When one door closed, another door opened for Nick Charif.
After suiting up for the midget AAA Edmonton Southside Athletics last season, the now 18-year-old defenceman took his hockey skills to the Victoria Grizzlys of the junior A BCHL, his long-term plans revolving around securing a scholarship to a U.S. university.
Unfortunately for Charif, the business classes he took last winter at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton left him ineligible to earn a full scholarship south of the border. He received the bad news two weeks ago and then decided to leave the Grizzlys and join the Red Deer Rebels.
“The Rebels talked to me over the summer but I decided to commit to Victoria and go the NCAA route,” Charif said Thursday, as the Rebels prepared for a practice session in advance of tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting with the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Centrium.
However . . .
“I flew out to Victoria and then once (American) schools started talking to me I found out I wouldn’t be able to get a full scholarship,” he added.
“I took a few university classes in Edmonton and somehow things got a little screwed up. My clock got burnt a bit. I was only eligible for a two- or three-year scholarship instead of five. When Red Deer found that out they listed me and brought me here. I practised a few days, liked what I saw here and then signed with them (last week).”
It’s now a moot point, but Charif was confident that his chances of gaining a U.S. scholarship were better by playing junior A hockey in British Columbia as opposed to Alberta.
“It’s a better league for scholarships, you get more exposure to the college scouts and it’s faster-paced,” he said. “It was also a matter of just getting away from home and enjoying the whole junior experience. I loved my experience in Victoria, it’s just too bad things didn’t work out there.”
Now he’s hoping ‘things’ work out in Red Deer, and so far, so good. Charif played his first two games with the Rebels last weekend and put up zeroes in terms of points, penalty minutes and plus/minus.
“I thought I played pretty well. I noticed it was a big jump during my first game, but I thought I handled it well,” he said. “I played well my second game, although I made a few mistakes here and there. This is a faster pace than I’m used to so I’m still adjusting that way. But the boys have been good and it’s been a lot of fun.”
Listed at six-foot-one and 190 pounds, Charif has the size to effectively rub out opposing forwards.
“I like playing a physical style,” he insisted. “It will take me a few games to get into that here, but hopefully I’ll get that into my game soon.”
While he’s new to the Rebels, Charif is no stranger to Red Deer, having met the midget AAA Optimist Chiefs in last spring’s Alberta Midget Hockey League final, a heated series that ended with the locals winning a fifth and deciding game 1-0.
“They were a good team. It was fun playing them in a big series,” said Charif.
Always looking for ways to improve his team, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter was pleased to add Charif to his roster.
“He’s a steady, puck-moving defenceman. He’s a smart player who’s good with the puck,” said Sutter. “He can skate and he competes. He’s been a good fit for us.”
• Forward Lukas Sutter will return to the Rebels lineup tonight after missing seven games with an upper-body injury and will rejoin Rhyse Dieno and Brooks Maxwell on the club’s No. 1 line. Sutter had two goals and two assists in four games prior to being injured Sept. 28 at Calgary . . . The Rebels will host the Calgary Hitmen Saturday and will entertain the Saskatoon Blades and Kootenay Ice Oct. 25 and 30 before embarking on a six-game road trip that will includes two games in Victoria and additional contests in Kamloops, Kelowna, Cranbrook and Lethbridge.