He’s a veteran, a leader, and now the captain of the Vancouver Giants. But it’s pretty clear from the first 10 games of the season that Dalton Thrower isn’t a miracle worker.
Acquired in the off-season from the Saskatoon Blades, the North Vancouver native was named the 13th captain in franchise history before he’d ever suited up for a game. That spoke volumes about what the team’s coaching staff and management thought that Thrower, soon to turn 20, could bring to a mix that was badly in need of a boost after the Giants’ last-place finish in the Western Hockey League a year ago.
But even with Thrower giving it his all, the Giants have faltered, with just one victory in their first 10 games (1–7–2). The hard-nosed defenceman missed the first four games of the year while in training camp with the Montreal Canadiens, yet he still has a share of the Giants’ team lead in goals and is tops on the team with six points in the six games he has played.
He’s doing all he can to lead by example, but it’s clear there is still much work to be done.
“It’s a huge honour to be recognized as a leader of this organization,” Thrower tells the Georgia Straight in a telephone interview. “This is a great honour, not just for me but for my family. My brother and I grew up watching the Giants a lot. I’m going to embrace this opportunity fully. I haven’t had an opportunity to wear a letter on a team in my junior career. This is a huge chance to show my skills, not only on the ice but off the ice as a leader. And it’s going to help me grow as a player. Obviously, there will be a little bit of pressure, but you just have to overcome it and play the hockey you know you can.”
So far, Thrower has done his best to lead the Giants out of the darkness, but it’s obvious there is still a lot to get done, and it’s just as clear that he can’t do it alone. He’s on a team that—early this season—has had trouble at both ends of the ice, and the hope is that he can stabilize things and help those around him to get better. It may take a while, but one of the positives for Thrower of playing on a struggling team is that he will log lots of ice time and be leaned on in every situation.
That’s important, because despite being a second-round pick of the Canadiens in the 2012 National Hockey League draft, Thrower is still playing for his first NHL contract. So although he wants to help put the Giants on the right path, he also desperately wants to ensure that his hockey future heads in the right direction.
“Obviously, my goal was to play in Mon-treal or Hamilton [the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate], but they have a lot of defencemen there,” he explains of being returned for his final year of junior. “They were very happy with me, but the numbers situation came into effect when they had five right-handed defencemen in the AHL on entry-level contracts and I was the only guy without a contract. I would have been the youngest defenceman not only on my team but in the league, and they let me know that.
“I got sent to Vancouver for a reason, and I’m going to take everything I can out of it. For things to work out as they did, it’s a win-win situation. I come to Vancouver and I get named captain, and I’m going to play big minutes for this organization and I want to help them as much as I can.”
For Thrower, that will mean setting the tone for every practice and every game and doing whatever he can to help his younger teammates to improve. Because he’s in his final year at the junior level, he knows that his stay in Vancouver’s organization will be a short one, but even in his lone season here, there’s still a chance to leave a lasting impression on the players who will wear Giants colours for years to come.
And he knows that the Canadiens will be monitoring his every move.
“I’m playing for a contract,” he says bluntly when asked about his motivation for the season. “This team needs to start winning, and when this team is doing well, that’s going to help me with the contract situation. I’m a defenceman, so I’m not going to be scoring a goal per game, but I’m going to try to contribute as much as I can. We need to be better defensively, and once we work from defence up, that’s when we’ll start scoring goals.”
Things change quickly in the hockey world. Last spring, Thrower was part of a Saskatoon Blades team that hosted the Memorial Cup, and now he finds himself on a team that so far looks like a long shot to make the playoffs. So in the span of a few short months, he’s seen the highs and lows of life in the Western Hockey League.
It’s pretty evident already that it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the Vancouver Giants all season. But that doesn’t put a scare into Thrower. He knows that he’s being counted on to lead his hockey team. So he’s settling in and doing his best to start the hard work required to turn the franchise around.
He’s going to need plenty of help. But much of the responsibility falls at his feet. And Thrower is just fine with that.