By Cliff Mehrtens
© 2005 The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charlotte Checkers defenseman Rory Rawlyk wishes he could be nearer his mother, Norma, who is slowed by multiple sclerosis, and lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
So he swung a deal. His parents would drive his truck the 2,400 miles to Charlotte. His present in return was plane tickets home. In between, they saw Rawlyk, 22, play twice at Charlotte Bobcats Arena last month.
“It’s kind of tough being away from her, but it was special seeing them,” Rawlyk said. “It always is. I wish I could be around more to help.”
“It’s tough on my dad, too, because he takes care of her. He’s great about it, and she’s an awesome woman. She doesn’t let it get her down, and doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone.”
Rawlyk, a third-year pro and New York Rangers prospect, is having his best season. His nine goals in 37 games match his total in 68 and 67 games the previous two seasons.
He leads Charlotte (18-16-3) in games, assists (19) and shots (122), and is second in scoring. ECHL coaches noticed, and named Rawlyk a starter in the All-Star game next week in Fresno, Calif.
Rawlyk wishes the Rangers would notice, too. He yearns for a promotion to the American Hockey League, a chance he feels he hasn’t truly gotten from the NHL club.
“Extremely frustrating,” he said. “Extremely. I’ve been with them three years pro, and two in juniors, and what do I have, seven games in the AHL?”
He thought the call might come after 32 points in his rookie season (2003-04), but it was only five games with Hartford (AHL). Last season, he was promoted for two.
The frustration brews, but Rawlyk hasn’t let it overwhelm him. His contract with New York will end after this season, and if they don’t re-sign him, he’ll shop elsewhere.
He’s rangy (6-foot-5, 200 pounds), a good skater and moves the puck well, part of growing up playing center in tiny Gibbons, Alberta (population 3,000).
“Rory always had the knack for hockey,” his father, Ray said. “He slept, breathed and spoke hockey. He always thought he’d go pro one day. I think he’s very good, not because he’s my son, but because I’ve had other players tell me they’re amazed he hasn’t move up.
“He’s a good son, and made my wife and I happy.”
Rawlyk said his parents watch games via the Internet, and they talk by phone almost daily. Despite the frustration, he’s quick to interact with fans and has a lively sense of humor. As the team shot photos for its Web site last week after practice, Rawlyk joked that he wanted the one missing his front tooth to be published.
“Better yet, fill it in with silver,” he said, laughing.
Rawlyk arrived in Charlotte as a 20-year-old rookie, and like most, had to learn about life off the ice, too. That’s where large strides have been made, coach Derek Wilkinson said.
“He just needed time getting used to the pro game,” Wilkinson said. “He’s picked up his game offensively, but you can always work to improve in your own end. It’s not surprising he’s been a presence for us. I think he’d like a better shot (at a promotion), and I think he’ll get it.”