Farewell to thee, O’ captain.
The Victoria Grizzlies started the week with a bit of a shocker, trading Sean Robertson to the defending league champion Vernon Vipers for future considerations and the rights to Zach McPhee (on injured reserve with the WHL Everett Silvertips).
Both the Vipers and Grizzles are struggling this season, but the deal’s prime goal is to get Robertson the NCAA scholarship he deserves, Grizzlies general manager Vic Gervais said.
“We traded Sean to get him a scholarship just like we traded (Nick) Buchanan to Penticton (in September). Penticton and Vernon are the best two teams in junior A to get scholarships from — Buchanan just got one (to Minnesota State-Mankato), and Robertson will get one if Vernon goes a long ways.”
Robertson turns 21 in February and is desperately seeking the NCAA scholarship he was on track for three years ago, before a broken leg wiped out his 2009-10 season.
Robertson makes his Viper debut Friday night against the Trail Smoke Eaters and will add offence to a defensive corps that has scored just four goals.
“I bring experience and know what to expect,” said Robertson, who played bantam and midget rep in Juan de Fuca after starting minor hockey in Duncan.
“You won’t get anything flashy from me. I just take care of my own end first and go from there.”
Robertson was the last remaining Grizzly who was with the team when it played in the 2009 Royal Bank Cup. He’s served with the club since he was 16.
He’s also the second Grizzlies’ captain to be dealt in the last year, with Jake Baker going to the Smoke Eaters after just 11 games in 2010-11.
“Jake’s trade was different,” Gervais said. “It’s got nothing to do with Victoria (being a bad place to get a scholarship), we’ve gotten lots of kids scholarships. Sometimes (scouts) need to see something different from a player. After five years, going to a new team can showcase (Robertson) in a different role, or the same role but on a better team.”
For the record, it worked for Baker, now in his rookie year with Northern Michigan University and skating alongside fellow Grizz’ alum Brian Nugent.
Robertson learned of his trade on Sunday, after assisting on a one-timer goal by Jarryd Ten Vaanholt that lifted the Grizzlies past the Powell River Kings 4-3 in overtime earlier that day.
“I was told I’d be moved for the right deal and I couldn’t be happier coming to a first-class organization like Vernon,” said Robertson. “(The Grizzlies are) kind of an underachieving team. Our record didn’t show how good we really are.”
“We don’t expect him to be a saviour or anything. We just need him to be steady and be part of a shutdown pair,” said Vipers’ head coach Jason Williamson. “He’s a pretty good all-around defenceman with Royal Bank Cup experience. He’s a player we targeted for some time.”
The Grizzlies and Vipers are fighting for the fourth and final playoff spots in their respective conferences.
The move means more ice time for the youthful group of Grizzlies blueliners.
“Obviously losing Sean hurts our club a little bit. We’re still not going to give up, we’re looking for players to fill that role,” Gervais said.
Nolan de Jong, Braxton Bilous and Stefan Gonzales will see more ice time as a result. It also gives Gervais a total of five player cards to fill by the Jan. 10 deadline, with hopes of signing David Walchuk, Kevin Woodyatt and Jaden Schmeisser (Saanich Braves) to full time status.
Grin and bear it
Import Brad Gehl was sent back to Ontario last week after three months with the team.
“He wasn’t working out here, a little too busy off the ice and we weren’t happy with that,” Gervais said.
—With files from Kevin Mitchell, Vernon Morning Star.