Mario Annicchiarico / Times Colonist
Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist
FEBRUARY 16, 2017 10:09 PM
Keyvan Mokhtari was admittedly apprehensive prior to boarding the first of a series of flights that would eventually take him to Colorado College where he is being courted to play NCAA hockey for the Tigers.
Warranted or not, the 18-year-old speedster with the Victoria Grizzlies — who is a Canadian citizen in search of scholarship opportunity — had some nervous hesitation. His father, and biggest supporter, Kamran Mokhtari is of Iranian descent and with all the commotion U.S. President Donald Trump is making regarding proposed restrictions on visitors to the United States, the younger Mokhtari had some concern about crossing the border.
“In the back of my mind there was some, but I didn’t think about it too much going through,” said the Vancouver native. “I just used my Canadian passport and it was nice and smooth. It was just me getting through security checks and getting on the planes.”
He travelled from Victoria to Seattle, where he cleared customs, then carried on to Salt Lake City and eventually Colorado Springs, where the well-respected institution is situated.
“I was a little nervous going down,” he explained. “I had a good time though. Saw the school, spent time with the coaches. It was a good couple of days. They’ve offered [a scholarship], but I’m going to take some time to talk it over with my parents and go from there.”
He’ll discuss it with his dad and his Japanese mom, Nami.
“It was good to see a practice first-hand, what it’s like to go to school and practice down there. It’s beautiful, in the Rockies, so you always have that nice view. They said it’s always warm, plenty of sun, with hardly any rain,” said Mokhtari, who with his teammates is preparing for a tough road trip that begins tonight at 7 in Vernon. It continues into West Kelowna on Saturday night and then concludes Sunday afternoon in Penticton.
Mokhtari’s scholarship, should he accept it, would likely be for a year or two down the road, not next season.
“Whenever I’m ready to go and ready to make an impact. You don’t want to rush it, get there too early and end up sitting on the bench and not making the lineup,” he said. “They’d like me to wait a year or two, getting more physically and mentally mature.”
That scenario also sits well with Grizzlies GM and head coach Craig Didmon.
“He’s got some teams that are interested in him and he’ll definitely find something. It’s well deserved for him,” said Didmon. “I like the idea of him spending another year or two in the league, being a young guy and still being a smaller player, it would give him a chance to get stronger, develop and grow.
“This year he has shown he can be an elite player in the league. He’s been a good teammate, too,” he added of Mokhtari, who has 18 goals and 17 assists in 45 games, after missing nearly a month with a slightly separated shoulder. “He’s a sought-after player.”
Who didn’t need the apprehension of crossing the border effecting his important decision.
“It was a question mark going down on his own, but it all worked out,” said Didmon. “He’s Canadian through and through, hockey player and all. It’s such an unfortunate thing. There were concerns with the flying issues the [U.S.] administration was trying to put in place, but it all worked out as it should.”
IN THE DEN: Former Grizzlies defenceman Jake Emilio previously played at Colorado College, but has since left the Tigers to focus on his studies at the school. Kade Kehoe of the Cowichan Valley Capitals and Matt Hansen of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are both currently members of the Tigers.