By: Remy Greer, Okotoks Western Wheel
What a difference a year makes.
At this time last season Robbie Fisher couldn’t buy a regular spot in the lineup as a rookie blueliner, but fast forward one year and he’s one of two co-captains of the Okotoks Junior A Oilers.
Fisher and 20-year-old forward Greg Lamoureux were named co-captains of the Okotoks Oilers for the 2012-13 season last week, joined by alternate captains Tanner Olstad and Jordan Swenson.
“With the way things started out last year I didn’t think I would be wearing a C as a 19-year-old,” Fisher said. “It was a little different last year, I was in-and-out and wasn’t sure what to expect, but I kept working hard and made it tough for them to try and trade me.”
He made a successful transition to forward last season, during which he registered 11goals and 21 points, and hasn’t looked back since.
“This year it’s a lot different. I know the guys, the coaches and it’s a two-sided coin from this time last year,” he added.
Fisher’s ascension to co-captain marks yet another highlight on a remarkable Junior A trajectory since arriving in Okotoks last season as an offensive-defenceman from his hometown of Kenora, ON.
“It’s a big achievement when you look at all the leaders in the past,” said Fisher, who was a captain with the Kenora Thistles before jumping to Junior from Midget. “I try to lead by example and say what needs to be said and I’m glad I got recognized for it.”
The Oilers captains are a study in contrasts.
Where Fisher is relatively inexperienced at the Junior A level as a second-year player, Lamoureux has seen it all during his four years of Junior. The 20-year-old played in parts of two seasons with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants before being acquired by Okotoks last fall.
“I’d like to think that I know what to expect, I’ve been through basically every situation you can be in at Junior,” said Lamoureux, who listed former Giants teammates Lance Bouma and Brendan Gallagher as particularly influential leaders for him. “I’m kind of just an older mentor for the younger guys.”
Closing out his Junior career with the letter on his jersey was important for the centre.
“I always was a captain growing up and then I hadn’t worn a letter since Midget so I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
It was an exhaustive process to narrow the leadership group down to the four wearing letters for the Alberta Junior Hockey League team during the first month of the regular season.
Oilers head coach James Poole said there were a number of other candidates who remain terrific leaders irrespective of the lack of a letter on their jersey, including forwards Scott Bolland, Connor Hartley, Cody Michelle and Chris Collins.
“The preference is you always want to go with one player, it’s kind of just the tradition,” Poole said. “We narrowed it down to four kids that bring what we were looking for in terms of what they do on the ice and in the dressing room.”
Lamoureux, one of five 20-year-olds on the roster, has the ideal attitude and demeanor for the captaincy.
“He’s very much a glue player to our team,” Poole said of Lamoureux. “He is the leader in the dressing room, he’s very positive, he’s great with the rookie players.”
Poole lauded Fisher, winner of the Oiler Award as a rookie last season, for his consistent commitment and selfless play.
“He’s just the ultimate team first player,” Poole said. “And puts his body on the line for the team, blocks shots and will do anything that’s asked of him.”
The co-captains also work well together.
“They’ve got good chemistry together and then you have Swenson who leads by example and Olstad who has got the fire and the passion,” Poole said.
Lamoureux said the unconventional sharing of the leadership responsibility will not be an issue as both he and Fisher complement one another well.
“Me and Robbie really feed off each other and the team respects us both,” Lamoureux said. “We’re both pretty vocal, but sometimes I can be a little harder on guys and Robbie is always the positive guy.”
The teammates bond on and off the ice.
“We’re good friends, we hang out a lot off the ice and it just brings a good dynamic,” Lamoureux said. “We’re stall-mates in the dressing room and we like to talk a lot about where the team is going and help each other out.”
Fisher will wear the C when the Oilers don their white jerseys at home for the first half of the season, while Lamoureux will wear the letter in the green-clad road uniforms, before the switch in gear is made after the midway point of the year.
The co-captaincy scenario is not new to the Oilers franchise. During the 2010-11 season, Poole’s first as the coach and GM, Ben Gamache and Jeff Barrett were co-captains before the former was named the sole captain at the start of the 2011-12 season.