B.C.’s Kyle Tur­ris makes a big im­pact on and off the ice

Sen­a­tors’ star cen­tre en­joy­ing unique bond with spe­cial needs hockey team in Canada’s cap­i­tal

The Province - - FRONT PAGE - Ed Willes

Marc Craw­ford knew Kyle Tur­ris the prodigy long be­fore he knew Kyle Tur­ris the man and even though the young Tur­ris looked like he could use a good meal, Craw­ford could see Tur­ris had some­thing spe­cial.

So could ev­ery scout in West­ern Canada.

“He had that elite skill level,” says Craw­ford, then the Vancouver Canucks’ head coach whose son Dy­lan was a team­mate of Tur­ris’s at the North Shore Win­ter Club in the early aughts. “He was the best player on the ice ev­ery night.”

Thir­teen years later, Craw­ford still mon­i­tors Tur­ris’s game as the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors’ as­so­ci­ate coach and gets to see the adult ver­sion. But when he talks about Tur­ris th­ese days, the long­time hockey man doesn’t ref­er­ence his vi­sion, cre­ativ­ity or the mile-wide com­pet­i­tive streak that has emerged this post-sea­son. Rather, Craw­ford talks about some­thing more im­por­tant, some­thing deep in­side Tur­ris that is even more im­pres­sive than his on-ice abil­i­ties.

“He’s just a good per­son and that’s so im­por­tant,” says Craw­ford. “We for­get about that some­times, but he’s a guy you never have to worry about, you know his pri­or­i­ties are straight and you know he’s hav­ing a pos­i­tive im­pact on peo­ple in that locker-room.”

Or, in this case, be­yond that locker-room.

“He loves them and they love him,” Tur­ris’s mother Vikki says of her son’s work with the Cap­i­tal City Con­dors, an Ot­tawa-based team for the de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled. “It’s a mir­a­cle those kids can play hockey and it gives every­one con­nected to the pro­gram such a sense of joy.” But few more than Tur­ris. It’s taken some time, but the 27-year-old Tur­ris is in­tro­duc­ing him­self to the coun­try as both a player and a per­son in this Stan­ley Cup spring. On the ice, he has taken a lead role in the Sens’ march to the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, now do­ing bat­tle with Pitts­burgh’s Sid­ney Crosby and Ev­geni Malkin af­ter scor­ing the team’s big­gest goal of the post-sea­son with his over­time win­ner in Game 5 against the Rangers.

“Right be­fore our eyes, he’s learn­ing to com­pete at the high­est level,” says Craw­ford, who glee­fully re­ports Tur­ris led the Sens with nine hits in the piv­otal Game 5 of the Rangers se­ries. “He’s be­come a play­off player and that’s where you build your rep­u­ta­tion.”

But it’s his rep­u­ta­tion off the ice that might be the larger story. Tur­ris was in­tro­duced to the Con­dors by for­mer team­mate Matt Carkner, who was the team’s hon­orary cap­tain. Founded by Ot­tawa cou­ple Jim and Shana Perkins, the Con­dors started with three play­ers a decade ago and have since grown to a ros­ter of 40, in­clud­ing Tur­ris’s pal Chris­tian Ouimet, a 14-year-old with a rare ge­netic dis­or­der that re­sulted in 28 dif­fer­ent sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures and left Ouimet legally blind and deaf.

“It’s some­thing you can’t re­ally ex­plain,” Tur­ris said of his work with the Con­dors. “It’s some­thing you have to ex­pe­ri­ence your­self.”

But this might ex­plain the con­nec­tion more clearly. Fol­low­ing his Game 5 hero­ics in the Rangers se­ries, Tur­ris, his wife Julie and son Beckett at­tended the Con­dors’ endof-the-sea­son ban­quet in Ot­tawa.

Of Ouimet, Tur­ris says: “We want our son to grow up with sim­i­lar char­ac­ter traits to Chris­tian’s; the strength he has, the at­ti­tude he has.”

Which, come to think of it, are traits Tur­ris pos­sesses in spades.

