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ALUMNI KONSORADA BLOSSOMED IN BRANDON

(Courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun) — Tim Konsorada was a soft-spoken 16-year-old when his hockey adventure of a lifetime began with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Now 33, the married father of two said it was a big step when his parents dropped him off with his first billets. It proved to be an incredible experience.

“You’re pretty young, and I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, you could say,” Konsorada said. “But you step in and you have the other 16-year-olds with you and you have the other guys. And it’s such a great place. The billets, the organization, even the type of character people that they pick. You can’t say anything that isn’t great about the organization. Look how many people come here and stay here. I think that says a lot.”

Konsorada grew up in Lamont, Alta., a community of about 1,700 residents a short drive northeast of Edmonton. He played some of his minor hockey in Lamont before suiting up in nearby Fort Saskatchewan, the community he was born in.

Konsorada wanted to start playing hockey at age three because older kids he knew were in the game, but he wasn’t allowed to start until he reached the ripe old age of four.

He quickly showed promise and understood that bigger things might lie ahead.

“I wanted to play hockey and once we started playing more competitively, you started to see that there was the WHL route or the college route,” Konsorada said. “There were a couple of other guys who I played minor hockey with, like Joffrey Lupul, so with guys like that you’d always talk. He was going that way (to the WHL). It was overwhelming to be honest.”

Konsorada was Brandon’s first-round draft pick in the 1999 Western Hockey League bantam draft, 26 picks ahead of the team’s next selection, Lance Monych.

In an age before the internet and cellphones were as ubiquitous as they are now, Konsorada learned Brandon had picked him in a different manner.

“I was at school,” Konsorada said. “My auntie was the librarian of Lamont school and I found out that way.”

At the next team camp, Konsorada would lay eyes for the first time on Monych, who he would skate with for five seasons as a Wheat King and remain good friends with long after their playing careers ended.

Konsorada played five games with the club as a 15-year-old, scoring once and adding two assists, and he and Monych made the club as 16-year-old rookies.

“I wanted to earn a spot and stay because I had played five games the year before and had the taste of what it was about,” the six-foot-three forward said of going to camp for the 2000-01 season. “It was just a goal of mine.”

The pair actually even lived together that season and discovered together, along with fellow 16-year-old rookie Caine Pearpoint, what their new life entailed.

“It was me and Lance and Caine,” Konsorada said. “We kind of stuck together and learned the ropes. Brandon has always, always had a good leadership group where people take you. We have had Ryan Craig, who was two years older, and (Brett) Thurston and Vics (Robert McVicar) and Jamie Hodson and the list goes on.”

He would go on to play 67 games as a 16-year-old rookie in the 2000-01 season, earning 23 points. In his draft year, he took a big step forward, scoring 17 times and adding 28 assists.

Konsorada was selected to play in the 2002 Hershey Cup all-star series, which ran for four years and featured the top players from the WHL meeting all-star teams from the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 1996, it was replaced by the Top Prospects Game.

Columbus subsequently selected Konsorada in the sixth round of the 2002 National Hockey League draft. He said it was a great moment.

“It was special,” Konsorada said. “Anytime you get drafted it’s exciting. You always want as a kid to be drafted.”

Konsorada said his first NHL camp was intimidating. The Blue Jackets had the first overall pick that year and selected Rick Nash. (They also picked Brandon defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who would go on to play 163 NHL games.)

“I remember going to Columbus and we had a summer camp and (Nash) scored a goal and there were 2,000 who came to watch and he got a standing ovation,” Konsorada said.

Konsorada had a breakout season back in the WHL in his 18-year-old year, scoring 22 times and adding 48 assists to nearly make him a point-per-game player.

The good news carried over into his 19-year-old season, when the club named him its 47th captain in September 2003 after the graduation of Ryan Craig.

“It was really exciting,” Konsorada said. “I was kind of caught off-guard by it because I’m not the most vocal person but I tried to lead in other ways. It is truly an honour because you go back and see the list of people who have been captain in the past, and it was big shoes after Ryan Craig.”

Konsorada said Craig was the perfect captain to learn from because he’s such an outstanding person. He pointed out that the team also had a rich vein of leadership in the room with guys like Jonathan Webb, Ryan Stone, Eric Fehr and Monych.

