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Westhaver starting to hit stride for Grizzlies

OCTOBER 5, 2017 10:21 PM

Most junior hockey players would shudder at the prospect of their mothers being on the ice with them during practice.

For forward Marty Westhaver of the Victoria Grizzlies, whose mom, Mena Westhaver, is the team’s long-serving power-skating instructor, it has always just come with the territory.

Mena Westhaver, also known for her road-running clinics, has been the skating coach since the B.C. Hockey League franchise was known as the Salsa.

“It’s normal to me because I grew up with it . . . I used to come to the rink with my mom to Salsa practices starting at five years old,” said Marty Westhaver.

“So I’m OK with it. It’s rare but it’s cool. And she has really helped me with my skating.”

Marty Westhaver, a 17-year-old sophomore with two goals, including the overtime winner last Saturday night against the Langley Rivermen, and two assists for the Grizzlies (5-3), grew up in a sporting family where the front door might as well have been installed revolving, with parents and siblings heading in and out to games, practices or runs.

Mena Westhaver, whose Sole Sisters group has introduced thousands of Island women to road running, was inducted into the Walk of Fame outside the Frontrunners store in 2015. The granite stone bearing her name sits alongside those of fellow inductees such as Olympians Simon Whitfield, Bruce Deacon, Zach Whitmarsh, Diane Cummins, Jon Brown and Ironman Hawaii legends Peter Reid and Lori Bowden.

Mena pedalled the Tour de Rock childhood-cancer-fundraising cycling ride the length of Vancouver Island last year and is currently on the support crew for this year’s Tour de Rock.

Marty’s dad, Norm Westhaver, is a firefighter and in his day was captain of the Saanich Braves in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Marty’s brother Andy Westhaver is a 16-year-old rookie in the VIJHL with the Westshore Wolves and brother Jack, a cancer survivor, is in Bantam A with the Saanich Braves. Eleven-year-old sibling Jake Westhaver is the Grizzlies stick boy and plays first-year Peewee A with the Braves in Saanich.

“Almost everything in our family had to do with sports,” said Marty Westhaver, looking back with much fondness.

“Someone was always at some rink somewhere. Family dinners all together in the evening were rare, but it’s been crazy fun,” added Westhaver, who graduated high school from Spectrum in June, and who began his junior hockey career in the VIJHL with the Peninsula Panthers.

Westhaver and the Grizzlies meet the struggling Cowichan Valley Capitals (1-7) tonight at The Q Centre and are in Nanaimo on Saturday night to face Mike Vandecamp’s always-difficult Clippers (4-3-1).

Like almost every player in the BCHL, Westhaver dreams of a U.S. collegiate NCAA Div. 1 hockey scholarship and maybe even the pros after that. While touted Grizzlies rookies like forward Alex Newhook from St. John’s, N.L., (committed to Boston College) and homegrown Esquimalt defenceman Jacson Alexander (University of Denver) are already being touted for the higher rounds of the 2019 NHL draft, other Grizzlies know their paths may not be so clearly defined. But Westhaver looks more than ready to improve on last year’s point totals of six goals and six assists in 52 games.

“I just want to take this as far as I can and play as long as I can,” he said.

And this Grizzlies team looks like one on which to get noticed. Westhaver began the season on a line with Newhook: “He’s young but he’s good.”

Added Westhaver: “We have the kinds of players who can play any way and do it all . . . we especially have a great offence . . . and we are now putting the pieces together.”

All the way from mom’s power skating lessons on out.

ICE CHIPS: The BCHL announced changes to its playoff format this week. Starting this season, 16 of the 17 teams will qualify for the playoffs. The top four teams in the Island and Mainland divisions will qualify, and the top six teams in the Interior Division. Then the top two of the remaining three teams will enter the Interior Division playdowns as the seventh and eighth seeds. All playoffs rounds will be best-of-sevens, leading to the Fred Page Cup league final.


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