Volume 91, Issue 80

Thursday, February 19, 1998

warm buns


George: reaching the ultimate goal

©Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
THE BEER NUTS TASTED BETTER IN COLORADO. First-year Mustang Chris George [27] has brought his professional experience to the Western line-up.

By John Dinner

Gazette Staff

Hockey is a way of life for many Canadian youngsters – and the story was no different for Western's Chris George.

A Mississauga native, George grew up playing most sports but fell in love with the game of hockey. "I liked the physical aspect of hockey," George said. "But I also like the transitional aspect and the speed of the game."

Having good size and skill, George went on to play in the Ontario Hockey League for the Sarnia Sting and Barrie Colts before being drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the ninth round of the NHL draft. Attending two training camps with the Avalanche, George experienced first-hand some of the highest quality hockey in the world. From there George went on to play for the Hershey Bears, the American Hockey League affiliate for Colorado.

"I got to play in the first home game after [Colorado] won the Stanley Cup," he said. "It was a thrill of a lifetime to play in front of 14,000 screaming fans."

Having experienced the life of a professional hockey player, George felt it was time to pursue an education, without giving up his number one love.

Having matured immensely over the season, Western head coach Barry Martinelli feels a career in hockey may not be completely out of George's picture.

"Chris has the size (six-foot-four, 217 pounds) and skill to be a dominant player and could still choose a pro career," Martinelli said.

To take that next step, Martinelli believes George must become a better two-way player, something he has greatly improved on this season.

Although George is the lone black player on the Western team and one of few black athletes to ever be drafted by the NHL, he said race hasn't been a factor throughout his young career. When race became a major issue for black Edmonton Oiler forward Mike Grier, who was the recipient of a racial slur in November from Washington Capital Chris Simon, neither George nor the NHL could understand the relevance behind it. "It's sad more than anything else," he said, adding that he hoped players with that mentality realized what they were saying.

Personal aspects aside, George realizes the Mustangs have a long road to travel before the season can be declared a complete success. The team has recently cooled off – garnering only one win in the past six games. At the beginning of the month, the Mustangs stood at 13-3-1 and carried an unbeaten streak of 11 games before losing 1-0 to Toronto, tying Guelph (4-4) and Ryerson (5-5) and losing to Brock last Saturday (3-1). Throw in a home-and-home split with the OUA West's top dog, the Windsor Lancers, and the Mustangs are showing signs of weakness before heading into the playoffs.

Western travels to Waterloo tomorrow to wrap up the regular season against the Warriors.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998