Unfortunately for him, a dark period was approaching. After a pair of injuries earlier in his WHL career, he failed his physical at Wheat Kings camp, and underwent shoulder surgery that kept him out of Brandon’s lineup until Jan. 20.

“I think my 19-year-old year was kind of a writeoff,” Konsorada said. “I think I really struggled that year, getting surgery and missing the first five months. But I felt like every year it kind of got better and better.”

He was unexpectedly returned to Brandon for his overage season and flourished on a high-scoring Brandon club that also had Fehr, Stone, Monych and defenceman Steven Later.

Konsorada scored 29 goals and added 58 assists in 71 games, and added 15 more points in 19 playoff games as the Wheat Kings lost 4-1 in the league final to the Kelowna Rockets.

That signalled the end of their junior careers for Konsorada and Monych, but they left a mark on franchise history. Monych has played the most combined regular season and playoff games in Wheat Kings history — a remarkable 396 — with Konsorada close behind at 383.

“You definitely need some luck and we were very fortunate, we always made the playoffs in the five years I was there,” Konsorada said. “My 17-year-old year was kind of a surprise and we went to the third round. Honestly in my 19-year-old year we had the best team on paper and lost in the second round and my final year we went to the final. I was very lucky to get that far in the playoffs every year.”

Konsorada said that while he and Monych were close friends, they also pushed each other to be better, something that benefited both.

Then life changed.

“Pro was different,” Konsorada said. “I don’t know if I was expecting it to be like junior or what but it just didn’t go as planned.”

He missed the first couple of months of his rookie pro season when he had the other shoulder surgically repaired.

Konsorada split his first two seasons between the American Hockey League and ECHL. After the 2007-08 season in the ECHL with the Bakersfield Condors — he scored 34 goals and added 34 assists and led the team in points — Konsorada decided to make the move to Europe.

“I thought I had a pretty decent year there and there really wasn’t any opportunities,” Konsorada said. “We thought we might as well try overseas. I knew that once you go, you’re probably not going to come back so it was more to enjoy it a little bit and get to see another side of the world.”

Konsorada was joined by his wife Lindsay (nee Connor of Brandon) for two seasons with Lillehammer in Norway’s top league, but she stayed home to teach when he moved to Italy and Germany for the 2010-11 season, his final year prior to retirement.

“It’s one of those things,” Konsorada said. “You know that you’re not going to make the NHL so that’s always disappointing but you kind of know when it’s time. Life goes by quick and if it’s time, you want to get a house, and what do you do after? I wanted to go to school.”

While Konsorada was contemplating whether his career was actually over, he took a job at the Poplar Ridge Golf Course for a summer. In a nice bit of serendipity, he discovered his next career

He attended Red River Community College for three years and now works as course superintendent at Poplar Ridge, looking after maintenance. He works alongside another former Wheat King, pro shop manager Lavern Popple, who played 18 games with the club in the late 1970s and is father of current Moose Jaw Warriors forward Tate.

Tim and Lindsay, who lived in Onanole for five years and moved to Minnedosa three years ago, have two children, Abbey, 3, and four-month-old Camryn.

Konsorada said it took probably five years after his hockey career until his shoulders finally felt good again. He began playing hockey again two years ago, in a once-weekly beer league.

Konsorada said a unique part of his Wheat King experience has helped him well beyond his junior career, as he played for head coaches Bob Lowes, Dean Clark, Mike Kelly and Kelly McCrimmon.

“I relate a lot of things to my job now that I learned from four different coaches, so you have four different personalities,” Konsorada said. “No matter what, you always have to work hard. That’s something that you can control and the key to success.”

But Konsorada’s Wheat King experience is about a lot more than the lessons he learned.

He said it was an outstanding time in his life.

“If you could go back and just stay and play there, you would, because it’s a good group of guys and friends and you didn’t have any cares,” Konsorada said. “You’re free of the stresses. It was fun. The funnest time that I had in my life playing hockey was the five years in Brandon. I stayed here, so that kind of shows something.”

Konsorada’s old team plays host to Moose Jaw Monday afternoon at 2:30pm.

 

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