Game tonight Chiefs play host to Red Deer 7 p.m.
The 18-year-old defenseman with the great hockey name - John Shockey - has it all worked out with the assistant coach.
Their conversational ground rules are simple. He doesn’t volunteer and the coach doesn’t pump.
The space gives them room to grow together.
John Shockey is a Spokane Chief. His father, Parry, is the Chiefs’ assistant.
The father-son connection carries with it the potential for conflict. A different type of player, a less likeable kid than John Shockey, might invite whispers of “Daddy’s Boy.”
But with the awareness of what it could do for them, and possibly to them, Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz and coach Mike Babcock proceeded with the Thanksgiving week acquisition of John Shockey from the Swift Current Broncos.
It stands as a beneficial move. Despite injuries - he reported with a hairline fracture of the femur that cost him 25 games, then suffered a contusion of the other thigh that put him out for two weeks - Shockey has exceeded his modest reputation.
It’s not that you notice the presence as much as the absence. It’s what happens when Shockey’s out. The puck doesn’t come out of the Chiefs end quite as smoothly. There are more dangerous giveaways in the Chiefs zone.
John Shockey plays a mind game, with the accumulated knowledge of a coach’s son.
The high side of this unique personal and business relationship was stamped all over Parry Shockey Saturday night when his son knocked in a key goal in the Chiefs’ 5-4 overtime win over Lethbridge.
Lethbridge is only 25 minutes from the Shockey’s home in Tabor, Alberta. John played youth hockey there. The Lethbridge Hurricanes are the hometown team.
In the WHL, Shockey bounced around, from Tri-City to Swift Current to Spokane. He was first team all-rejection.
So it was more than John Shockey’s first Western Hockey League goal. It was a notice served that some people missed on this kid.
As the Chiefs prepared for tonight’s Coliseum date with Red Deer, Shockey was still smiling carefully about his first goal in 79 games.
“I shot the puck off the backboard hoping it would go in front of the net,” he said. “Next thing you know it came flying out again and I thought, `Here’s my chance.’ I saw it and thought, `Well, I should probably close my eyes on this one.’ I’ve missed before with my eyes open.”
Shockey, eyes open, drilled the puck through the goaltender’s pads.
“I should probably be more offensive-minded,” he said, “but my job is to keep pucks out of the net, not put them in. Every guy in the league gets a good shot on net once in a while.”
He can low-key it all he wants, but the goal and his growing role on a team that’s starting to win meant even more coming in the Coliseum.
Before he was called in a year ago to coach in Spokane, in the wake of Bryan Maxwell’s abrupt resignation, Parry Shockey was a Chiefs scout. His sons followed him here over the years, for games and camp.
“Since he’s been here as a coach and has had to be a father for 20 other guys, I can tell him anything and nothing would surprise him,” John Shockey said. “He’s heard everything now. I think that’s made our relationship stronger. When he listens to other guys, he wonders what’s up with me sometimes.
“But both of us realize that we have to watch things, that if anything ever happened (and word leaked out) somebody might feel that there was a betrayal.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a coach’s son was hung up between loyalties. The younger Shockey says that doesn’t happen here.
“He’s never put any pressure on me,” he said. “At first, there were a few reservations (among the players) - guys thinking, `I don’t know about this.’ But as time has gone on, they’ve realized that I’m just here to play hockey and have a few friends.”
Any player coming into a new locker room brings old baggage.
John Shockey and the Chiefs’ Kevin Sawyer traded punches last year in Tri-City (“I thought, `If I’m going to fight, I might as well fight someone tough,” Shockey said. “I hung in there and took a few.”)
The exchange, as usual, favored Sawyer. Parry Shockey was in the seats that night, scouting. Some weeks later, he was in Spokane as the Chiefs’ interim head coach and later the assistant.
He tried to make sure there were no lingering hard feelings.
“Our players assumed that the bond between us (father and son) would be apparent, even though we were on opposing sides,” the elder Shockey said. “I made the effort to make sure that the guys here understood that they had their job and John had his.”
Family ties were stowed outside the locker room door. It wasn’t easy. It’s easier now, reunited as the two are here.
“The way Mike (Babcock) handles it makes it easier for me,” Parry Shockey said.
What’s never easy is the separation of a far-flung family.
The Shockeys’ No. 2 son, Josh, 15, plays major bantam hockey in Calgary, leaving Parry’s wife, Adair, to raise two girls, 14 and 13.
It was tough to leave home after Christmas break.
“It’s funny,” Parry Shockey said. “It’s almost as if you live in two different worlds.”
That’s consistent. Although they’re on the same schedule, with the same goals, they’re miles if not worlds apart. John is quartered on the South Hill, Parry in the valley.
The bond is strong, but the line’s clear. Personal on one side, business on the other.
“We’ll go to a show together and talk,” the elder Shockey said. “That’s our family time. If I say something he thinks is intrusive, he says so. If it’s none of my business, he tells me.”
Come hockey time, the mood and the subjects change. The coach goes his way and John Shockey becomes just another defenseman.
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