Thursday, February 24, 2011

Willie Mitchell

I noted a few of my favourite hockey players the other day and forgot the one with the biggest stick of all, Willie Mitchell!

Ok, that is a bit of an exageration on his stick, but thats just Willie Mitchell. Last year before a game Vancouver played against Calgary, then flames coach, Mike Keenan made a remark about Mitchell using an illegal stick (over the league max. length of 63inches). During pre game warm ups Mitchell came out on the ice with the stick in the above picture, 2 shafts taped together. This is only part of the reason this man floats my boat.

who wouldn't love this smile??
which is why I hated seeing him like this at end of the 2010 season
On January 16th, 2010 in a game versus Pittsburgh, Willie Mitchell was hit from behind by Evgeni Malkin. He suffered a concussion. He missed the rest of the season suffering from the effects of that and post concussion syndrome. He had to leave Vancouver during the Olympics as the hustle and bustle of the city was to much for him and in May was still unable to do much more then take trail walks with his dog, Pino. He also went through counselling to deal with the psychological effects of he injury. 

I remember the interview clearly, I was watching on as the Canucks had just been knocked out of the playoffs by the Blackhawks (again!) and it was locker clear out day. The camera was on Kevin Bieksa as reporters waited, there was some noise and suddenly everyone ran towards one man, Willie Mitchell. It was the first time he'd been available to the media since the incident. I remember it clearly because it wasn't the same smiling, joking, Willie Mitchell from months previous. He sounded on the verge of crying at times and spoke with a very angered tone. He called out Colin Campbell for his inconsistency in handling suspensions for bad hits. He was also asked if he would consider a life outside of hockey in the wake of such a serious injury. He said this:
Absolutely, I'd take it. Some things are more important than hockey. Life's about recreating yourself three or four times anyway. That's what's fun. That's the journey. But do I want to continue doing what I've done for a large part of my life? Absolutely. But right now, that's not in my control. It's been a long physical journey and emotional journey. I'm feeling much better than I was before and getting better every day. I've been trying to put myself in the best place possible to be in a healing environment. I'm just looking forward to the day, and it's going to happen real soon here. Where I feel 100 per cent
And going with my theme lately,  my main reason for him being a favourite player. His Charity Work.  Mitchell loves fishing, so its only natural  that he takes part in a fishing charity event. He takes part in the West Coast fishing Clubs Fishing for Kids Fund raising Tournament. Brian Grange, who is the brains behind the event, credits Mitchell for its rise to a high profile event and bringing much more awareness to it.  He was always a frequent visitor to Canuck Place and Children's Hospital, he was always happy to give back. I am sure he is doing the same down in LA.

What made me  think about him was something I heard the other day. After Canucks Defenceman Dan Hamhuis suffered a concussion in a game 2 weeks back, Mitchell contacted Hamhuis and said he was willing to help him with anything he was going through. So my hats off, again, this time to the Class Act that is Willie Mitchell. Aside from Trevor Linden, who the Canucks eventually did get back, he is the player I have been the saddest to see go.

1 comment:

  1. Willie is class all the way. I heard that about how he called Hamhuis and it made me smile. My niece has a Mitchell jersey. He made my nieces and nephew laugh so hard at the open practice one year. They had a little impromptu shootout competition and he took his shot with his jersey pulled up over his head. I think she became a fan for life then and there. Damn, I miss him.