As a teenager, Tur­ris could have writ­ten his ticket any­where, but at age 14 he opted for the U.S. col­lege route, which meant two sea­sons with the then-Burn­aby Ex­press in the BCHL. Join­ing the team as a reed-thin 16-year-old, Ex­press coach Rick Lanz plot­ted to man­age the young cen­tre’s min­utes un­til he filled out.

That strat­egy lasted un­til the first week of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“He quickly turned into our go-to guy,” says Lanz, the for­mer Canucks de­fence­man. “He was a kid who had an NHL brain along with cre­ativ­ity and imag­i­na­tion. It stood out like a sore thumb with him. It was fun to watch.”

“It’s a mir­a­cle those kids can play hockey and it gives every­one ... such a sense of joy.” — Kyle Tur­ris’s mom Vikki

Turns would put up 72 points in his rookie year as the Ex­press won the RBC Cup, then re­turned as a 17-yearold with a mon­ster 121-point cam­paign. He spent most of the 200607 sea­son as the top-rated prospect in the 2007 draft and was even­tu­ally selected third over­all by the Phoenix Coy­otes. Wayne Gret­zky, then the Coy­otes’ head coach, came out to an Ex­press game to scout Tur­ris per­son­ally and later in­vited the fam­ily out for an af­ter­noon on Den­nis Washington’s yacht in Coal Har­bour.

“That got Kyle’s at­ten­tion,” Bruce says.

The irony in all this, ac­cord­ing to his fa­ther, is that Kyle was bet­ter at lacrosse than hockey. That’s an in­formed opin­ion be­cause Bruce Tur­ris, who played in the West­ern Lacrosse As­so­ci­a­tion for 15 sea­sons with the Vancouver Bur­rards and Co­quit­lam Adanacs, is a mem­ber of the Cana­dian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

“When he was 14, Hockey Canada started look­ing at him for na­tional teams and there was a con­flict,” Bruce says. “He had to make a choice and hockey pre­sented more op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

It just took a while for those op­por­tu­ni­ties to present them­selves. Af­ter a sea­son with the NCAA’s Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin Badgers, Tur­ris grad­u­ated to the Coy­otes, but his first full sea­son was Gret­zky’s last sea­son be­hind the bench. Dave Tip­pett, who stressed a de­fen­sive style, would take over the fol­low­ing year and the young cen­tre would spend the 2009-10 sea­son in the Amer­i­can Hockey League with the San An­to­nio Ram­page be­fore de­mand­ing a trade.

It might have been the one time in his ca­reer Tur­ris acted out of self-in­ter­est.

“He just wanted to play,” says Vikki. “He did what he had to do.”

The Sen­a­tors would pil­fer Tur­ris from the Coy­otes for de­fence­man David Rund­blad and a sec­ond-round pick and in his sec­ond full sea­son in Ot­tawa, he put up 26 goals and 58 points in what’s be­come his ca­reer norms.

Tur­ris might not be a clas­sic first­line cen­tre but with Der­ick Bras­sard and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the Sens con­cede noth­ing down the mid­dle of the ice.

“We don’t have the clas­sic one, two and three,” says Craw­ford. “But one of them seems to rise up ev­ery game.”

Some higher than others, and that’s both on and off the ice.

“He’s just a re­ally good per­son who hap­pens to be a good hockey player,” says Bruce Tur­ris.

We can all see that now.

— GETTY IMAGES FILES

Kyle Tur­ris has played a piv­otal role for the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors in their post-sea­son charge to the NHL’s East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal, in­clud­ing scor­ing the game-win­ning goal in over­time in Game 5 of their sec­ond-round se­ries with the New York Rangers.

JAY GULA/PNG FILES

Kyle Tur­ris back when he was the ‘go-to guy’ for the BCHL’s Burn­aby Ex­press and an RBC Cup cham­pion.

— GETTY IMAGES FILES

From left, the top three picks of the 2007 NHL draft, which in­cluded Kyle Tur­ris (who was taken third over­all by Phoenix Coy­otes), Pa­trick Kane (first over­all by the Chicago Black­hawks) and James van Riems­dyk (sec­ond over­all by the Philadelphia Fly­ers).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.