There are many athletes out there who wish they could turn back the clock on their careers.
Red Deer’s Mitch Topping has done just that in a sense.
The veteran of five years in the Western Hockey league with Chilliwack and Tri-Cities is well into his first season in the CIS league with the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“It feels a lot like being 16 and in the dub (WHL) again to be honest with you. You’re the young guy again. You’re trying to keep up to some 25- and 26-year-olds,” said the graduate of the Red Deer Minor Hockey system.
The vast majority of his teammates are former WHL players which makes the pace very fast and most of the guys are bigger and stronger, said the 21-year-old.
He’s had to make adjustments in order to stick with the program at the U of A but it’s off the ice where a very important change had to be made in his opinion.
“Well, the biggest adjustment comes with me moving out of a billet family and then living on your own. You have to come home after a long day at school, practice, workout and then you have to come home and cook for yourself and do laundry and just all the other little things that you don’t necessarily think about.”
There is a silver lining about being in Edmonton as mom’s kitchen is just a short drive down the road to Red Deer.
“I know, that’s the nice part about it,” he said.
He says it took a little bit to get comfortable playing with guys he use to battle against in the WHL but it is a close knit team now. There’s also a change in the atmosphere surrounding a game.
“We’re also not playing in front of a few thousand people like we were in the Dub. It feels like minor hockey in a sense. It’s true hockey. There are no egos. Everyone is just playing because they love it and because they want to win. That aspect has been really neat for me.”
Another angle which needed to be addressed in his own mind is coming from five years of good level of hockey where he was a captain in the WHL to being the low man on the totem pole in this league.
“I came out of Tri (Tri-Cities) playing close to 30 minutes a night in almost every situation and kind of controlling the dressing room. All of a sudden you get here you just go back five years in time.”
He’s been in and out of the lineup as a young guy but he says he uses that as motivation to get better so he can compete with the older, more experienced defensemen on the roster.
Where he was the teacher during his WHL days he’s now the student again.
“I see what they do in and out and a lot of guys have pro careers ahead of them on the blue line so it’s been really nice to learn from them.”
He’s taking the prerequisites for business right now but admits he will do what he can when it comes to hockey as a job whether it’s in the minors or overseas.
He feels confident and fortunate about the options available to him at this point.
“I’m content with it either way. I know that I’ll leave this school with a great degree and hopefully a great job down the road. I’ll just take it year by year and see where it brings me.”