The 2011-12 BCHL season is one of role reversal for Chiefs forward Garrett Forster. Playing his first season in junior A hockey, the 16-year-old is big brother to two younger sisters back home in Delta.
Taryn is 14 years old.
Halle is nine.
“I’ve spent a lot of my life looking out for my little sisters and helping them to make the right decisions,” Forster said. “Helping them correct the bad decisions too and make sure they don’t make them again.”
Like the great lipstick debacle.
“When Halle was about five, she got into my mom’s lipstick and painted her whole face red,” Forster laughed. “I had to help her wash it off and get all her clothes clean before my mom found out. It was a lot of effort because that stuff didn’t want to come out. I don’t think mom ever found out about it.”
With the Chiefs, Forster finds himself playing the role of little brother, surrounded by a group of guys two, three and four years older than him.
Jaret Babych is 17-years-old.
The team has five 18 year olds, ten 19 year olds and four 20 year olds.
Forster truly is the baby of the group, and he is often treated as such.
“They definitely give me a hard time,” he said. “If the dressing room’s not clean, they let me have it. Any little thing, if I don’t do it, I get in trouble.”
The Chiefs have an internal system of fines, handed out for various ‘crimes.’
Only two games into the season, Forster has been assessed $19 in penalties, although at least one of those fines seems unlikely to stand up in a real court of law.
“It’s two bucks for most things and they made me pay a $5 welcome to the BCHL fine, which is a little outrageous,” he laughed. “Sticks not being in the racks. Tape on the floor. Not vacuuming properly. You’re just guilty and they’re a pretty biased crowd in there.”
With the kangaroo court that appears to be running in the Chiefs dressing room, Forster’s very likely to get fined for saying that.
Sorry about that Garrett.
They call him rock-pile and give him the gears, but at the same time, Forster finds himself thankful to have 19 older brothers watching out for him.
Just as he helps his sisters to avoid and learn from mistakes, so too he depends on veterans like captain Ty Miller to help him avoid and correct his.
“It’s actually kind of nice because it gives me a different perspective than I’m used to,” he said. “I figure out things easier hanging out with older guys. They’ve all been in the league and they’ll tell me a lot of little things that make a big difference in the end.”
As a big brother, Forster gets his greatest joy from watching his sisters grow up — learning and accomplishing new things each and every day.
“I go away for a month and I come back and Halle’s gotten so much bigger,” Forster said. “She used to be so little and it’s weird seeing her grow up so fast.”
As a little brother, every shift and every game is a milestone. On his first BCHL goal, scored against Salmon Arm last weekend, you could almost picture his teammates on the bench saying, ‘Oh isn’t that cute! Little Garrett just put the puck in the net! He’s growing up so fast.’
“I doubt they were saying that,” Forster laughed. “I was really excited and they were excited too.”
Of all the vets on the team, Forster cited defenceman Stefan Gonzales as the guy who has taken him under his wing.
On off days, Forster often finds his way to the billet house where Gonzales is staying, and the Surrey native has become the go-to guy whenever the rookie needs help with his homework.
“I’ve only asked Gonzo for help so far because he lives the closest to me, although David (Thompson) would probably be a good one too, cause I hear he got into Penn State on just on his SAT scores,” the Sardis secondary student said. “Chris (Blessing) would probably be the least helpful, because we’d get sidetracked within minutes.”
Back to that first goal, the third Chilliwack goal in a 6-4 win over Salmon Arm.
Chiefs head coach Harvey Smyl was probably pleased with the tally because it wasn’t the prettiest goal — it wasn’t the result of a bunch of dangling or a top shelf laser of a wrist shot.
It was simply Forster going to the ‘dirty area,’ driving to the net to chip in the rebound of a Jeremy Gossard shot. Having a 16-year-old who isn’t afraid of physical play is a plus in the BCHL.
“The adrenaline was flowing, and it was ever better because my whole family was up in the stands watching, but I tried to put that aside and finish the game because, you know, you’ve got to finish the game,” Forster smiled. “Harvey’s a smart coach and he’s not putting me in positions where I’ll be overmatched or overwhelmed. So far, I think I’ve been able to handle myself pretty well.”
The first entry on Forster’s guide to surviving in the BCHL; skate faster, get the puck first and don’t get hit.
After scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 39 games with the vaunted Greater Vancouver Canadians of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League, Forster clearly has some offensive upside to offer the Chiefs.
If he can contribute right out of the gate, that can only be good news for Chilliwack as it chases a playoff spot in the highly competitive Interior conference.
As for the little brother thing, Forster’s resigned to the notion that he’ll be referred to as rock-pile all year long.
“I think it’ll carry on all season, because they’ve got to pick on someone,” he said. “I’m willing to take on that role.”
Not that he has a choice.
Forster and the Chiefs are back on home ice Friday night facing the Vernon Vipers at Prospera Centre.
Puck drop is 7 p.m.
Powell River drops into Chilliwack Saturday night.
Puck drop for that one is also 7 p.m.
Get BCHL statistics, schedules and scores online at www.bchl.ca and get Chilliwack Chiefs info online at www.chilliwackchiefs.net.