Sports

Dwelling a dream: Scott Walford, Mitchell Prowse’s hockey journey from Okanagan to Montreal

Scott Walford had a connection to Montreal earlier than he dedicated to McGill College — one that brought on him to rethink whether or not the Redbirds males’s hockey crew have been greatest for him regardless of having almost every thing he needed.

The Montreal Canadiens drafted the Coquitlam, B.C., product within the 2017 NHL Entry Draft however by no means signed him to an entry-level contract, letting his rights expire. The heartbreak that adopted left a bitter style in Walford’s mouth, a stinging reminiscence in his thoughts and bled into his recruitment course of.

A metropolis which bleeds crimson and blue, with swaths of Canadiens’s jerseys, flags, hats, and followers at each flip, may have been a reminder of what may have been for Walford — a perpetual ‘what if?’ into an NHL profession that by no means transpired.

After conversations along with his household, mates and McGill’s hockey crew employees, a dialog with Man Boucher, the present Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach, resonated with the defenceman.

“One of many issues Man Boucher talked about is how he at all times made the choice that was powerful in his life,” Walford advised CBC Sports activities. “That is why he thinks he’s profitable. As a result of he is at all times discovered adversity and tried his greatest to push by means of it.”

McGill Redbirds’s Mitchell Prowse skates vs. UQTR in March in U Sports activities motion. Prowse and Walford performed collectively on McGill’s high defensive unit all through the 2023-24 OUA season. (Matt Garies/McGill Athletics)

Walford dedicated to the Redbirds, and after a season cancelled as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, he would start his McGill profession alongside a well-known good friend within the 2021-22 season — Mitchell Prowse, who dedicated in April 2021.

They have been already mates of 9 years by the point they turned roommates at McGill. The 2 British Columbia-born boy’s hockey journeys appeared to comply with one another at each flip.

With quite a few gamers graduating, Walford and Prowse entered McGill with a gaggle of younger gamers targeted on constructing a brand new tradition.

“I needed to go someplace the place I felt I may assist construct one thing and be part of one thing,” Walford mentioned.

A few B.C. boys

Walford remembers the primary time Prowse hopped on the bus to commute to the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

Fifteen-year-old Walford — who performed bantam second-year at Okanagan — watched 14-year-old Prowse, whose season simply wrapped with the Kelowna Jr. Rockets U15 squad, stroll into the bus with Okanagan hockey adorned on the perimeters and entrance.

“He appeared like somebody you needed to be mates with,” Walford mentioned. “He was somebody that wasn’t onerous to get together with.”

Regardless of their improvement staggered by a 12 months as a result of an age distinction, the 2014-15 season noticed the duo journey the identical bus, an hour every means, from Kelowna to Penticton, B.C.

The boys would play cellphone video games to kill time on their commutes — Conflict of Clans, Conflict Royale, and different player-versus-player video games amid the fixed chatter from a bus full of excessive schoolers.

Three men's hockey players stand with bronze medals around their necks after a hockey game.
McGill Redbirds gamers Walford, left, Caiden Daley, center, and Prowse pose for a photograph after successful the U Sports activities Cup bronze-medal sport in March. (Matt Garies/McGill Athletics)

The Victoria Royals drafted Walford within the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft. In 2015, they chosen Prowse.

Prowse arrived in Victoria full-time earlier than the 16-17 season, a 12 months after Walford, and shortly reunited along with his Okanagan colleague. Throughout his first 12 months, Prowse rode shotgun with Walford to and from observe, video games, and highschool.

The 2 grew shut, coaching, hanging out and sometimes enjoying collectively over their three years in Victoria.

The Royals commerce each gamers on the tail finish of their WHL enjoying careers — Walford was despatched to Saskatoon, Sask., in 2019, and Prowse to Lethbridge, Alta., in 2020 — marking the top of their time collectively till their McGill reunion.

Bittersweet ending

McGill entered the 2024 U Sports activities males’s hockey nationwide championship because the sixth seed after a promising 2023-24 marketing campaign. The squad swiftly upset the three-seeded UBC Thunderbirds of their opening sport.

Nevertheless, their gold medal ambitions fell to the wayside after shedding 5-4 towards the UQTR Patriotes within the semi-finals.

Earlier than the bronze medal sport towards the Toronto Metropolitan College Daring, the 2 roommates knew they have been doubtlessly coming into their final aggressive contest collectively.

“You simply inform one another how a lot you like one another,” Walford mentioned. “Generally, as hockey gamers and folks usually, we do not verbalize quite a bit. Within the few phrases we do say, there’s much more which means, and we’re each in a position to decide up on that.”

Walford assisted on the game-tying purpose with 5:56 remaining within the third. Caught in a 2-2 impasse with minutes remaining, the pair discovered one another.

Prowse fed Walford the puck, who sailed a cross-crease move to Brandon Frattaroli. Frattaroli shocked the Daring house crowd, scoring with 1:21 remaining to clinch bronze for the Redbirds.

In storybook trend, Prowse and Walford assisted on the successful purpose in doubtlessly their closing aggressive hockey sport collectively.

“We received some photos on the ice collectively [after] with a few guys who’re additionally transferring on,” Walford mentioned. “It will be good to have these eternally.”

After the nationwide championship, Walford signed an beginner tryout contract with the Syracuse Crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s AHL affiliate. He received the decision that the Crunch was signing him, and the next day, Walford was gone.

“It is unlucky shedding your greatest good friend, your roommate, that fast,” Prowse mentioned. “We nonetheless communicate on daily basis, we nonetheless discuss, and I watch his video games.

“He is dwelling his dream now.”

The 2 perceive their bronze medal sport is probably going their “final one” collectively as Walford begins his skilled profession and Prowse returns to the Redbirds for one more season. Whereas they’re unsure when their on-ice paths will cross, Walford is for certain they may lace their skates up collectively as soon as extra.

“Whether or not it is professional, an alumni sport or beer league, Mitch and I’ll play collectively once more,” Walford mentioned.

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