By Derek Holtom
The ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc on many working Manitobans, as health restrictions have either forced them to work from home, or not at all in some cases.
Others continue on, tip-toeing their way through their daily job with an eye on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping everyone safe.
That list includes Waywayseecappo Wolverines alumni and current head scout Troy Hickman. Both he and his wife Mattie (a native of Portage and former Terriers fan according to Hickman) are teachers in the Brandon school system. Knock on wood, both parents and their children remain healthy months into this pandemic
“We are doing well,” says Hickman. “My wife and I are both teachers so we are fortunate things are very busy for us and we’re still working. Our daughters are always finding some way to keep busy.”
His two daughters are Adrie – eight and in Grade 3; and Drew – six and in Grade 1. Being a teacher and a scout has to keep the Hickman parents busy, but that’s all part of the fun of being a parent. And one seems to have that love of hockey that her father clearly has.
“Adrie is a very talented gymnast at Eagles Gymnastics here in Brandon. She doesn’t play hockey but enjoys skating,” says Hickman “Drew is in her second year of under-seven Timbits and also does gymnastics.
“I’m very lucky to be able to coach Drew. She is all about hockey, her favourite teams are Waywayseecappo Wolverines, Prince Albert Raiders and the Pittsburgh Penguins.”
Hickman also scouts for the Raiders, so that’s not too surprising. But how is his scouting duties coming along when there is no hockey to watch?
“Here in Manitoba, we were very fortunate to be able to start the season. Our government, hockey Manitoba, and the MJHL did a great job allowing us to start the season,” he said. “Right now, a lot of my time is spent communicating with our prospects, checking in to see how they and their families are doing during this time, how school is going, and what are they doing to stay active.
“When hockey is back up and running, we will be full steam ahead preparing for the drafts.”
Hickman only got to spend his final year of junior hockey with the Wolverines in 2000-01 – mainly because the Wolverines didn’t exist until the 1999-2000 season. But it was one full of positive memories, even if it wasn’t as successful on the ice as he would have liked.
“It was great coming home for my final year of junior hockey, it was the second year for the Wolverines organization, seeing all the surrounding communities show such an interest in the team was great,” he said. “We had a very talented team – we finished the season five points out of a playoff spot.
“We had two players Cody McLeod (NHL) and Jonathan Sjoland (Europe) who went on to have very good careers,” he added. “Now with my position as director of scouting talking to players and their families, I’m able to communicate how it was to be Wolverine player, and being from the area. Having friends and family at all our homes games was great. One of my favourite memories was getting the phone call in June from the coaching staff telling me I was acquired in a trade.”
Comparing junior hockey of today to just 20 years ago, Hickman says the skill has always been there. But now there’s a new element that every scout, every coach and every player have to account for.
“The skill level at the junior level has always been very good but the speed of the game is so fast now,” says Hickman.
And as someone who has had a major role in restocking the cupboards of the Wolverines with young talent, Hickman feels the organization is headed in the right direction.
“I took over the position of Director of Scouting four years ago, and as an organization we feel we’ve had very good success with both our draft picks and our auto protects,” he said.
“We have a good mix of players from the area and from across the province who are excited to be a part of the Wolverine organization,” he added. “Taylor (Harnett, head coach and GM), Josh (Lee, association coach and associate GM), myself and the organization feel we are heading in the right direction and our goal is to continue having a successful team on and off the ice.”
Now, if they could only get back on the ice and build on what was a great start to the season.