Invermere local gets shot at an NHL spot

R.T. Rice at Canucks hockey camp

R.T. skating for his university team the UPEI Panthers.                                Submitted photo

R.T. skating for his university team the UPEI Panthers. Submitted photo

Raised in a hockey family, Robert-Tye Rice, or more commonly known as R.T., has faced setbacks in his hockey career. Rather than letting disappointments stop him from pursuing a career in hockey, the Invermere local has pushed his way forward, securing himself a spot at this year’s Vancouver Canucks Development Camp.

“Because he had early disappointments, I was a father who didn’t give excuses or blame somebody else or (say) this is political. It’s ‘you need to work harder if you want this, this is something you need to work harder for. You need to get stronger and faster’,” said R.T.’s father Rob Rice.

Unlike most hockey players who make it to the NHL, R.T. wasn’t always the top player or on the best team. While he played for the BC Aboriginal Team for two years, R.T. worked his way through Junior B, to Junior A, and on to make a team in the Alberta College Athletic Conference league where he was named rookie of the year.

Upon being named rookie of the year R.T. thought a position in the Canadian Interuniversity Sports league would come about but it never did. Rather than let his hockey dreams disappear, R.T. secured himself a walk-on position with the University of Prince Edward Island.

“I went there as just an open tryout. I put all my eggs in one basket and went for it and sure enough it paid off, I guess, in the long run,” said R.T.

As the only athlete trying out for the team, he went to the open tryout ready to show his ability as an athlete.

“I knew that I was good enough, I knew that I could play in this league with knowing that I wasn’t that nervous and I kind of just went there and did what I was meant to do and I showed my ability,” said R.T.

He was offered a spot on the team but as one of many new players, R.T. wasn’t given the amount of ice time he expected to get during his first season.

“A lot of guys’ backgrounds on the team were a lot better, they played way better hockey and way better points so I didn’t get the ice time I thought I should have deserved. I probably had the least amount of ice time and I think I was third in points on my team and I had the least amount of ice,” said R.T.

At one point in the season, his coach told him that there were seven National Hockey League (NHL) teams contacting him about R.T. including the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks. Closer to the end of the year his coach said there was the potential of him getting called up to a camp but nothing happened until the NHL draft. R.T. was told to be patient by his UPEI coach and that he was working on getting him a tryout for the experience.

R.T. was contacted by the Dallas Stars scout but due to space in this year’s development camp, he was not invited. He did receive a Dallas Stars workout plan to help with training as he goes forward.

“A week before the draft I got another call from my coach and he said you’re going to get a call within the next couple of days from a team and I think this is going to be the team that’s gonna be the one that invites you to camp. I asked can I know what team and he said, ‘let’s just say this, the team’s not very far, so you don’t have to travel very far’. So I was like ‘okay,’ so I knew it was either going to be Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver. A week later, I got a call from a scout,” said R.T.

The day after the NHL draft finished R.T. was offered a place at the Vancouver Canucks Development camp. He was one step closer to his dream of playing in the NHL.

“It was weird I guess, obviously I couldn’t stop smiling. I was full of joy, I didn’t really know how to act, I guess. A dream finally came true that I’ve been working for for so long,” said R.T.

On July 2nd, R.T. flew to Vancouver for the development camp where the best case scenario is he could be invited to the main camp or offered a contract to play for the team. Attending the Vancouver Canucks Development Camp seems to be a tradition for the Rice family as R.T.’s father Rob Rice attended the same camp at the same age as him.

“I’d say around 18 years old he started believing in himself and he learned what it took to get bigger and stronger and how much effort and how much dedication it took and that’s when he took off. And now he trains himself because he has the determination in him,” said Rob Rice.

Rob called the Echo from the development camp to give an update on how the tryouts were going for his son.

“Where I think he has the advantage, he’s a big kid who plays that role and he’s playing right now for fourth line player, like a role – that kind of grinder, physical player. Where a lot of these players I’m seeing here are more of the quick finesse skilled kids. He’s probably the only one I see here, kind of that mean physical guy,” said Rob.

As a hybrid athlete R.T. is cross trained in defense and forward. At camp he is trying out as a forward for the team but had the opportunity to show off his defensive skill as he stepped in for an injured athlete.

“It’s a good thing for them to show he has that ability to play both and again as a forward who plays defense it tells the team he’s a smart defensive player,” said Rob Rice.

R.T. stated if he doesn’t get invited to the main camp he will go back to playing at UPEI in the fall and do another year of school.

“Everyone’s always asked me if I had a backup plan and what are you going to do if hockey doesn’t work out but I’ve always had a one track mind that hockey is going to work out,” said R.T.

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