Former Edmonton Oilers forward back in ‘the game’ at Memorial Cup
Todd Harvey says return to hockey ‘rekindled the energy’ as he serves as assistant coach with Guelph Storm
Kerby Rychel #16 of the Guelph Storm celebrates a goal against the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 2 of the 2014 Mastercard Memorial Cup on May 17, 2014 in London, Ont.
Photograph by: Claus Andersen, Getty Images
LONDON, Ont. — The last Oilers fans heard from Todd Harvey, he was a fourth-liner, a gung-ho energy guy doing spot duty for Edmonton in that magical run to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Eight years later, Harvey’s first season back in ‘the game,’ as it were, he’s an assistant coach under childhood friend Scott Walker with an excellent Guelph Storm hockey club that has clinched a spot in the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup Tournament final on Sunday.
“Nothing to it, right?” Harvey said, with a wink, when a visitor caught up with him this week. “I’ve enjoyed it.
“I’ve learned a lot this year, learned a lot from Scott (Walker) and Bill (Stewart, the other assistant coach). Getting back into the fire a little bit ... obviously, it’s not the same as playing, but it’s probably as close as you can get.”
For several years after his one shot at winning the Stanley Cup in his 12-year NHL career fell agonizingly short, Harvey got away from the game altogether.
“Yep, home,” Harvey said. “I had kids (a son, now 17, two daughters, 14 and 11) and I started coaching baseball and just ... being a normal person.
“I got away from it (hockey). I was done.”
Harvey started his own business, running hockey schools, teaching the basics — shooting, skating, stickhandling. He ran some minor hockey leagues in his hometown of Cambridge, not far from Kitchener, Ont.
Harvey and Walker had played Junior B hockey as 14-year-olds in Cambridge, worked out together in the off-season as young men, become lifelong friends.
So, when Walker, who took over as head coach of the Storm in December 2010, asked Harvey if he’d be interested in helping out during the 2012-13 season, he gave it a go.
“He really enjoyed it,” Walker said. “It was a thing where it was supposed to be once or twice a week, and the next thing you know, it was every day, driving up with me, going on the road with us for games.
“He never asked for anything, it was just for the fun of it. It’s more the impact they (assistants) have on the players. I thought the guys really enjoyed being with him and talking to him and I really think he had a lot to offer.”
“it was just one of those things and it worked out. And now, first year on the bench and we’re in the Memorial Cup, so maybe he was the key.”
Walker, an honest, hard-working player during his NHL career, thought Harvey could help him implant a winning culture in a Guelph organization that hadn’t won a championship in a while.
“Scott’s really put his stamp on this team and made them what they are and how we play,” Harvey said. “Scott was feisty and played fast and that kind of reflects our team.”
Harvey’s role as an assistant involves “a little bit of everything,” he says. “I help out wherever he can, with the power play, the penalty kill, skate the guys after practice. I don’t mind that, because I used to be one of those guys.
“It has been a little bit of everything and it’s been good that way. It has taught me to be organized, making sure that I’m prepared.
“From being told where to be and what to do for the last twenty-something years to all of a sudden being you’re the guy (is an adjustment) I’m so sick of hearing, ‘Harv, Harv, Harv.’”
Of course, Harvey isn’t sick of it at all. It helps that the team is so successful. They scored 340 goals this season, tops in the Canadian Hockey League, while rolling to a 52-12-2-2 record and 108 points, winning the OHL title and clinching a berth in the Memorial Cup final.
“He (Walker) said, ‘Don’t expect this every year,’” Harvey said. “But it’s been fun.
“It has really rekindled the energy in me, to be back in the game and love the game. When you do get away from the game, everybody asks, ‘Do you miss it?’
“You always say, ‘Nah, I’m OK, I don’t miss it.’ But you’d be lying if you said you didn’t miss it.”
When Harvey was asked what stays with him from 2006, from that Stanley Cup run, a stream of consciousness poured out.
“It was a blur, really. We snuck into the playoffs there on the last day, I think it was. And then you’re playing Detroit, and you’re thinking, ‘Oh, geez, we’ve got the (Stanley Cup) champs ... but we beat them.
“I remember the city, obviously, getting behind us. The atmosphere in the arena and the whole city itself was something that you’ll never forget. I remember the hairs on the back of your neck standing up when they were singing the national anthem.
“But what I really remember is 25 guys just kind of coming together at the right time. Chris Pronger was a stud. I know (Carolina goalie) Cam Ward won the Conn Smythe. That’s great and everything. But that guy (Pronger) made it happen.
“Fernando Pisani having the playoffs of his life. It was a coming-out party for Jarett Stoll. Now he’s playing with the Kings and won a Stanley Cup.
“It was weird and special — everybody just clicking at the right time. It was one of the best moments and the worst moments all wrapped into one.”
Walker and Harvey both are hoping the ending to Guelph’s magical 2013-14 season ends happily, obviously.
“Todd has been a winner everywhere he’s gone,” Walker said. “It’s funny, but it’s not a surprise that he makes it to the Memorial Cup in his first year. People say it’s just luck this, or just luck that. But it’s funny how those guys are always winners.”
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