If you missed Mark Lamb’s interview on the draft lottery scroll down or click here
You’ve heard me say before that Taylor Vause grew up in a Broncos jersey. Now you have proof. Thanks to Dr. Vause for sending me that gem. Talk about a guy with the Broncos in his blood! How awesome is it that he not only played for Swift Current… but wore the C.
I feel like most of you know most of the Taylor Vause story already. Especially given that he’s been the focus of a lot of coverage during a breakout season. If you’ve missed any of it I had a long chat with Taylor only two days before his final home game as a Bronco. We talked about a lot of things and the interview easily could have gone another 10-20 minutes if we had time. Here is the third and final interview in my retrospective series…
Taylor Vause Retrospective Interview (Download)
I’m not sure there is a more fitting way for Vause to wrap up his career as a Bronco than for him to get nominated for the WHL Humanitarian of the Year Award. In talking to people in the Broncos office over the last two years there is no one more willing to volunteer their time for the community than Vause. There is also no one who represents the hockey club with as much class and integrity. The thing that stands out for me the most is that this season after doing a presentation of living with diabetes at a local school… he then had two students who had diabetes as his special guest at two different Bronco games. After each game Vause came out to the bench and spent some significant time with each kid. That’s awesome. That’s what junior hockey in a small community is all about.
What else has done? The release says he “spent countless hours in and around the community during his tenure with the Broncos. He has spoken at various schools about living and playing in the Western Hockey League with diabetes, taken part in annual Bronco and Swift Current events, including Skate with the Broncos, Swift Current’s Sports Week, monthly Read with the Bronco appearances and more.”
Vause also designed jerseys to raise funds for the fight against breast cancer and to pay tribute to the four Broncos that died in the 1986 bus crash. Coach Lamb told me he made every player a special picture of their stall as a memento of the season and said something about each one of them in a private team meeting. That’s leadership. There is a reason the team voted for him as their Captain and voted for him in the “player’s choice” award.
Vause was born to be a Bronco. His father Dean (Dr. Dean Vause of AARC) played goal for the Broncos in the days before they left for Lethbridge. As a result of his involvement with the organization and ties to the community, Dr. Vause ended up passing on his love for the Broncos to his son. Taylor recounts in his interview about how he used to go to Bronco games in Calgary to cheer Swift Current on. His grandmother still lives in Swift Current and came to all of his games. It was just the right fit.
That doesn’t mean it was a slam dunk. When Vause was first drafted he saw “Red Deer” pop up on the computer screen… but was relieved when he found out he’d be a Bronco. Swift Current got him in the 6th round in an absolute steal. He is more proof that you don’t need to be a top round pick to make a serious impact on a franchise.
Even though everything seemed like a perfect fit there was still a decision to make. Vause had interest from NCAA schools and would have had attractive options at the Junior A level. Former Bronco Coach/GM Dean Chynoweth eventually sat down with him and won him over… and of course Taylor made his debut as a Bronco at the Saddledome in the building where he grew up cheering them on. What a moment that must have been for him.
How good was Vause as a prospect? Why were Bronco fans excited? Check out this video…
Vause was the top scorer on the Calgary Royals Midget AAA team as a 16-year-old with 49 points in 35 games. The Calgary native then lived up to the hype with a strong WHL rookie season. He had an impressive 30 points as a 17-year-old. However, that was also the season where diabetes first reared its ugly head in Vause’s life. His history with diabetes is well documented, but you can’t tell the story of his hockey career without discussing it. I know when interviewing his parents for our intermission feature they talked about how he didn’t even know at the time if he could keep playing.
They say the toughest years are the first couple of years and I’m told it’s also even harder to deal with the onset of the disease when it happens in your late teens. Vause faced that obstacle while trying to keep up with other elite athletes training all year-long. It had to be an incredible challenge and it certainly had an impact on him. His 18-year-old season wasn’t everything he hoped it would be as he battled the highs and lows and how they would impact him physically. Vause’s production actually dropped by a point as many wondered if he would be able to live up to his great potential.
