Heart of the Herd
Heart of the Herd
By Willy Palov
The Chronicle Herald
TRAVIS RANDELL possesses a myriad of valuable hockey talents but it’s his character that makes him one of the most important members of the Halifax Mooseheads.
A fourth-year forward with 180 career games already under his belt, Randell is as hard-working as they come and his grounded personality makes him a coach’s dream. Mooseheads head coach Cam Russell is quick to use him in any conceivable situation and summed up Randell’s value to the team when he said “there’s nothing bad you can say about him. He’s just a really good kid.”
“Travis just brings so much – great leadership and a great all-around kid,” Russell said. “He’s probably the most responsible defensive player we have right now and he’s just a solid, character kid. He’s the type of kid that has all the characteristics you look for when you’re drafting players.”
Randell comes by his down-to-earth nature honestly. He grew up in the tiny fishing village of Twillingate, N.L., which is about 100 kilometres north of Gander in the northeast corner of the province. He calls his home town of roughly 2,500 people “a special place” and said kids there are really given no choice but to grow up with solid values and a strong work ethic.
“It’s a really close community,” said the five-foot-11 forward, who is the subject of a 425-member Facebook group called The Pride of Twillingate: Travis Randell. “It’s most definitely (a fishing town). The fishery has kind of died down with the cod (shortage) and the price of crab and shrimp. But the main employment there would still be fishing. People who do that type of work are usually pretty (grounded) and your family and friends are pretty important.
“There’s a lot of support for me back home. All the town’s excited for me and proud of me. People there are always keeping track of what I’m doing and asking questions. It’s nice.”
Because of Twillingate’s size and isolated location, Randell had to go to extreme lengths to create a hockey career for himself. The obstacles he overcame provide some insight into why he is such a dedicated player with the Mooseheads.
“We have a rink at home where I played all my minor hockey. But I played midget AAA as an underager one year so I had to drive to Grand Falls, which is close to two hours away,” he said. “I would usually drive back that night. It was a little tough but if that’s what you’ve got to do, you do it.
“And at that age, you almost even enjoy it just because it meant you got to be on the ice. It didn’t really matter what you had to do.”
“Then in my draft year my parents and I had to move to St. John’s just so I could play more hockey with better players and have a better chance to get drafted,” he added. “I had to have a permanent address to do that.
“I guess it got me used to moving away. I was still with my family but I had to leave my friends.”
But moving six hours away to St. John’s was nothing compared to leaving the tight-knit environment of Twillingate for Halifax in 2007.
“It definitely was (a big adjustment) my 16-year-old year,” he said. “Leaving your family and friends at that age is always tough, especially coming to a bigger city like Halifax. But after three years it doesn’t even bother me anymore. I always look forward to coming back here every year now.
“But it’s always good to get back home with my family. I have a sister and my mother and father back home. And my sister has two young boys so I have two nephews back home that I miss. Those things are always tough in a way but I guess those are just the sacrifices you make if you want to play hockey.”
But this past summer, Randell’s support system was rocked to its core. On July 17, his uncle and three close family friends died in a boating accident just off the shores of Twillingate. The tragedy devastated everyone in his home town and across Newfoundland, but was especially hard on Randell because he was so closely connected to the victims.
“My uncle was pretty much my second father,” he said. “He lived right across the road from me and he used to look after me when my mom and dad were away at night. That was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with. I’d see him just about every day when I was home in the summer and when I’d go fishing, it would be with him. It was really tough. And there were two other young boys and another guy who were all close family friends. It was definitely not the call I was expecting to get that Sunday morning.
“That day they were just out for a little joy ride but the Newfoundland weather can change at the snap of your fingers. The ocean’s pretty unpredictable.”
Randell is still dealing with his grief but is glad to be back on the ice because of the distraction it provides.
“It’s a lot better now, especially being here in Halifax,” he said. “You’re busy again and you don’t have as much time to think about it. What I found the worst was at night time when you were trying to sleep but you’d be reflecting on it and thinking about. That’s when it would affect me the most.
“But when it’s the hockey season, you’re busy all the time and you’re kind of just (worn) out when you get home and all you want to do is sleep anyway. That should help.”
Despite his heavy heart, Randell is excited for the coming season. He was part of the 2007-08 team that made it to the third round of the playoffs but has had to endure two straight last-place finishes since then. He looks at the roster this year and is encouraged by all the young talent around him. But at the same time, he laughs when he realizes how he’s now one of the senior statesmen of the team.
“I guess it’s a little different now than when I came in at 16 and it was pretty much all returning players on the team,” he said. “There were a lot of veterans back then and I’m just trying to take what I learned from all those guys and pass it on to the young guys here now.”
From Russell’s perspective, there is no better person to do that than Randell.
“He’s a great role model for anyone and an important leader on our team,” Russell said. “He leads by example and he’s the type of kid that would make any parent proud.”