Cal was not amused.
“He was trying to curse and swear at me, but he was too out of breath, he could barely talk,” laughed Bo.
The Horvat family, including parents Tim and Cindy and 17-year-old Cal, have spent an extended spring break vacation in Vancouver; they arrived on March 8th and after taking in five Canucks home games, will depart on the 20th.
Bo has been playing tour guide for his family, who explored the aquarium, walked the seawall and even rode the ferry to Victoria. With this being Cal’s first visit to Vancouver, Bo suggested his brother also do the Grouse Grind – standard initiation, of course.
“Apparently he was sprinting at the start thinking it was a breeze,” smiled Bo. “Then reality kicked in. I think that’s when he sent me the video, right around the halfway point when you feel like you’re going to die.”
Cal, a forward with the SOJHL’s Port Stanley Sailors, survived the grind and it’s a good thing or he would have missed out on an opportunity few people get.
After the Canucks practiced at Rogers Arena last Wednesday, Bo called Cal down from the stands. Cal then made his NHL debut, in a sense, skating with a handful of players for the first time on pro ice.
“It was a really cool experience,” gushed Cal, still wide-eyed a day later. “The skill and the puck movement really stood out to me, they’re so skilled with the puck and their stickhandling is unbelievable.
“I had to try and push around Kevin Bieksa, he’s a big boy, he’s hard to move.”
Joining the Horvat boys were Bieksa, Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson, Ronalds Kenins and Jacob Markstrom, who took part in a brother vs. brother shootout to end practice.
Cal was shutout by Markstrom, while Bo scored twice to take the win and the bragging rights.
Of all the new things Cal experiences during his stay in Vancouver, nothing will mean as much to him as skating alongside Bo like they used to in the good old days.
“That’s Bo,” said Cal. “He’s just a really great person and not just to family, to everyone. It’s been fun watching him grow and change this season, once he got his confidence, he turned it on and started to play like he can. He’s a great hockey player, but he’s a better person and that won’t change.”
The brothers are in constant communication, Cal keeping Bo updated on the strides he’s making in hopes of earning a roster spot with the London Knights next year, and Bo giving Cal a glimpse into being an NHLer.
Cal is living the life of a Canucks rookie through Bo and loving every minute of it.
“I’m learning a lot, especially about what it takes to play at this level,” said Cal. “He’s taught me you have to play hard every game, he comes to play every night. Then if things aren’t going his way, he still plays to his strengths, he still wins his draws and does all the little things. That could be hard to do when you’re a young player in the NHL, but he’s doing really well.”
Cal is eligible for the NHL draft in 2016, perhaps the Canucks take a look at bringing another Horvat into the fold?
“Cal is really good defensively, he’s one of the better defensive players I’ve seen at his age level,” said Bo, scouting his brother. “He knows where to be, gets in on the forecheck and gets to the body a lot, he’s a pretty physical kid. If he keeps working as hard as he is, he’ll be moving up the ranks pretty quick.”
Until then, more puck battles with Bieksa.
“Cal didn’t have his full gear on or else he could have taken him,” laughed Bo. “Maybe not, but we’ll get Cal back out there for sure. It reminded me of being back on the pond ripping around as kids.”