Harley Love says he used to take his son, Mitch, to a lot of Prince George Cougar games when growing up.
At one of them, Harley says Mitch turned to him and said, “Dad, this is where I want to play, the WHL [Western Hockey League].”
A young Mitch realized that dream at the age of 15 when the Quesnel local got called up to play for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
The dream blossomed from there, with Mitch enjoying stints with the Swift Current Broncos and the Everett Silvertips.
After a six-season playing career in the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League, he came back to the WHL as an assistant coach with the Silvertips, where he’s been for the last seven years.
But last Wednesday, Mitch Love took another step forward as he was named the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades.
He still holds the city in which he grew up dear.
“My fondest memories of Quesnel were my Tim Hortons runs with my father before the early 6 a.m. game or practice,” he says.
“The old arena in Quesnel was quite the gem too.
“There was so much history in that building and there was some real cold mornings getting in there and playing Prince George or Williams Lake.”
Harley was a goaltender in town when his son was still young, and Mitch can remember being very involved with the hockey culture here.
“It was a huge influence in my life,” he says.
“Just being around the rink when he was playing with the Kangaroos and being around the Gassoffs and the Marshs and all the families that make up Quesnel hockey.”
His dad played an important role too, Mitch adds.
“He always demanded hard work out of me and those are still things I instill in the players I coach and even my daughter, who is five.”
Harley points out that Mitch had the wherewithal to go far from a young age.
“He always wanted to be better,” Harley says.
“Mitch was never afraid to put the time in off the ice too.
“When going to hockey camps he would train hard before he went.
“He would run, he would sprint, he would pull tires, he would do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”
Mitch grew up in Johnston Subdivision and Harley recalls a rink right beside their house that Mitch would frequent.
“He put countless hours on that ice – shooting pucks and skating.
“Not a lot of kids could do a slap shot, but he put in a lot of time and he called me over and said, ‘Dad, dad, look at this!’ and he could really shoot the puck.”
Both father and son work for the Blades now, as Harley is their Okanagan regional scout.
Asked how he enjoys the idea of working with his son, Harley says, “It’s perfect, you bet!”