Thursday 29 June 2017

‘I thought, Jaysus I wouldn’t do this in front of Davy’

Chin enjoys memorable spell in ice hockey but his focus has turned to Offaly showdown

Wexford hurler Lee Chin swapped his boots for a pair of ice skates to join NHL team the Vancouver Canucks as part of the Toughest Trade, which airs on RTÉ2 tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford hurler Lee Chin swapped his boots for a pair of ice skates to join NHL team the Vancouver Canucks as part of the Toughest Trade, which airs on RTÉ2 tonight. Photo: Sportsfile
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Lee Chin tells a story of sitting down to lunch with the Vancouver Canucks.

He's a guest of the club, over in Canada as the latest instalment of the AIB-backed 'The Toughest Trade' series that sees him swap hurling for hockey and Wexford for Vancouver.

The Canucks are in action the following day and two players order a pint. Chin's jaw drops. That wouldn't fly at home if Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald about.

"The two guys ordered two pints of Heineken. I was on a glass of water. I was thinking if these lads are playing tomorrow, the two of them could be injured. I had to ask this lad the story. I asked, 'Are you playing tomorrow?' He said, 'Yeah'. I said, 'You having a pint, yeah?' 'Yeah, what is the big deal?'

"There were managers, coaches and everyone sitting around and I was thinking, 'Jaysus I wouldn't do this in front of Davy, I can tell you that.' I wouldn't actually do it at home on my own, never mind in front of Davy. It is just a massive part of the culture there, they just believe in it."

There were a few things he didn't tell Fitzgerald. There was a bout of mumps in the Canucks squad, meaning more than half a dozen of them were on lock-down. But no point in worrying those back home.

"I didn't tell him too much," Chin smiles. "I didn't want to tell him half the stuff I done!"

It's fair to say some of what he saw in Canada blew his mind, not least the acceptance of alcohol, which is out of bounds for inter-county panels here for long stretches of the season. Their remedy for a loss of form won't be found in any sport science handbook either.

"They have this thing called a 'change-up', if a player is not on form or not scoring, either the manager or the other players will just call a 'change-up' and basically that lad has to go out and ruin himself for the night.

"And come back the next day and play the game, to play with the attitude that you just don't care, that kind of thing.

"(They) just send him out, go out and drink 20 pints, go off with a couple of women, do what you want and come back to me the next day!"

Ice hockey still allows its players to fight to a certain point and it's up to referees to intervene. At first, it dissuaded him but it was explained to him that fighting helps keep the game cleaner.

"The whole ruling around being able to throw off the gloves and fight, I didn't understand it at first and at first I thought it was so barbaric that it was allowed go on in a sport because it's crazy. But when I asked the players what the story was they were able to tell me and it intrigued me.

"Literally the players police that ruling over there. And there's nothing in the rule book to say you can't do it. So it's there for the players to protect them. If a guy is acting the maggot on the ice with another guy he has to pay for what he's done and that's the way they look at it.

"Basically they police that rule and they feel if the rule went out of the game and there was no more fighting, the game would get so much dirtier. That's why the rule is there. If a guy is acting the maggot he has to pay for his actions. That's what they believe in."

Naturally, the alien approach to drinking and fighting caught his eye but Chin developed a genuine admiration for the talent required to play the game and was grateful for the help he was given during his time there.

"There was definitely a big interest and it was so fascinating to see what they do and witness how they do it. It was so enjoyable to even watch. The elegance of them on the ice. I have never been to see figure skating but this is obviously the next best thing. It was so enjoyable and soothing to watch them do what they do.

"I wouldn't have got on so well without the hospitality that I received over there, the older guys especially. I have to mention Erik Gudbranson, he's actually a player for the Canucks, he's just injured at the moment. He took part (in the TV show) one night by meeting me for some dinner and we got on really well together and we stayed in touch throughout the week and I met him a couple of other times as well.

"He was absolutely brilliant with me, he was my age, earning four million a year! That's the difference but to be in his presence, of a professional, and to just pick his brain and his mentality, it was just outstanding. It was something to be admired.

"He was just a really great fella, the way he welcomed me to Vancouver and the Canucks, I couldn't have asked for better. I really got a warm welcome when I got there."

Chin is back home now and on Sunday his high-flying Wexford side will face Offaly.

"Last year in the league we were expected to beat Offaly too, they beat us by nine points down in Wexford Park. We're not forgetting that. We know Offaly will come fancying their chances against Wexford. We're definitely not going to be taking Offaly lightly."

Irish Independent

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