peach­land and Summerland.

“It’s a re­ally good sum­mer gig if you want to be play­ing hockey in the win­ter or go to school.”

Bell joined the BC Wild­fire Service with for­mer Coy­ote Ryan Rose­boom. The two played to­gether last sea­son and bil­leted with Kathy Hiebert.

“I en­cour­aged him to come,” said Rose­boom. “We lived to­gether last year, so we’re pretty good bud­dies.”

The two are part of a 20-man wild­fire crew that has criss-crossed the province as the worst wild­fire sea­son ever to hit B.C. flared up over the sum­mer.

“We’re just do­ing what we can out here,” said Bell. “We’ve def­i­nitely had some tough days. There were a cou­ple of days in the Cari­boo that were pretty hec­tic, a lot of run­ning around, sav­ing peo­ple’s houses.”

“We’re just try­ing to get a grip on the fire, do­ing our part to hold it,” said Bell.

If that mod­est as­sess­ment of per­for­mance sounds fa­mil­iar, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause it’s akin to lan­guage play­ers of­ten use defin­ing their con­tri­bu­tion to the team — on or off the ice.

“It is like a team at­mos­phere. You’re with 20 guys, 20 broth­ers,” Bell said. “It’s like hockey — 20 broth­ers there and 20 broth­ers here.” And he coins an­other sports maxim. “It’s been a pretty long sea­son,” he added. “I’m kind of itch­ing to get back to Osoy­oos and to play some hockey. I’m miss­ing some of the guys.”

That re­turn likely won’t come un­til midOc­to­ber, Bell said. Right now, the work on the front line fight­ing wild­fires is much more im­por­tant.

While Bell plans to re­turn to Osoy­oos and play hockey, Rose­boom has other de­signs — do­ing some travel in the off-sea­son and get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion.

“I’ve done this for about four years now,” he said. “I’m go­ing to keep do­ing it for a few more years and travel or go to school in the win­ter.”

Randy Bedard, the Coy­otes’ gen­eral man­ager, says he’s not sur­prised with the two Coy­otes’ work ethic. The KIJHL league in gen­eral — and more specif­i­cally the Coy­otes or­ga­ni­za­tion — works hard to pro­duce solid young men.

“A lot of them will talk about get­ting a schol­ar­ship; they re­ally don’t talk about turn­ing it into a ca­reer,” Bedard said, ex­plain­ing the ground­ing that tends to take place. “The goal for most is to get to a point where they can play hockey and get an ed­u­ca­tion, too.

Life on the front lines of B.C.’s wild­fire­fight­ing ef­fort ap­pears to be pro­vid­ing the young work­ers with a sense of grit, de­ter­mi­na­tion and ac­com­plish­ment as well.

“Some days out here can be tougher than hockey,” Rose­boom said. “They’re long days in the sun, but we are get­ting the job done.”

BC Wild­fire Service photo

Colin Bell and Ryan Rose­boom, who have suited up for the Osoy­oos Coy­otes, spent the sum­mer bat­tling wild­fires.

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