The Kelowna Rockets began the 2005-06 season with a pair of key players on the shelf after offseason shoulder surgery. While Tyler Spurgeon (EDM) and Lauris Darzins (NAS) would spend more time on the stationary bikes than the ice on game day, the Rockets would require a host of players to step up and fill the void.
For the most part, Troy Bodie has been able to contribute in a number of the roles left vacant due to injuries. Through February, only Bodie and Justin Keller (TB) have managed to play in all 62 games this season for Kelowna. Bodie’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by Kelowna management, even as the veteran forward struggles through a late-season, mini slump.
“He’s been pretty healthy the entire time he’s been here,” confirmed Rockets director of player personnel and head scout, Lorne Frey. “In all fairness, he’s probably struggled these past 15 games and I think a lot of it was because there was a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. After a while, Troy maybe started to squeeze the stick too hard, the production hasn’t been coming like it normally has.
Fellow veterans Kyle Cumiskey (COL) and Mike Card (BUF) have also missed multiple games due to injury this year and Blake Comeau (NYI) was away from the team for three weeks as a member of Team Canada at the WJC. As a result, the durable Bodie, a native of Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, has been called upon to elevate his usual performance in terms of leadership, physical play and offensive production.
“Troy tries to be as physical as he can and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves,” Frey continued. “I think from that standpoint, he is well respected by the players on our club. He’s not afraid to stand up for his teammates. I think with his size, everybody seems to expect him to be really physical. He tries to play the body when he can and that’ll improve as his skating continues to improve.”
With 24 goals and 24 assists, the 6’5, 205-pounder is having his best offensive season in the WHL. With 101 penalty minutes, Bodie has made his physical presence felt throughout the league this season. At 21, Bodie knows this will be his final season in the WHL.
“It’s been a progressive improvement for Troy from year to year,” Frey explained. “When we brought him here as a 17-year-old, he was a big kid, kind of gangly and maybe a bit awkward. But I knew in watching him play bantam hockey that he could score goals. He was a great pee wee player, but then he grew so quickly and it kind of hurt his development.”
“We kept him here at 17 and knew he wouldn’t get a lot of ice time. But he continued to develop and you know, he could always score and he always got big goals for us. The next year he played more and progressed more. Last year he had a real good season.
Should Bodie play in all 72 games this season, he’ll have rounded out his junior career with exactly 250 regular season games played. However, due to the tremendous postseason success the Rockets have experienced over the past three years, Bodie has already played over 50 playoff games. With three trips to the Memorial Cup in three years as a WHLer, Bodie has become comfortable as a big game player.
“Where Troy has been great for us has been in big games, playoff games,” Frey remembered. “He’s scored a lot of big goals for us. Even last year at the Memorial Cup, he may have been our best player behind Comeau. Come playoff time, he really seems to be able to elevate his play.
“In January, it seems like those can be the dog days in this league and when you’re playing a lot in all situations it can be tough. We’re hoping Troy will get his game coming around as we head into the playoffs. He’s skating better this year and his overall hand skills are real good. He’s getting better and better every year and that’s what he has to do if he’s going to play pro.”
Hockey’s Future spoke with Bodie prior to a tough, BC Division match-up in Kelowna against the Prince George Cougars.
HF: What are your feelings on the season so far, from a team standpoint?
TB: It’s been a pretty good season so far, we’re tied for second in the BC Division. I feel like we’re sitting in a good spot right now. I’ve been fortunate to have stayed healthy and play in all the team’s games so far.
HF: With so many veterans missing so many games, how has your role evolved over the course of the season?
TB: It was Spurgeon and Darzins who missed almost the whole first half of the season after they both had shoulder surgery, and Cumiskey missed a lot of hockey at the beginning of the season. Comeau missed three weeks when he was at the WJC. They’re all veteran guys, so I guess I just had to step up and make sure other guys stepped up too. I feel like we have enough guys here who can fill those roles when they have to, we just had to make sure it happened.
HF: It seems you’ve really had to assume a leadership role here.
TB: I guess I was always one of the more skilled guys in minor hockey, you kind of have to become a leader and it certainly helps you for the times up here when you have to fill that role. Especially this year and last season as one of the older players on the team, the leadership role is part of it.
HF: With all the success the Rockets have enjoyed in recent years, is there anybody in particular you see as a contributor to your ability to take on a leadership role?
TB: I’ve had some help learning over the years from guys like Brett Palin, Ryan Cuthbert and Josh Georges. Really, they were great guys to learn from.
HF: You’ve been to the Memorial Cup in every season you’ve played in the WHL. Anything special about your Memorial Cup experiences?
TB: I’ve been to three Memorial Cups and we’ve been fortunate to have had three solid teams over my time here. To win the WHL championship twice is huge and hosting the Memorial Cup as well and to win it here, it’s an experience like no other. Winning it is something I’d never felt before and I guess you never know if you’ll ever feel it again.
HF: This will be your final year in the WHL. Do you feel any sense of urgency to get back to another national championship tournament?
TB: I would say that, yeah, there is a sense of urgency to get back. I’m in my last year and I want to go out of this league with a bang. Now that I think of it, I’ve can’t remember being knocked out of the playoffs and not being at the Memorial Cup. That’s a big deal for me and my teammates. Not getting back this year, I just wouldn’t be satisfied if that happened.
HF: You’ve been to a few NHL training camps with the Edmonton Oilers?
TB: I’ve been to three training camps. At the first one I was really inexperienced and I wonder if I might have stood out because of that. It’s an unbelievable experience to see all the talent there. And you kind of look around too, to try and figure out where you stand. I feel like I’ve progressed and become a little more comfortable being there.
HF: What parts of your game tend to require the most work? Is there anything the Oilers are asking you to improve on?
TB: All my life it seems my skating has always been my biggest problem. You know, being a bigger player, I grew so quickly when I was younger that I know I kind of lost some of my coordination for a while. It’s always something I have to continue to improve upon, my skating. And I think it’s really important for me to be able to match and even exceed the strength of players at every level in order to fit in and excel.
HF: Where did you play your minor hockey? Anybody in particular have an impact on your development?
TB: I grew up in Portage La Prairie and played all my minor hockey there. I played for the Central Plains Capitals in midget AAA, which was a regional team there. Played two years there and then came to Kelowna. I was really lucky because I had a lot of good coaches growing up. I suppose one guy who really stands out is Blake Spiller, he coached the Portage Terriers, the junior A club, probably my biggest mentor, a guy who really helped me back there.
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