It's no secret that hockey players like to golf.
But for the TRU WolfPack's Ryan Skinner, it has become more than just a hobby reserved for the offseason.
Skinner, 21, spent four seasons in the Kooteney International Junior Hockey League, playing all but one of his games with the Kamloops Storm. In 211 career games, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kamloops native had 103 points, including 23 goals, and 405 penalty minutes.
Following his last game with the Storm in March, he committed to the WolfPack men's hockey team for 2013-14. But, as his summer progressed, he knew his heart wasn't in it anymore.
"After junior hockey I kind of felt like I wasn't going anywhere with hockey anymore," Skinner said. "With golf I still have an opportunity to go somewhere, so I just kind of felt like I was better off to pursue something (else)."
With some urging from longtime friend, and now teammate, Brent Pound, Skinner approached Bill Bilton Jr., the head coach of TRU's golf team, about the possibility of playing.
"It was definitely the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, by far," Skinner said. "I just had a really good summer golfing, I shot a lot of good scores . . . then I skated at Storm camp and I just realized I love golf more than hockey."
He competed in the open tryouts in late August and played well; he also had a good showing in the Coquihalla Cup on the weekend. Bilton emphasized that he hadn't been looking to take a player away from another TRU team; it just worked out that way.
"Safe to say he had the intent of playing hockey but his passion was with golf, so he made the switch," Bilton said. "He just felt like the last time he put the skates on he didn't have the desire."
Skinner's golf game revolves around a heavy drive, but he's made an effort to improve other aspects of his game in recent years, especially his putting. He hopes that a year with the WolfPack and guidance from returning players like Nic Corno and Pound will help him take his game to the next level.
Bilton sees the potential as well.
"He's extremely long . . . somewhere in the neighbourhood of 350 yards off the tee," he said. "For a big guy, (he has a) nice compact swing and soft hands.
"He's a hell of a golfer."
Bilton added that Skinner fits in nicely with the other players on the WolfPack's roster. Skinner is part of the golf community in Kamloops and his friendship with Pound should make the transition easier.
"He walks into the team knowing one of the other players and knowing some of the alumni players who hang around with us too," Bilton said. "This team has got the chemistry you want as a coach and we've kind of got the same six demeanours, that complement each other, across the board."
The importance of the WolfPack's players gelling quickly shouldn't be underestimated. TRU will start its four-tournament season Saturday and will wrap up things up Oct. 5-6, barring a berth in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Nationals. The WolfPack won't play host to any of the season's tournaments, instead traveling to Vancouver Island, twice.
"I think the guys on the island were just whining a little bit that over the years they've got to make the trips over the ferry and, fair enough, they do," Bilton said, when asked why there won't be a tournament in Kamloops. "I guess it's their turn to have two over there; it's just the timing for our budget isn't that great."
An extra $7,000 in funding will be required to send the golf team to the island twice this season.