Saturday’s home opener for the Coquitlam Express will be extra special for one rookie forward.
Port Moody’s Ryan Tattle, who just turned 18, is expecting a sizeable contingent of family and friends to make the quick drive from the Heritage Mountain neighbourhood where he grew up and still lives with his parents.
Tattle said playing in front of a crowd of Tri-City hometown fans brings a little extra pressure — “You just want to impress them,” he said.
Making an impression is nothing new for Tattle. Coach Jason Fortier said he has “incredible passion, energy and joy playing the game of hockey,” adding, “He skates hard regardless if he is on an offensive chance or trying to come back in the D-zone.”
Tattle was not an unfamiliar quantity coming into training camp. The Express called him up for two games last season as an affiliate player from his Major Midget team, the Vancouver North East Chiefs, for whom he scored 24 goals and added 24 assists in 40 games. And while his stats line from that taste of the BC Hockey League shows only a single minor penalty, he said the experience showed him what he would have to do to stick with the team permanently.
“I got to see what I needed to work on to get to this level,” Tattle said.
One of those things is speed.
In the summer, Tattle worked with Karen Koss, a power skating instructor at the Burnaby Winter Club while his dryland training including running sprints and up hills; as well, to build strength, he hit the gym every day.
“You’ve got to put in the time,” Tattle said. “You’re playing with men now.”
Coming into camp, Tattle said he was confident he could skate with his new teammates.
“I think I’m fast,” he said, noting he also takes pride in his versatility, an asset he hopes will help him earn ice time.
“I can play anywhere in the lineup,” he said. “Whatever the coach needs, I can do my best.”
Fortier said he values Tattle’s enthusiasm and willingness to mix it up, even against players bigger than him — he's a slim 5’10”, 165 lb.
“He had a great summer training, putting on weight,” he said. “We expect him to continue thriving.”
For his part, Tattle said he appreciates Fortier’s directness and that he pulls no punches if he makes a mistake.
“He’s pretty black and white,” he said. “You’ve got to learn from your mistakes and you have to hear it from the coach.”
In the Express’ season-opening win over Langley Sept. 7, which also happened to be Tattle’s birthday, he started on a line with Connor Gregga and Gregory Lapointe, and also saw some time killing penalties, nearly combining with defenceman Nicholas Carabin to score a shorthanded goal.
Tattle said getting more of those opportunities will be directly connected to the effort he expends on and off the ice.
“You see the work pay off when you get a scoring chance,” he said.
Tattle, who graduated from Heritage Woods secondary last spring, said still living at home makes it easier for him to focus on hockey than some of his teammates who come from as far afield as New Jersey and Quebec and have to manage their lives while bunking with billet families.
“All the other guys are making sacrifices,” he said. “Living at home is a big perk.”
Playing there, too.
• The Express host the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex. The game is the first of a five-game home stand during which the club also plays the Prince George Spruce Kings Sunday at 3 p.m., the Merritt Centennials next Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. and Salmon Arm and Alberni Valley next weekend.