Photos by Chung Chow
Growing up in Richmond, Brett Gelz and Arjun Badh have a special affinity for their hometown hockey club.
They were the kids who loved to hang out at Sockeyes’ games. And now, on the eve of the Cyclone Taylor Cup which will cap their junior careers, the pair are filled with reflection.
“It was a really cool moment for me the first time I ever pulled on a Sockeye jersey,” says Gelz, who has worked his way back from an ankle injury in the opening game of the Pacific Junior Hockey League playoffs to be ready for the provincial championship tournament Thursday through Sunday (April 12 to 15) at Minoru Arenas.
Completing his fourth year, Gelz is the longest-serving member of the Sockeyes.
“It is impossible for me to narrow down the countless great moments I've had in being a Sockeye. Some things that stand out the most are just the respect I am given when seen wearing a Sockeye jacket, and the amazing lifelong relationships I have created with my teammates over the years.”
Remembers Badh: “We used to get in for free if we wore our minor hockey association jerseys, so a lot of my teammates would go too. Once I was old enough to try out for the Sockeyes I did, eventually making the team. It’s been an unreal feeling being able to play for the team I grew up watching.”
Gelz and Badh played their minor hockey in both the Richmond and Seafair programs. They also come from strong hockey backgrounds.
“I started skating at three-years-old and began playing organized hockey at five—basically the earliest that you can start,” Gelz says. “I guess my parents made the decision for me that I was going to be a hockey player.”
Says Badh: “I think my biggest influence in minor hockey was a coach I had, Glenn Wheeler. He coached me in Peewee, Bantam and Midget. He had a huge impact on my growth as a hockey player, but he also helped me grow as a person. Glenn taught us all values, commitment and respect on and off the ice. I credit a lot of the success I have had in my hockey career to Glenn for sure.”
“I think one of the biggest challenges I had to face growing up playing hockey is wearing a turban. There was no one else playing at the level I played who wore a turban. Many of the other kids didn’t know what it was or why I wore it. But explaining to them what the significance behind wearing a turban is, people came to understand and respect my decision to follow my religion while playing the game that I love. I am most proud of being raised in a family where respect and pride is a huge part of who we are. My parents always taught me to respect others and treat them as you want to be treated.”
He says if he could pass on any advice to his 10-year-old self it would be to train harder off the ice.
“I didn’t start training off the ice until I was 15 or 16. By that time, it’s too late…to be a dominant player.”
Still, Badh has consistently contributed to the Sockeyes’ success. Among his proudest moments was scoring the double overtime winner to eliminate the North Vancouver Wolf Pack in this season’s first-round playoffs.
Describing the hockey player as being very different from the person off the ice, Gelz loves to get under the skin of his opponents.
“I believe I am strong two-way player and always give it everything I have when I am out on the ice,” says Gelz. “As a person, I am definitely a lot more easy going, low key, and friendly. As soon as I'm on the ice playing its almost like a switch goes off and that all changes.”
Badh, who hails from a soccer family (he and four older siblings all played), was drawn to hockey watching his uncle. While he plays a similarly robust style as Gelz, Badh also produces points. He was the Sockeyes’ leading scorer last season with 40 points in 43 games. This season he improved on that total with 49, and added 10 points in the league playoffs.
“I would hope that my teammates would see me as a player who would do anything to help the team succeed, whether it is on or off the ice,” says Badh, who also keeps his skills sharp playing ball hockey. “I strive to be seen a hardworking player. Being one of the older guys on my team this year, I try to lead by example.”
Both natural athletes, Badh also tried out football and lacrosse and played for his high school basketball team. He’s also into golf, and loves to go to the driving range whenever possible. Gelz, who started out as a defenceman, also played soccer and lacrosse and a high-level of baseball, but ultimately gave them up to focus on hockey.
“I am definitely a big-time sports nerd and love being up to date in everything sports whether it is NCAA college football all the way down to Bundesliga soccer,” says Gelz, who is also extremely into music. “I am one of those people that has 1,000 songs on their phone and knows every word to every one of them.”
While he’s still exploring potential college hockey opportunities, Gelz hopes to further his education. He also has an eye on becoming a firefighter. After finishing up a degree in criminology at Simon Fraser University, Badh hopes to one day become a lawyer.