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