By Sara Moulton
Free Press Supplier
On New Year’s Eve 2014, an energetic and affable 17-year-old affiliate player named Mitch Titus played his first game with the Fernie Ghostriders and even contributed a goal. Almost three years later, Titus has now been announced as team captain for 2017-18.
Titus’ hockey journey began, like so many others, in his hometown of Montrose, B.C., where he started out playing shinny with friends. After moving through the Trail Minor Hockey Association, he found his place with the Trail-based Kootenay Ice of the BC Hockey Major Midget League, playing 30 games during the 2013-14 season. It was during this time that Titus had the opportunity to affiliate with the Ghostriders, and while he admits he didn’t know much about the club before then, those early experiences left an impression.
“It was pretty incredible, it was huge for me, actually. It really opened my eyes that Junior B could be like this,” he says, on witnessing his first post-Christmas game against Kimberley with a crowd of almost 1,200 screaming fans in the Fernie Memorial Arena.
“The biggest game I’d seen when I was in Beaver Valley was about 450 to 600 people… nobody else really gets to experience that Fernie-Kimberley rivalry.”
In addition to the unique atmosphere of the Fernie arena, Titus remembers the personalities in the dressing room from his first visit, such as “the 20-bombs” Dylan Robertson, Derek Georgopoulos, Sam Plaquin and Aaron Neufeld, and how he was welcomed into the team as a young affiliate.
“I remember Robbo had the most respect out of anybody I’ve ever seen. He was a great leader, he’s probably one of the best captains.
“A couple of weeks after I affiliated, I got to stay a week or two with Cole Keebler, Spencer Bender and Aaron Neufeld, and they were three really cool guys. The whole team treated me awesome.”
After being offered an ongoing position on the team for 2015-16, Titus set about scoring 11 goals and 20 assists throughout 57 games, earning him Rookie of the Year at the subsequent awards ceremony. Last season, the ante was upped further to 20 goals and 35 assists through 52 games and resulted in him being awarded both Top Scorer and Most Exciting Player. Despite having a smaller physical presence than many of his teammates and opponents, Titus can often be seen heading deep into the action and doing whatever it takes to get the puck where he wants it. This grit and determination is apparent to anyone who has seen Titus on the ice, and has made him a fan favourite during his time with the club.
“What I’ve noticed with a lot of people I’ve spoken to on the street is that they just don’t expect a lot coming from a guy who’s five foot six and 140 pounds,” explains Titus. “As a smaller player, if you don’t learn how to play against the bigger guys, you don’t get very far in hockey. There’s a lot of things I’ve learned through practice from trainers and coaches… being able to compete, knowing where to be when a body check is coming, how to play against those big players. It’s all really key when you’re first starting out.”
Of course, family are often the biggest fans of players, and Titus’ parents frequently travel several hours from their home in Fruitvale to watch his games and spend time in Fernie. In a new positive twist to his final season of eligibility in junior hockey, Titus will also have his younger brother Owen both playing alongside him and sharing his billet home.
“We’re pretty tight, he’s one of my best friends… though I guess we haven’t really lived together for three years, so we’ll see how that goes! I think it’ll be pretty entertaining and we’ll have a fun time.”
For Titus, fun off the ice often means hunting and fishing, both of which are plentiful in the Elk Valley. In fact, just recently, he found himself involved in a lengthy conversation about fly fishing with a man in a Victoria McDonald’s who recognized his Elk River Guiding Company hat. While hockey commitments have somewhat limited his ability to hunt in past years, Titus hopes to get out more next summer before he commits to pursuing further education, which for now looks likely to be in engineering or a trade.
Before then however, Titus has got a whole hockey season of leading his team to keep him busy. He wants to raise the bar – “we’ll be the hardest working team you’ve ever seen” – and isn’t afraid to talk tough about his outlook for the upcoming months.
“I want to be remembered for being a winning team and a ballsy team. If you play us, it’s not a hockey game, it’s an absolute grudge match, and if you’re not scared, you should be.
“I’m going to work my a** off to make this a successful year and I think the other veterans on the team are on the same page. I won’t be satisfied with anything less than a championship.”