PORTLAND – Sitting atop the Western Hockey League’s scoring standings, Ty Rattie has become one of junior hockey’s rising stars this season.
But the Portland Winterhawks’ forward remains firmly grounded, the tattoo on his right bicep a constant reminder of what matters most.
The dominant feature of the body art is the word “family” in script writing. Below are his initials and those of his parents and 13-year-old brother, Taden.
“The toughest thing for me is being away from family and from my little brother,” said the 19-year-old Rattie, adding that he got to see Taden play hockey during the WHL’s December break for the first time in two years.
“He wants it so bad, I don’t remember being that dedicated to hockey at that age,” Ty said of his brother.
In the middle of Rattie’s tattoo sits the No. 11, which represents the year 2011 – a year he’ll always remember as a turning point in his life.
In addition to being drafted by the St. Louis Blues, Rattie graduated from a Portland-area high school shortly after playing in the WHL final. He scored the overtime winner in Game 1, the only contest the Winterhawks won in the series against the Kootenay Ice.
After attending training camp with St. Louis, Rattie returned to Portland this season and immediately surged to the top of the league’s scoring list.
Heading into Saturday’s games against Seattle, Rattie had 43 goals and 45 assists, a scoring pace that hasn’t been seen in Portland in more than a decade.
“I definitely worked hard over the summer,” Rattie said. “I wanted to come in hot and be a leader, but I never really envisioned what I’m doing now.”
The opportunity to step into a leadership role came largely because Portland’s two biggest offensive stars from last year – Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter – moved on to the NHL as 19-year-olds this season.
Rattie still maintains a close relationship with Johansen, who plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but hockey doesn’t dominate their conversations.
“With Ryan, he’s 19 and doesn’t want to talk hockey all the time,” said Rattie. “He wants to know how the boys are here and what’s going on. It’s such a good friendship that we leave the hockey aside.”
Those friendships emerge on the long bus trips and daily practices and meetings that mark the life of a WHL player.
“This has been the most fun I’ve ever had as a hockey player,” Rattie said of the current season. “We have such a good group of guys and have so much fun together, it makes being away from home so much easier for all of us.”
Two years ago, Rattie had 17 goals and 37 points as a rookie. That improved to 28 goals and 79 points last season – numbers he’s already blown past this year.
While he’s past the nightly pressure of auditioning for prospective NHL teams that he faced last season, Rattie’s found a new motivation to keep him at the top of his game – a strategy he picked up from his father.
“My mindset is to prove those other 29 teams wrong for passing on me, and to make St. Louis realize I was the right pick for them,” he said.
Rattie realizes that his size likely played a role in falling out of the first round. Standing 6 feet, he’s listed at 173 pounds, which seems like a stretch when you see him without pads.
“I do want to put on at least 10 more pounds,” he said.
He’s already looking ahead to next year.
“I don’t want to just make the team next year,” he said. “I want to be a huge impact player for that team.”