ECHL: Newfoundland Growlers: A Talk With Todd Skirving

Photo CrPhoto Credit: Sarah Pietrowski/Reading Royals

For a newer team in the ECHL, Todd Skirving brings familiarity, wit, and wisdom to the ice. During his first season as Captain, he touches on subjects that made him who he is today.

Familiar Faces On The Ice

Skirving played 4 years at RIT. During that time, he played in a total of 127 games and tallied 19 goals and 32 assists. He played with now, divisional foes from the Reading Royals, Adam Brubacher and Darren Brady. He talks about what it was like to play with them and to be part of that team.

“It was great. You go back to RIT and they were two big defensemen for our team. Both came in and did a job for our team. It’s exciting to just kind of almost come full circle now. Seeing them come up through the ranks. DB (Darren Brady) playing in San Jose last year and getting those contracts and seeing Brubacher sign the contract that he did. Being able to reconnect with them out on the ice and see them doing so well. It’s something that brings me a lot of happiness to see former teammates and players that I’ve played with in the past who make those climbs and get those opportunities and do well with them. Those friendships never die. It’s always nice to be connecting with them and see them again. It’s always nice to play against them but obviously, root for them to get called up again.”

Becoming A Pro

Moving through the ranks of minor league hockey isn’t easy, and players are grateful to get to that next level. Being traded is part of the business. Skirving touches on his time being traded in his rookie season, and what it takes to stay in the ranks.

“A lot of different things. It’s your first year in the ECHL, you don’t know the ins and outs of the pro game. You don’t understand why things happen. You know the trickle-down effect from the NHL to the AHL to the ECHL, depending on affiliation. When the Maple Leafs sent down players that year, I ended up being the odd one out. So it was tough. Orlando was becoming a second home because of the friendships I built in my time there. Going to Utah for a short time, they had a lot of their top guys out through injury. Getting traded to Atlanta, where I felt things kind of settle down a little bit. It was challenging. It wasn’t easy. Shed a few tears with my Orlando friends that I built there and teammates. It opened my eyes a little bit that you gotta go to work every day and give it your all. It’s something that gives you a reality check. You’re in the pro ranks and you’re fighting for your job every day. Just continuing to stay consistent and build off of that.”

Building A Home

Being on one team for five seasons, players build a home and become a local to the town. Skirving is no stranger to Newfoundland and explains what Newfoundland means to him.

“I’d say home. That’s what it means to me. It has become a second home. I spent last summer there with my girlfriend. I don’t see any other place when I think of where I see myself playing. We have a big support system with our family base and people that have become lifelong friends now within your organization on the outside so it’s home.”

Getting The Call To The AHL

Moving up the ranks of professional hockey is something every player strives for. Skirving was no different. In the 2022-2023 season, Skirving received the call up to the Toronto Marlies, AHL Affiliate of Newfoundland Growlers and Toronto Maple Leafs. He speaks on the experience:

“I was in Norfolk at the time and we had just beat Norfolk. I had just scored my 30th goal on an open netter. I got a text from Lawrence Gilman congratulating me. When we landed back in Newfoundland on that Sunday night I had a missed call from Hardy and I joked and said to myself “I’m finally getting called up”. I called him back and he said “Hey Skirvs, you know we had a conversation and we have some injuries right now, and you’re having a good season and kind of wanna call you up and get you in the lineup. What do you think about that?” I got off the phone with him and called my parents immediately”

Aye, Aye Captain

Becoming Captain of a team is something that is earned and not given to just any player. When former Newfoundland Growlers Captain James Melindy left the team to pursue his dream of being a firefighter, someone else was bound to take their turn. Someone who fitted Melindy’s shoes, was Skirving.

“An honor. You know, James Melindy did an unbelievable job from the beginning. When I think of the captain for the Growlers, it was always James Melindy. With him partially retiring there and working with the firefighters, I guess it’s something you think about but doesn’t change who I am. I wanna continue to be who I am every day and not change because I have a letter on my jersey. It’s kind of come full circle and I reached out to former coaches and thanked them because I wouldn’t have been there without them. My parents support me through it all. It was a big moment and not just an individual moment.”

