By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Bothered by nagging injuries, a lack of playing time, a trade and excess weight, Scott Borders was contemplating giving up on hockey by the time last season rolled around.
He was just 24 years old but hockey was no longer fun for the Bonnyville, Alberta native.
“At the end of last season I thought I’d probably just go back home, go to school, finish that off and get on with life,” said Borders, who aspires to be a firefighter when he’s done with hockey.
As it turned out, Borders hooked up with former San Diego teammate Mark Pederson, got back into shape and landed in Bakersfield when Pederson became assistant coach.
“Mark invited me to live with him in the summertime and kind of took me under his wing,” Borders said. “He showed me the ropes a little bit and I got back into the gym and found myself back in the shape I was a few years ago. Mark said if I got into top shape there might be a position here for me.”
When Borders showed up for training camp he was nearly 30 pounds lighter than at the same time the previous season. He’s also more like the player who came out of juniors late in the 2001-02 season and made an immediate impact with the Fresno Falcons.
Through 41 games with the Condors, Borders has 15 points, 113 penalty minutes and is a minus-one, the best plus/minus rating of any Condors forward with more than 20 games.
“He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Raymond said of Borders, who weighed in at 204 to start the season.
“He hits hard, is great on the penalty kill and we’re happy with his progress. He’s not going to score 25 or 30 goals but I think he could. He’s been a bit unlucky. He shoots a lot of pucks and has a great shot.”
Borders joined the Flacons late in the 2001-02 regular season, just in time for a playoff run that culminated with the West Coast Hockey League championship. He played in all 15 playoff games and registered six points.
The next season Borders scored 38 points, was named to the WCHL all-star team and the Falcons lost in the championship finals.
Then came the downhill slide for Borders. He showed up to training camp out of shape and before he played a game for Fresno he was dealt to San Diego.
“I was a little far down in the depth charts and never really saw much action,” Borders said.
“I got hurt two or three times during the year, had a couple of healthy scratches so maybe my attitude wasn’t the best, either. It didn’t work out very well.”
Except for being befriended by Pederson.
“Everything’s worked out for the best so maybe it was a blessing in disguise,” Borders said.
Borders is a fixture on Bakersfield’s third line, a defensive role which he has embraced.
“My first couple of (pro) years I was looked at to put up a little more offense,” Borders said. “Lately I’ve been kind of back to my role in juniors — a little more of a checking role, a little more of a defensive role to shut down (the other team’s) offensive lines.
“It’s one of those things: you know your role and your job. You have to take pride in what you do and make sure you do everything in your power to get it done.”
Raymond said Borders has been an extremely effective player in his role.
“He’s an irritating factor to the other teams,” Raymond said.
“They know he hits hard and is going to hit them when it’s unexpected. When you see him (on the ice) you know you have to be careful.
“He’s a element of toughness in our lineup. It’s not all about how much you’re going to fight; it’s about how much you’re going to hit. What we get from him is a dominant third-line player who can inflict pain or punishment, skates well enough to hit people hard and intimidated by his play. I think he’ll be a great playoff player.”