Hobson leads the way in Spokane

By Glen Erickson

It seems one of the biggest challenges for Adam Hobson (CHI) has been finding a mentor throughout his career with the Spokane Chiefs. In fact, the luck of the draw has resulted in Hobson having to perform in a myriad of roles over the past three years.

“It’s been tough for Adam because we haven’t had the success as a team or as an organization the past three years,” explained Chiefs general manager, Tim Speltz. “So he hasn’t had anybody to sort of pass him the torch. He’s had to assume it on his own.”

The Chiefs have missed the playoffs the past two years and were swept in four games by the Everett Silvertips in the first round of the 2004-05 postseason. Hobson has been with the club through the tough times, since graduating from the Abbotsford Pilots of the Pacific International Junior Hockey League in British Columbia.

Growing up in Mission, BC, about an hour east of Vancouver, Hobson remembers well the small town atmosphere.

“It’s a small town with a small hockey community,” Hobson said. “You really get to know everyone and I had some good coaching there, too. The first name that comes to mind is Steve Sharp. He coached me for a couple years there. He’s an inspiration on and off the ice. And I can’t thank the community enough.”

From a small town to the big city, Hobson has earned a pair of trips to the Chicago Blackhawks training camp after the Hawks made him the 203rd selection at the 2005 Entry Draft. It’s been a valuable experience for the 6’, 205-pound forward.

“It’s a big step up there and you get to see the best of the best,” Hobson smiled. “I’ve gotten to play a bit there and to see how close I am. And it’s helped to see how much work I still have to do to take the next step.”

Speltz, who is nearing his 20th year in the WHL, provided a more in-depth view.

“I think the biggest thing there is that as players mature, if they’re willing to figure out their role and accept it, they can play,” Speltz said. “I think Chicago looks Adam as being a third-line forward.

“We’ve had him at center and on the wing and I think that has been good for us. Chicago has been very happy with his competitiveness. Last year they had the extended rookie camp, he was there about four weeks. This year going in, he knew it would be shorter. I think he was there a week or ten days. More than anything for Adam, it was important just to see that light, to see where he wants to go and see that he can play with those guys.

“Is Adam going to be a first-line NHL player that’s going to be a power-play guy? Well, probably not,” Speltz suggested. “Yet I think he sure can contribute offensively. More importantly, he’s a guy who’s going to be able to play in tough games. He’s going to be able to play with the new standard of enforcement because he’s big and strong and he’s physical.”

Hobson didn’t mince any words when he agreed there is no secret regarding what the Blackhawks are looking for.

“Overall they want me to be a two-way player,” Hobson confirmed. “I just have to make sure I’m solid offensively and defensively.”

Hobson has proven to be a very durable junior as well. Prior to the current campaign, he’s played a total of 208 regular season games. He hasn’t missed a game during the last two seasons.

“I do plenty of stretching to make sure I’m very warm and ready to play,” Hobson said. “I really try to make sure my whole body is warmed up before I hit the ice. But I can’t take all the credit. The club helps with training and stretching and our preparation throughout the season. Just making sure you’re mentally prepared for every game is also important. And I suppose a little bit of luck comes into it. It’s been nice to avoid those bad breaks.”

Hobson’s durability has not gone unnoticed in Spokane. Speltz confirmed he’s pleasantly surprised with his captain’s approach to conditioning and his consistency in the category of games played.

“Hobby is blessed with a very strong and very big body,” Speltz commented. “He’s very muscular and very athletic. He’s had no serious injuries and I think that’s due to his conditioning and dedication to the game away from the rink.

“But you know, when you look at him and look at the way he plays, he’s a heart and soul guy and that’s what he has to bring every game. I think it actually makes it tougher to avoid injury when you play that type of role.”

Last year, Hobson scored 23 goals and 27 assists, while mixing it up to the tune of 124 penalty minutes. In 20 games this season, he’s scored five goals and nine assists.

Hobson will get every opportunity to continue his development this season in Spokane. Over the summer, Speltz acknowledged that Hobson worked with head coach Bill Peters to build a solid relationship and to better understand what his role as team captain would be this season.

“Hobby has developed for us into the type of player we expected,” Speltz began. “Last year we made the trades and the changes in our team and Hobby was one of the guys that we wanted to accept more responsibility. We wanted this to be ‘his team’, so to speak.”

“He’s a very competitive player and when he plays big and plays strong, he’s a load. Any success we had during the second half of last year, I thought he was at the center of it. I think Adam understood what his role would be here this season. He might be the guy the coach has to be the hardest on and for us Adam has accepted that role.”

The club is blessed with some young, high-end talent, in particular import Michael Grabner (VAN), who is currently sidelined week-to-week with a leg injury and gifted defenseman Jared Spurgeon (eligible 2008). Hobson doesn’t shy away from the leadership expectations.

“It’s an honor to be the captain of such a great organization with such a great history,” Hobson explained. “I just try and do the best I can with it every day and lead the way for the younger guys to make sure they come in and head in the right direction.”

Among the challenges the younger players encounter is the travel associated with playing in the WHL. On this night in Kelowna, where the Chiefs dropped a 6-4 decision to the Rockets, Hobson conceded the 10-hour bus trip following a 5-2 win in Portland against the Winter Hawks the night before, is simply a fact of life.

“Well, you get used to it in the WHL,” Hobson said. “You know, we came out really well in the first period and took the lead. In the second, we sort of took things for granted and they capitalized.”

“We’ve had some bad luck the last couple years but we have a better team this year and I think we have a really good chance to go far this season. I’m sure looking forward to that.”

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.