Spits' Ellis on same path as Sid

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 PM ET

RIMOUSKI, Que. — At this point, the Memorial Cup starts living up to its name.

It’s about, above all else, sacrifice and survival.

Players pay a terrific price to give themselves the chance to win this tournament.

So did the Ellis family’s garage door.

“I was constantly shooting pucks,” Windsor Spitfires star defenceman Ryan Ellis said of growing up in Freelton, Ont. “We had a (white) garage door my dad tried to repair it a million times. But it didn’t work. There was really nothing left of it. It had brick in the middle but it just covered the net.

“I basically destroyed the door.”

These days, Windsor head coach Bob Boughner has to blast pucks at Ellis to get him to leave the ice and rest. The world junior gold medalist would stay out forever.

“He doesn’t actually shoot them at me,” Ellis corrected. “He’s more trying to get my attention and get me off there.”

Rimouski’s Christian Bouchard understands.

Last night, the 35-year-old kept tabs as Ellis tried to keep his season alive in the Cup tie-breaker against the host Oceanic.

Bouchard isn’t a coach, GM, scout or agent. But he understands a young man’s commitment.

He billets Rimouski forward and New Jersey second-rounder Patrice Cormier.

Before that, it was Sidney Crosby.

“Patrice is like Sidney in many ways,” the Canadian history teacher at Paul Hubert high school said. “He has that inner drive. The focus.

“Sidney was incredible. No fast food. No beer. For a 16-year-old, he had no interest in that stuff. He didn’t want anything getting in his way. Patrice goes out but Sidney never left the house.

“Always competing. I’d have my nephews over and he’d play Nintendo with them and never let them win. I asked him why not and he said, ‘I can’t lose to a nine-year-old.’”

Crosby’s presence — and jersey — is everywhere here in Rimouski. Bouchard keeps many of the city’s children infused with No. 87’s approach.

“Of course, I use what I learned from him at school and I tell them Sidney always focused on what he could do that day, putting everything into it because he knew tomorrow might never come,” he said. “The kids all want to know. Everyone knows around here. I was 29 when Sid first lived here. For the first six months, it was normal but after those world juniors, I’d be on the phone with journalists every night. I loved it.

Kids would come right up to our house and ring the door bell and ask if they could see him and I’d say, ‘No, you can’t.’”

Boughner remembers, a couple of years ago, pulling into the Ellis driveway to interview the Spitfires’ potential draft pick. He saw the garage door with the terrible dents.

“Warren (GM Warren Rychel) said I have to see this kid play and after I did, I went to meet him,” Boughner said. “You watch him knock down bouncing pucks at the blue line and he has the most unbelievable hand-eye co-ordination I’ve ever seen. It’s innate talent but he works harder than anyone at it. He shoots a ton of pucks. In the games, he doesn’t shoot enough for my liking. I’m always on him to shoot more.”

With Ellis and forward Taylor Hall on board, the joke here is 2010 Cup host Brandon already has rooms put aside for Windsor at that tournament.

There are still teams that could shoot holes in that theory.

But it’ll require unbelievable sacrifice — just like the Ellis family’s garage door.


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