In five years of junior A hockey Sean Robertson has gone from cub to grizzled Grizzly.
Robertson, 20, has played defence for the Victoria Grizzlies since 2006-07 and has seen a lot of rookies come and go.
His advice to newbies: play hard and don’t back down to the veterans.
“Rookies need to be confident. It’s OK to be nervous, but you don’t want to be too nervous,” Robertson said. “It’s a big jump from playing minor hockey to junior hockey. I have seen a lot of guys come through here. You can’t be selfish. It’s better hockey if you put the team ahead of you.”
With the hockey season about to start, there are many hopefuls waiting to don the Grizzlies’ jersey. Sam McMullen from Saanich is one of them. Before junior, McMullen spent a season with the South Island Thunderbirds major midget team.
Last year McMullen, 17, played for the junior B Saanich Braves, but also hit the ice for five games with the Grizzlies.
“By the second or third game I started getting used to the speed,” McMullen said.
“Junior A (players) are stronger and faster.”
Since then, McMullen has been working hard over the summer to secure a spot on the roster. He’s packed on 10 pounds of muscle to his six-foot tall frame, and his added strength has been noticeable on the ice.
“Making the Grizzlies would be great. It’s what I have been wanting to do the whole summer,” McMullen said.
Grizzlies assistant coach Victor Gervais said McMullen has a good chance of having his name added to the roster.
“He is probably one of the best rookie players,” Gervais said. “He is a two-way hockey player.”
Grizzlies hopeful Sam Ramsay travelled to Victoria from Surrey for the rookie camp, having played midget-AAA hockey in Swift Current, Sask., last season.
“He brings a lot of speed,” Gervais said. “He brings grit to the game that I haven’t seen in a long time. He’s tough and finishes his checks.”
During the camp Ramsay, a left-winger said the level of skill was a step up from midget hockey.
“It’s a lot more speed and intensity.”
Whether or not he cracks the Grizzlies’ main roster Ramsay is committed to moving to the Island as he is assured a spot on the Saanich Braves this year, just like McMullen and Wade Murphy before him.
Braves coach Brad Cook was an assistant with the Grizzlies when Ramsay broke out at the March prospects camp.
“For the most part players were going through their paces and all of a sudden there’s this kid absolutely destroying people out there,” Cook said.
“(Ramsay) needs some coaching, but does a lot of things you can’t teach. He’s a fun player to watch and is going to be a fun player to coach.”
While these players have skill and dedication the Grizzlies looking for, rookies for the upcoming season have not been selected yet.
Gervais said between five and 10 rookies could earn a coveted spot on the roster.