ECHL: Newfoundland Growlers Last Man Standing

Forward Todd Skirving, the only player who has been with The Newfoundland Growlers franchise since its inception, shares how he ended up on ‘The Rock’ and never left.

“I was actually signed to play for the Atlanta Gladiators that season. I finished my rookie year in Atlanta, and we had a coaching change,” number 15 began. 

When Skirving arrived at camp, “a bunch were cut,” and he was one of the players on the chopping block. 

“It was kind of a shock at that point, for me anyway,” Skirving said.

Skirving continued, adding that his relationship with John Snowden, then coach of the Growlers, led to an exciting conversation. “I reached out to Snowy (Snowden) at the time because he had been my assistant coach when I was in Orlando. I just kind of asked if there were any opportunities and kind of left it at that.”

Skirving said he “sat on a shelf” for a while and waited. “I kind of thought this might be it, and then I heard from Snowy, and he invited me to Newfoundland.”

Skirving credits Snowden and then Growlers head coach Ryane Clowe with changing the trajectory of his hockey career.

“Without them, I probably wouldn’t be playing hockey. The next thing I was in Newfoundland playing. Being Canadian, I knew about Newfoundland, but I didn’t really know what I was getting into when it came to hockey. “

He knew the Growlers were an expansion team for the Toronto Maple Leafs and that they were in their first year. “What I didn’t know was just how professional it really was. Getting into my first morning skate the next day, I was thinking, ‘Wow. This organization is top notch.’ I called my dad after and was like, ‘I don’t know if I can keep up with these guys. This is next level,’ But I guess I did, and then the rest is history, and I’ve been here ever since that first year.”

The Growlers won the Kelly Cup Championship that year, and while Skirving says he didn’t get as much ice time as he would have liked, he still celebrated the win on home ice with his teammates. 

“Winning at home is always more fun, and I just had a sense before that game like, ‘Wow, we’re about to do this at home.’ And before the game, I just had that feeling that it’s over tonight, and we’re going to win. And the place was packed.”

Skirving recalled that he spent most of the game in the press box, a place where he said he spent  80 percent of his time that season.

“It was electric. We had the feeling as the game went on, like, ‘Holy crap. We’re going to win.'”

It was quite the celebration, he added, for personal and professional reasons. 

“I remember sending a selfie to my parents saying,’ ‘Thank you for everything. I love you both. I’ll text you when I can.'”

The rest of the evening was “Absolute chaos,” he added.

 “That’s the loudest I’ve ever heard that rink. It was deafening. It was electric, and the city was off the rails.”

From the player who didn’t spend much time on the ice to one of the team’s top scorers, Skirving has grown along with the franchise. 

“For me, it was just biding my time and doing whatever I could to help the team win no matter what or where I was in the lineup. If they needed me to do something, I just did it because I knew we had a strong team and an opportunity to win a championship. So, just having that opportunity was huge. I felt like I learned a lot that year.”

As the Growlers prepare to take this ice this season, former coach Eric Wellwood is now the assistant coach for the Toronto Marlies in the AHL, and his replacement hasn’t been announced yet. As to the players that will make up this season’s roster, that’s also a mystery. 

Is that a concern, we ask? Not really, Skirving replied.

Typically, for the Growlers, the roster is not decided until after the AHL training camp is held for the Marlies, as the majority of the Growlers players that form the ECHL team have AHL contracts.

“It’s a brand new team again this year, but we were able to win in the first year with a brand new team. So, let’s look at it that way and be excited for the challenge and opportunity ahead. I’m excited about the challenge and the opportunity ahead. It is going to be a new team, and it might be a different style of hockey, and maybe it isn’t all flashy, and maybe it’s a little bit grittier. Who knows? I don’t know what the style is going to be. We don’t know the players that we’re getting yet. But I know it will be good hockey.”

Former Captain James Melindy retired last season. Is it possible Skirving will wear the ‘C’? He isn’t sure, he shared, but he will rise to any challenge, he said. “James was a great leader in the locker room and on the ice. Recognizing that it’s not just one way to do it out there is important. Everyone needs to keep pulling the same rope. And, you know, that’s what comes from having a good locker room and from the good people that we have in there. Moving forward, that’s something that we want to take with us for this brand new team so we can face this year ahead of us on the right foot.”

The 5th season of Growlers hockey begins October 20th at Mary Brown’s Centre when Newfoundland hosts the Reading Royals.

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