Playing Junior hockey is tough, but not playing can be even tougher.
For Lyle Frank, the captain of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, watching from the stands is likely one of the most challenging things he has done in his three years in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“It’s never easy sitting out, but when your teammates are playing that good it makes it a lot easier,” said Frank. “When you see guys working hard every game, every practice it makes it easier. They know I want to get healthy and want to be back as soon as possible, and it’s getting better, my leg hasn’t felt this good in over a year.”
Frank sustained the lower-body injury just before last year’s playoff, and yet he competed, playing virtually on one leg until the Nitehawks were eliminated by the eventual KIJHL champion Kimberley Dynamiters.
“It was not fun playing like that,” said Frank. “It’s not fair to my teammates or myself, so this time I’m really trying to take care of myself better.”
He re-aggravated the injury in a game against Grand Forks on Nov. 7 after playing 18 games with the Hawks, and has been out since. While the 20-year-old Grande Prairie native is eager to get back on the ice, he will wait until it’s fully healed this time.
“I rested it all summer, but I didn’t really go see anybody for physio or anything, so I ended up hurting it again,” explained Frank. “So hopefully if I take care of it the right way this year, I’ll come back 100 per cent.”
Frank was as steady as ever early in the year, and was the all-around consensus as team captain before the Hawks even hit the ice. He was contributing offensively too, accumulating 10 points in 18 matches, a respectable figure for a stay-at-home defenceman.
“You miss Lyle Frank on the back end on a consistent basis, I mean you can hang on for a little bit, but after a while you need someone else to step back in and jump up,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “Once you add Lyle … to your line up it’s almost like making a trade almost, we’re looking forward to having him back.”
But it was his leadership and character that the Hawks missed most on the ice.
“Lyle Frank is the player on the team who all the billet families want to be their player, literally we have had families fighting over who gets to billet him,” said Jones.
“After every community event, people will say hey all of your kids are awesome, but this one guy Lyle Frank stands out because he is thoughtful, polite, caring etc. He is a team-first guy all the way.”
The Nitehawks have also been without Kyle Hope, Ryan Neil, and Sam Swanson for long stretches. Swanson returned to the line up earlier this month and Neil and Hope should be back soon.
As for Frank, his time off is also coming to a close, and he looks forward to rejoining the team, when and where it counts, on the ice.
“In the New Year I’m going to start skating, and hopefully it will be a quick recovery and I’ll be back right away.”