Handed a Pittsburgh Penguin MasterCard after being drafted simply got Troy Mick through long lineups at fancy restaurants and clubs.
Sure, he got up close and personal with Mario Lemeiux, Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi, but he never played a game in the show. A zillion knee surgeries stunted his development in the minors and at 24, after putting up big numbers with the Knoxville Cherokees and Nashville Knights, he was done.
He was a phenom teen who racked up 200 goals in four years in the Western Hockey League. He and Portland Winter Hawk linemate and good friend Dennis Holland, also of Vernon, rated a full-page article in The Hockey News. He was the 130th choice in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.
Life didn’t exactly go as expected, but Mick grew up in a hurry leaving home at 16 to play for the Merritt Centennials and then heading to Portland. He learned valuable life skills.
He’s been a grocery clerk at Safeway and sold time shares in Mexico, but hockey has always been the one constant in his life.
Unfortunately, Mick was forced to leave the game he loved after a horrific season as head coach of the WHL Kamloops Blazers in 2003. The Loops used to be Little Montreal, where the players and coaches were worshipped and dissected.
Mick, then 34, had difficulty dealing with undisciplined superstars like Scottie Upshall whose car was worth a bunch more than Mick’s. The Blazers had a pile of defencemen fall with injuries and they limped into the playoffs, causing Mick even more trauma.
He got sick. Really sick. He lost weight. He had trouble sleeping. He couldn’t eat. He walked away from hockey.
Today, he’s a decade older, more polished and more prepared to take on whatever is thrown his way. His character has been tested and the Kamloops experience has helped make him the man he is today.
People who care ask him if he’s sure about taking over as head coach/GM of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks, a BCHL team which has been in freefall mode for a few years.
A team where the owners – Randy and Terry Williams – were ripped for supposedly having some influence on their son Kurt, a goalie, play for Salmon Arm the last three years with little success.
“My health is excellent,” said Mick. “If I haven’t died doing the Pursuit (of Excellence academy) the last two years, I’ll tell you what, I’m friggin’ Superman now.
“I know you have to be careful where you go and I’ve heard all the rumours about what has happened there in the past. I’m not naive and I had to ask a lot of tough questions and I had to get a lot of things in my contract, but when the ownership component came in, it became a given.”
Mick said his 15-year-old son, Logan, will not attend a SilverBacks’ camp.
“He’s trying out for Vernon and he will always be Vernon,” said Troy. “He played for me this year. He loves his dad, but he wants to make his own name for himself. I can open some doors for him, but he knows he has to do his talking on the ice.”
Mick said the SilverBack owners can now focus solely on the franchise since their son has aged out.
“No matter what you do, you’re always gonna be a dad. When you’re in that situation that Randy was, whether it was right or wrong, people are always gonna chastise him for any decision because the easiest thing to do is to blame his kid. And he’d be the first one to say that he’s excited that he’s gonna be able to step away.”
Mick, who was pretty much an assistant playing coach in his final year in Nashville, won two Royal Bank Cups with Vernon, one as a head coach. He consulted good friend and Viper owner Duncan Wray about the Salmon Arm job and believes the rivalry will be good and healthy.
The five-year contract gives Mick some security in a business he never wants to leave again.
“When I went through my battle with health, I actually tried to get out of the game just to see what being a real person was like, but the game just kept pulling me back in and like anybody, you start to figure out what you know and the people you’re involved with say you’re good at it. And with the players I’ve coached, I’ve always maintained relationships and friendships with them so can honestly agree I’m gonna be involved in hockey until the day I die.”
His wife, Roxanne, has been Micker’s rock.
“The best thing that ever happened to me was when I proposed to her over the scoreclock in Knoxville, Tennessee and you wrote that article 21 years ago and she’s still with me today, through thick and thin, through different opportunities, after some health issues, moving the family around. She’s an incredible lady.
“And having my daughter (Tiffany, 17) come to the press conference with me last night and work the floor with me, meeting all the corporate sponsors, shaking hands with people and then answering questions about her dad. She was kind of like my family advisor last night. I was actually teary-eyed because it was just a real special, special thing to see her sitting with me.”