The rumours you've been hearing around the Cominco Arena for the past few weeks? They're true. Steve Oursov is once again a Trail Smoke Eater.
Smokies fans will remember Oursov as the fast skating, hard hitting and energetic 16 year old who made a significant impact on the 2007-08 Smoke Eaters club. The Chilliwack native scored 12 goals as a BCHL rookie playing mostly on the third and fourth line. He showed all the physical tools of a future sniper who could handle himself at both ends of the ice. He was also a favourite of fans, coaches and teammates because of his attitude and enthusiasm. Oursov was so impressive that he was named to Team Pacific for the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. He was also plucked by Red Deer of the WHL after the season was done.
As much as he loved his time in Trail, Oursov had already played some major junior games with Seattle so he continued down that path. That doesn't mean that he left Trail behind. Steve is very close friends with both Graeme Strukoff and Darnell Dyck. They grew up playing hockey together in Chilliwack and Oursov was a big part in Strukoff deciding to go to Trail last season. Now the hard hitting defenceman is an All-Star. Strukoff and Oursov were also both a part of why Darnell Dyck became such a good fit on the Smokies roster this year. It's a connection that has paid off. It's also a reason why Steve is now coming back "home" to a place he loves to play with friends on the team.
So how did he end up back in Trail? Oursov was having a fine 17 year old season in the WHL. He was playing mostly third and fourth line duty while making the transition to the level of play in major junior. As a 17 year old he wasn't expected to score a ton of goals, but the idea was that he would grow into that role in years to come. Steve also has the ability to play a gritty and smart game in a checking role so it seemed to be working out well. He was a plus player on a poor team and chipped in with 4 goals. Unfortunately, Oursov sustained a serious concussion that put a stop to all that positive momentum. It was bad enough that at times he feared his career was already over.
Just in the past few months there has finally been some light at the end of the tunnel. Oursov started to recover and was able to skate again. He's been working hard to make sure he's healthy enough to resume his hockey career. After ten months away from the game he and Red Deer both decided it would be better for Steve to make his return with the Smoke Eaters. Steve can come back to a team, a city and a coaching staff he's comfortable with and get back on track. It will take him some time to find the form he is capable of, but this is a player who will make a significant positive impact on the club. He was second on his major midget team in scoring (20 goals and 38 points) as a 15 year old, he scored 12 goals in the BCHL as a 16 year old, he's fast, skilled, gritty and a very hard worker both on and off the ice.
I'm sure we're all hoping the best is yet to come after what has been a really tough year for Steve. I don't know if Oursov will get back into the line-up tomorrow night against Nanaimo, but when he does the Smokies will be a better team for it.
Listen to Mountain FM's Overtime (or the podcast) tonight for an interview with Brian Youngson. Tomorrow night before the game we'll have our interview with Steve. Both will be on the blog after they've aired on the radio.
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