August 11, 2012. Littleton, CO. Green and White teams wait for their final game of the day at the Denver Cutthroats open tryouts.
As you may know, the Denver Cutthroats are holding open tryouts this weekend. Dozens of hopefuls hit the ice and have been playing their hearts out, trying to achieve a personal goal of playing professional hockey in the CHL.
Over the past few weeks, I've been covering the life and training of one of those men, Jay Meloff. His name is well-known not just in hockey circles, but across the world. Sadly, that recognition isn't due to his substantial talent on the ice. It's because of his connection to the Aurora shootings that took the life of Jay's girlfriend, Jessica Redfield Ghawi.
I made a promise to myself that I would turn that tide and not reference Jessi's death in my coverage of these tryouts. But participants at the Edge Ice Arena have forced my hand.
I learned that, as the first day of activities wore on, Jay's relationship to that event became known. The information spread through the participants like any piece of gossip would, and I imagine it wasn't long before everyone knew that the Jay with them in the locker room was the Jay from the news. Now, that in and of itself really isn't a big deal. In fact, it's expected. The shooting was a big event in the collective life of the country and, even more so that of Colorado. However, what was done with that information crossed the line.
There were a number of players, and even an on-ice official, who approached Jay to talk about what happened. Comments ranged from expressions of sympathy to questions about his current state of mind. Clearly, that is the last thing Jay wants to think about while he's fighting for his hockey future. He's a strong guy, though, and was able to compartmentalize the feelings which surfaced due to the comments. But he shouldn't have had to do that, especially when those comments were made to him on the ice during games.
Players often chirp at each other at face offs and in battles in order to gain a competitive edge. Get in the other guy's head, and you can throw him off his game. Some topics simply are off limits, though.
These men are either incredibly callous or incredibly dense to think it's okay to bring up such a horrific, tragic memory--one that is still so fresh--during such an important moment in Jay's life. The worst offender, in my opinion, was the ref. He should have known better. They all should have. Shame on them, and even more kudos to Jay for playing through it.
It is a huge testament to the character and talent Jay possesses that he can weather such insensitivity and still dominate in the rink. Those who are evaluating the players have said that he's been one of the, if not the, best players out there this weekend, and it looks very promising he'll be back in October for training camp. The fact that he was sent out every other shift in the second and third periods of yesterday's final game speaks to what the coaches have seen in Jay.
I'll have a full write up on the weekend tomorrow over at SB Nation Denver, but suffice it to say it's been a wildly successful event. I spoke with head coach Derek Armstrong yesterday, and he said he was very impressed with the quality of talent. It was better than he expected, in fact. There's an All Star Game this afternoon (3:15 pm - 5:15 pm) featuring the best players from the weekend. If you are around, I suggest stopping by!