Eric J. Welsh,
The collective cheer you will hear at the end of the RBC Cup will be the players from 16 BCHL teams celebrating the graduation of Anthony Vincent from junior A hockey.
Loved by fans of the Chilliwack Chiefs and loathed by foes across the league, the Quebec kid is moving on to NCAA hockey with the Holy Cross Crusaders.
In two seasons, Vincent has become the type of player you yearn to have on your own team, and the guy you can’t stand on the other side.
He gives 100 per cent effort every single night. He pushes the envelope with hard play and occasionally takes a step or two over the line, but you wouldn’t call him a dirty player.
Just an edgy one, and if they had to pass a polygraph, his BCHL foes would admit that they grudgingly respect him.
They’d also say it drives them crazy when Vincent finishes a check hard and scores a goal 30 seconds later, but that’s what’s made the 20 year old so effective for the Chiefs. He is a wonderful blend of grit and skill and he will be missed.
And Vincent will miss Chilliwack, even if he doesn’t want to start thinking about that just yet.
“Obviously it’s not over for us now, and my head is around preparing myself and the team for the RBC Cup, because that’s our ultimate goal,” Vincent said. “(Winning) that would be the ultimate addition to my junior career.
“It is going to be sad leaving this town. It’s been a great experience and junior hockey has been a blast for me. As the weeks go by I’ll be missing the guys a ton, just like I missed the guys who left last year, and I’ve been thinking about leaving my billets behind. That’s going to be sad too because they’re like a second family to me.”
Who knows when it will fully hit him. Some players are able to maintain such a laser focus that it doesn’t register for real until after the final whistle in their final game, when they’re sitting in the dressing room one last time with their teammates. Some players are able to enjoy the experience a bit more. You see them spending time sitting alone in the seats before their last game and they stay on the ice as long as possible once it’s done.
“For me, I want to enjoy the last little while, but I think it’s going to sink in for real after the last game, which hopefully ends on a winning note,” Vincent said. “I think that’s when it will set in. I’m moving on to the next chapter but wow, those two years blew by fast and I can’t believe it’s already over. Honestly, to me, sometimes it feels like the whole thing has been two weeks, it’s gone by that fast and been so great.”
Shawn and Triva Story billet Vincent and Tommy Lee. They have two sons, 19 year old Brandon and 15 year old Michael.
“It’s hard to explain what they’ve meant to Tommy and I,” Vincent said. “They literally would do anything for us, which is awesome. They’re always there for us. The support they’ve given us over the last two years has been outstanding and like I said, they’re our second family.”
With the RBC Cup yet to come, Vincent has a huge chance to add to his Chiefs legacy.
But he leaves enough signature moments that he will be remembered for a long time in Chilliwack. For fans who were in attendance Feb. 2, 2018 in a game against Prince George at Prospera Centre, one penalty killing shift will forever stick in their minds.
This description from Chiefs radio colour-man Jacob Bestebroer.
“One of the Kings defenseman let go a hard shot from the blueline that Vincent threw himself in front of. You could tell it hurt him and he lost his stick in the process. Three more times in the next 30 seconds he put himself in front of shots. Each shot was harder than the last. When the Chiefs finally got the puck out of their zone and he managed to get his aching body to the Chiefs bench, every player congratulated him for his effort.”
If there’s a legacy that Vincent leaves for young guys like Harrison Blaisdell and Ethan Bowen to follow, it’s the value of hard work and giving everything you’ve got for the team. Vincent hopes that’s what they learned watching No. 4 in action.
“I always tried to compete and bring my game every day, and that’s how I try to lead,” Vincent said. “As a teammate and player, I might not be as vocal as some other guys, but I try to leave everything I’ve got on the ice. A guy like Harrison is a really skilled player, and if he can elevate his game through compete and hard work, that’s going to help him even more.
“I hope that’s one thing he learns from me.”