When Andy Thompson left the Kootenay ICE back in April of this year, the bewilderment surpassed the shock felt by fans, teammates and the organization alike.
Only now, after dealing with what was described as a form of clinical depression, does life seem to make sense for the North Delta, B.C. product.
He’s playing hockey again but more importantly, Thompson’s day-to-day life is doing better with each new day.
After helping lead his newly adopted Lethbridge Hurricanes over his former teammates Sunday night at the Rec./Plex, it was clear that from a hockey standpoint in the form of over 25 minutes played on the Canes’ blueline, Andy Thompson had rekindled the passion for playing that made him a first round bantam draft pick (7th overall) in 1999.
The biggest question was however, how was Andy Thompson as a person?
“He’s doing well,” said Thompson following the game in which he assisted on Jeremy Jackson’s tying goal in the dying seconds to send it into overtime.
“I’m really enjoying my time out in Lethbridge. I was really lucky to get the trade done early, before the season started so I got to know the guys and it’s really working out for me right now. The guys are really good and the organization is great.”
Coming off two playoff series’ and arguably playing his best hockey of the year, Thompson left the Kootenay ICE following the series sweep over the Thunderbirds.
In trying to deal with the pressing issues in his life, from the pressure of it being his draft year, to personal problems in his relationships, Andy felt it best to head home.
“I went back home and got everything sorted out and I figured who actually cared and everything like that,” said Thompson.
“I started training by myself, spent time with my brother and my family and just figured out what I wanted. I had a good summer training and came back ready to play.”
Starting over with a fresh start in a new city, it would become clear that returning to Kootenay wasn’t an option anymore. Thus the trade request.
“I think I just needed a new start,” said Thompson. “I think I probably should’ve left Kootenay earlier but it was a good organization to play for. I just needed a change. (The trade) was good timing for me and it worked out well for both clubs.”
His new coach, Brian Maxwell, couldn’t be happier with his newest defenseman, especially in light of the recent rash of injuries to blueliner’s Kris Callaway and Brent Seabrook, the latter of which is playing with a cast on his wrist.
“Andy’s played really well for us,” said Maxwell. “He’s been a tremendous addition to our dressing room.”
Maxwell also had a few words for the fans of the Kootenay ICE and, surprisingly enough, they were of the good kind.
“I was here last night (Saturday) and they gave a nice cheer for the Broncos and former players when they didn’t have too,” said Maxwell.
“It’s nice to hear the big round of applause heard tonight and last night. The crowd here cheers for the team and they could’ve booed Andy tonight but they didn’t, so I sure have a new respect for the fans in Cranbrook.”
At the age of eighteen, Thompson is automatically eligible for the 2003 NHL Draft and will no doubt be on every NHL scout’s list. At this stage of the game though Andy Thompson is just playing the game he loves, if the NHL comes calling, that’ll be fine, if not, he’s not going to worry about it.
“Last year I worried about it too much and now I’m not even worried about that. I just try and go out there, have some fun and just play the game with a bunch of great guys we got on our team,” said Thompson.
“I’m not worrying about it right now. They (the scouts) can watch if they want but I’m just playing for the team and trying to get some wins for us.”
A quiet and well-mannered teenager off the ice, on the ice it looks as though Thompson as regained that edge that made him one of the most feared sixteen-yr-olds in the WHL two seasons ago. Garnering the affectionate moniker of the ‘Undertaker’, Thompson has found the passion for the game once again.
He’s also not forgotten what the game’s all about.
“I love the game. I’m having fun again.”