The Chilliwack Chiefs have gone 3-1 in his absence, and don’t think Kevin Wall hasn’t heard about it every day.
“From every single guy on the team,” he laughed.
But while they’ve survived well enough so far without arguably their top player, there’s no doubt the Chiefs will be glad to have Wall back this weekend.
The New York native will serve the fifth and sixth games of his six game suspension Friday and Saturday and be back in the lineup for a huge Sunday showdown with the Prince George Spruce Kings.
“It’s been an anxious feeling and tough watching your team playing knowing that you could help them in some areas,” the 18 year old said.
Wall has only looked at the hit that earned him the suspension once.
It happened during a Dec. 9 home game versus Trail as he caught Smokies defender Diarmid DiMurro with what he thought was a shoulder-to-shoulder check in the neutral zone.
“I thought I hit him on the shoulder, and his momentum turned him toward the boards where he hit his face,” Wall said. “With the way refs are calling things now, coach (Brian) Maloney talked to all of us and said that if a player hits his head on the boards in a certain way it’s an automatic blow to the head and suspension.
“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but I’ve been trying not to think about it, and just focus on getting ready to come back.”
Wall is known for his snipes (22 goals in 33 games) and skill, but he has a physical edge to his game.
The big question is, will anything change when he does come back, because fair or not he’s under the microscope.
“I’ve talked to our coaches about it and I don’t think it’s going to change much,” Wall said. “That’s the style I played all year and I hadn’t had a problem with it up until those few games.
“I like to play a hard, heavy physical game and it would mess things up if I steered away from that and tried to make myself into something I’m not.
“Maybe I just have to be a little smarter with some of my checks.”
Big picture, it’s become way more difficult to be a physical player in today’s game, where hard hits that used to be encouraged are now illegal.
Maloney has talked about how the only way a player can defend now is with positioning and stick checks, which he finds frustrating.
“It’s very hard, because there are so many different rules that have been put in,” Wall said. “The thing is, when you’re out there you’re not thinking about, ‘Oh, if I hit this kid one second later it’s going to be a charge.’
“You’re just out there finishing your checks.”
The positive Wall takes away from his involuntary time off is how players have stepped up in his absence.
Seventeen year old Chilliwack native Brett Rylance is a player who has looked great getting extra ice time in offensive situations, and Wall expects the team will be better because of it.
“There are definitely some guys who’ve been able to step into bigger roles,” he said. “Brett is a guy who has unbelievable skill and high hockey IQ and it’s nice to see him gaining confidence.”
— This weekend’s BCHL sched has Chilliwack in Coquitlam Friday and home Saturday (Surrey) and Sunday (Prince George).