As he started to manage his diabetes better and continued to work hard on and off the ice… things started coming around for him in his 19-year-old season. Vause shot up to 47 points in a season where he started as the third line centre behind Eakin and Dowling. Vause’s role got bigger and bigger throughout the season and he rose to the occasion. His second PP unit with Adam Lowry and Brad Hoban showed signs of what was to come with those guys on the PP this season. Things were back on track.
Vause was basically a no-brainer as a 20-year-old for the Broncos. However, many questioned whether or not he would be able to take his game up to another level while playing on the first line all season. Could Vause not only survive matching up against the other team’s top players but also produce well enough to lead the team offensively? He answered those questions in a big way.
I remember being at the opening of the Crescent Point Wickenheiser Centre in Shaunavon during the summer. Former Tigers Coach Willie Desjardins was there and told me flat-out that Vause was going to have a great year. He said Taylor was in incredible shape and he could just tell that he was going to make a big leap forward. Boy was he right.
As much as people had high hopes for him I don’t think many people thought he would put up over 80 points while playing on the top even strength, power play and penalty killing units. I remember after a frustrating first two games of the season some people were saying to me that as much as they liked him it looked like he might not be able to be a top line guy. Vause’s answer? His first career hat trick in the 3rd game of the season, 2 assists in the 4th, 2 more points in the 5th and a 4 point night in the 6th. 11 points in 4 games. Convinced yet?
Vaues was remarkably consistent as well. He was at or a point bellow a point per game every month but one all season. The Broncos needed him to produce on a nightly basis for them to have any success and his longest pointless streak all season was 3 games long. He took almost every key draw, got every tough opposition match-up, was asked to shut down the other team’s best players and still managed to finish top 20 in the league in scoring on a team that didn’t have another guy over the 60 point mark. That’s a season to remember.
There was a lot of talk that someone as valuable as Vause would be on the move at the trade deadline. On one hand, it would have been nice to get him the opportunity to shine in the playoffs. On the other hand, it just wouldn’t be right to see him in any other WHL jersey. He finished his career in Swift Current helping define the new identity of the team and setting an example for the core of a large roster of players the Broncos will bring back next season.
Taylor ended the season doing things like writing a “Thank You” letter to the newspaper and publicly thanking the fans over the house mic before his final home game as a Bronco. You could see and hear his emotion when I interviewed him after the massive ovation he got following that game. He cared about being a Bronco and he cares still about Swift Current. Even though he only became an elite WHL player in his final season, he is a guy people here will remember for a long time.
The coaching staff couldn’t praise him enough this year on and off the ice. He cleaned up at the final home game with 8 of the team awards including MVP. It’s no surprise he got an opportunity to go pro.
Now the fans of the Texas Stars get their chance to get to know Taylor. Mark Lamb has connections in the Stars organization. Willie Dejardins is now coaching in Dallas. There are two guys who know Taylor and his family well. The more people get to know him the more they would be willing to go to bat for him. Don’t count him out!
If and when the hockey thing takes a back seat for Vause we know he’s got something to fall back on. Have you seen his NHL Photoshops yet? Have you seen the jerseys he designed? When the time comes there is a real future there for him if he wants it. For now he takes a run at the next step in his dream.
On a personal note Taylor always went out of his way to help me. He is a very strong interview and as Captain gave a lot of his time to doing just that. He also always tried to make sure I got whatever I needed before games on the road. He’s a class act and you can see where it comes from when you get to catch up with his parents. I wish all of them well and thanks again for the kindness they showed me.
I hope you enjoyed the retrospective series. Click here for Groenheyde and click here for Hoban. All three guys were very generous with their time and I hope I was able to do their careers here justice.
The Broncos will miss Vause, Hoban and Groenheyde… but they will be Broncos for life.