By John Ploszay
Hyde Rickard knows that “the experts” were all over the Pembina Valley Twisters and St. Vital Victorias as the teams to beat in the COVID-19-halted Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
But Hyde Rickard would be happy to tell you that “the experts” aren’t always right.
“Ending our hockey year was a heart breaker,” the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Transcona Railer Express defenseman said. “Because I honestly believe we had all the tools to get the job done and win it all. We were putting it all together. We were playing really well and our confidence level was really high. We had a few APs ready to join us in the playoffs. Real talented young guys. I think we could have done it and won the whole thing.
“We had PV in our sights. We’d love to beat them and I think we could have.”
Rickard had every right to be (a) disappointed and (b) confident.
The Railer Express finished third in the MMJHL this season with a record of 29-15-1. Yes, they were 14 points behind the regular-season champion PV Twisters (35-7-3) and five points back of second place St. Vital (29-10-6), but Transcona went 8-4-0 down the stretch and not only won four games in overtime, but also won their final four games of the season. This was a team ready for playoff hockey and with the young cavalry ready to join the squad, they were all set for a solid playoff run.
Then came the pandemic and subsequently the shutdown and like so many good young teams the Transcona Railer Express will never know what might have been.
“This Covid-19, it sucks,” Rickard said. “It’s a horrible thing. We have to make sure that before we get back to everything we had, we have to make sure it’s gone and everyone is healthy. I support the science and the decisions to be socially responsible and avoid contact.”
Fortunately, Rickard has been able to go to work and keep busy in a number of ways despite the shutdown.
“I’m busy, still working doing tin bashing (building commercial air exchangers and vents),” he said. “I’m currently working on a library by the Pan Am Pool. It’s a great project and I’m happy it’s keeping me busy. There’s no one around so work is getting done without interruption.
“Some guys are OK staying at home. I can’t do it. I need to stay busy. I’m watching a lot of movies and playing video games. I’m still doing a lot of running to stay in shape. I just wish the weather was better.
“I’m watching the Marvel movies. Me and my girlfriend Ayana are big into those. I’m playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed and Odyssey and the new Black Ops game. I’m doing some group chat with my team mates. We’re close and staying in touch.”
“My feeling is, just stay safe and be well. We’re all in this together.”
Rickard started skating at age three and played community hockey in Mitchell, Man. He played Triple A in the Eastman program and then high school hockey in Steinbach. His dad has always been supportive of his hockey dreams and continues, along with Ayana, to be his biggest fans.
He also one year of eligibility left in the MMJHL and he wants everyone to know that the Railer Express will be knocking down the championship doors next season.
“We have a strong group,” he said. “A lot of the same guys are coming back. We’re losing Noah Skorpad and Nathan Hillis — tough guys to lose — but, I think a lot of guys will take it up a notch next year. It’s going to be a special year.
“So, stay tuned everyone and watch us next year. It will be the year that Transcona Railer Express wins it all.”
10 Questions with Hyde Rickard
Favourite NHL Team? Winnipeg Jets.
Favourite NHL player? “Blake Wheeler because he uses his size so well and has great vision on the ice.”
The NHL player after whom, he models his game? “Nikita Zadorov of Colorado, who’s a big physical guy.”
Musical interests? “I’m a big country guy.”
Favourite song? “Morgan Wallen’s Keep Laughing.”
Favourite movie? “Jumanji: Escape from the Jungle.”
Favourite Actors? “Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Prepon, who was in that 70s Show.”
Favourite Food? “My mom’s (Mary Ann) Caesar Salad.”
Favourite Drink? “Canadian 83 Whiskey with regular Coca Cola.”
Hidden talent? “I think I’m a good singer but I don’t know if you could find anyone who would agree.”