Movember

Movember hits close to home for Skirving. His father, Rod, is battling prostate cancer. This year, to raise awareness and money, a shirt was designed:

“It hits close to home now with my dad having prostate cancer. It makes doing it and getting everyone more involved when you have someone close. It’s a great opportunity to give back and raise awareness. Using the situation to put money back into resources in Newfoundland for prostate cancer and men who are dealing with those situations. It’s just always nice to give back. Professional athletes have a platform and are able to reach and it’s nice to be able to do it for the good in the world and give back wherever it may be.”

These shirts were designed by Paul Loder and Lee Bennett. The goal is to sell 500 shirts to raise $15,000.

To purchase a shirt towards the cause, please use this link!

Off-Season Regimen

Every player has an off-season regimen that they do whether it be in the gym, on the ice, or a mixture of both. Skirving is a little bit different when it comes to his off-season routine:

“I wouldn’t say it’s as intense as it was when I was 21 ten years ago. Now it’s more about trying to feel good every day for the most part. Incorporate workouts four to five times a week. I try to get outdoors and do at least a hike a week, maybe two. I always try to walk in the morning and at night, whether it’s after breakfast or dinner, just to speed up my metabolism a little bit. A lot of mobility and yoga sessions. I go for a massage every third or fourth weekend. I always try to just keep my body feeling good while building it in the summer. With the nutrition part, it’s doing the right things there too. As you get older, you don’t recover as quickly. When you’re having the right foods and doing the right things, it’s easier.”

In-Game Mindset

Having a positive mindset translates to a players game on the ice. Skirving, now being a leader, talks about what he tells other players, and what his mindset is:

“Always trying to stay positive. I try to not let things get to me, even though sometimes it probably will, but I feel like it’s different. Just being the older guy on the team. It’s not just me, I have to overlook all the team and individuals. If you see someone have a tough shift, you just remind them “Hey you got next shift”, or “This is what you could do, it’s alright”. Being older now and knowing that there’s not that many years left, it’s enjoying those moments. Enjoying the highs, enjoying the lows, and knowing that it’s not gonna last forever. It could be a lot worse if something bad happens on the ice, it’s not the end of the world. There is always the next shift or the next period or the next game.”

Young Kid, Big Dreams

Making the decision to become a professional hockey player doesn’t come without having to make decisions. Skirving speaks on what made his decision to play pro, and who has always been there along the way to help him make that decision- his father, Rod.

“I was 11 or 12. I had made a travel team back home. I was playing baseball at the time because my dad played Pro Fast Pitch so I was kind of like baseball, hockey, baseball, hockey. My dad sat me down and said “Hey if you’re gonna be playing one or the other, you need to make a decision soon because now you’re coming to the travel stages where you’re traveling for either and I don’t want you playing hockey and baseball. Where you will be showing up to a game for baseball in the summer after a workout or a skate in the summer, coming in late and playing and taking an opportunity away from another kid.” He said “What would you rather do?” and I said “Hockey”. I just stuck with it and sure enough that’s why I’m playing professional hockey.”

Game Day

Most players have a game day routine. Some players are more rigid than other, some are more superstitious than others. Skirving touches on what his Game Day routine is:

“Wake up, brush my teeth, have a bottle of water, have fruit, write my journal, have peppermint tea with probiotics, go to the rink, have breakfast, morning skate, tape my stick. After morning skate, get the normatec pumps. After that, I go home and make pasta with homemade sauce and meatballs. Take a nap for one to three hours depending on how I feel. Go to the rink three hours before the game. Make my pre-game drinks. Tape my sticks, and use the massage gun. I go in the BFRs which are blood restrictions for your legs. I get a leg flush. Then I do a miniature warm-up for my hips. We have a team meeting or video. I do a dynamic warm-up, then a static stretch, then I play sewer. I get dressed and go on the ice. I go in the hot tub, eat the post-game meal, and go home.”

Outside Of The Game

Seperating a players mind from the game is important because hockey consumes a lot of time and energy all year round. It’s important for a player to have things to separate the mind from the game and to take care of themselves:

“Sometimes it’s as simple as just going for a walk at home. I don’t really watch TV shows, so that hurts me a little bit. Baseball is about to start up so that’ll be good for me because I’m a huge Yankees fan. So I’ll watch Spring Training games and start watching baseball. Hang out with the guys. It’s usually being outdoors.”

Up to this point of the Newfoundland Growlers 2023-2024 season, Skirving has played in 52 games and tallied 7 goals and 6 assists.

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