With mountain ranges and beaches separated by only a short drive, Ty Wishart’s home of Comox, B.C., is known as a place of great beauty, both natural and otherwise.
A few years back, Wishart did a little research on one of the town’s best known … landmarks. Former resident Pamela Anderson went to his high school. So he flipped through some old yearbooks, looking for her.
“She wasn’t there when I was there, but there’s lots of stories,’’ said Wishart, 20. “I remember looking her up and seeing some pictures. She doesn’t look the same as she does now.’’
We’ll leave the obvious reasons for that to a conversation of another time and forum. Suffice to say that if some future Comox youngster someday wants to look up old Wishart pictures in a search for local celebrities, he’ll probably look then like he does right now – big, strong and menacing.
And maybe, just maybe, like one of the best defensemen in pro hockey. Tampa Bay is counting on that.
Wishart, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound puck-moving snowplow, is the latest massive chunk on Norfolk’s blue line. The rookie stands out, yet also fits right in – fellow blueliner Matt Smaby is 6-5 and Vladimir Mihalik scrapes the clouds at 6-foot-8.
“The group of guys we have here are big, but we’re also mobile,’’ Wishart said. “It gives us a bit of an edge. We’re tough to get around. I’m really excited to start the season here. It’s a good fit for me.’’
San Jose once held the Lightning’s vision of anchoring Wishart in its defensive zone. The Sharks made him a first-round pick, No. 16 overall, in the 2006 draft. San Jose then paid him one of the best compliments possible by using him as a valued chunk of bait that helped bring experienced defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich from Tampa Bay in a trade last summer.
“It was a little shock at first. That’s being said, I’m really honored to be in that trade. I got over it pretty quick,’’ Wishart said.
Wishart was a perfect addition for the aggressive new Tampa Bay regime for a couple reasons. He knows how to get an offense going, as evidenced by his 16 goals and 51 assists overall for Moose Jaw and Prince George of the WHL last season.
You want some guts and nerve? You could say that runs in the family. Wishart’s mother, Carole, used to repair planes and choppers for Canada’s national search and rescue service. His father, Tony, is a parole officer. Watching those two, Ty has learned to not get flustered by much on a rink.
He stood out in a very feisty Lightning training camp, one that was condensed and took on an extra jolt of urgency because of the team’s season-opening sojourn to the Czech Republic.
“People try to take him out. He usually knocks them over. We just have to work on his consistency on the ice, and he’ll be in the NHL before not too long,’’ said Norfolk coach Darren Rumble.
“They were definitely pretty rough,’’ Wishart said of the workouts. “Guys were going in there to make the team. It was definitely an intense camp. Barry (Melrose) definitely wants some hard-nosed players in there. He wants guys who work hard.’’
When it comes to rookie defensemen, avoiding game-changing mistakes ranks right up there with that attribute in importance. His rawness aside, Wishart doesn’t think that will be a big problem.
“I guess we’ll see after the first week,’’ he said. “It’s not necessarily age that defines mistakes. You just have to go out there and make as few mistakes as possible. The nerves kick in every now and then. I think I’m ready to step in.’’
Wishart’s already shown he has enough common sense to curb his wilder impulses. Less than 30 minutes from his home in Comox, 5,200-foot high Mt. Washington tempts the urges of the nerviest outdoorsmen. Wishart has scaled it in good weather and skied down in when the snow flies.
Not lately, of course.
“If I had the time, I’d love to get up there. It’s awesome. I haven’t been up in awhile, because of hockey,’’ he said. “I don’t think I’m allowed. It was really nice to get up there and get away from things.’’
Wishart isn’t going away any time soon. Neither is the mountain. With all it has to offer, Comox is a desirable retirement destination. When hockey is over, mountain and man – both a little older, but still rugged – will likely meet again.
“Who knows? I definitely call it home,’’ Wishart said. “It’s definitely a nice place to retire.’’
Opponents can only wish that day was coming a lot sooner than it actually will.