Each of the past three Septembers, Riley Lamb thought long and hard about whether there was room for hockey in his life anymore.
The Abbotsford Pilots are ecstatic that in each instance, the talented left winger answered to the affirmative.
Lamb lit up the Pacific International Junior Hockey League over the past two seasons, leading the league in scoring in 2009-10 with 79 points (35 goals, 44 assists) in 47 games. Last year, he was third overall with 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists) in 39 contests.
He’s returned this fall to lead a deep and talented Pilots squad which already has a berth to the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship secured, by virtue of the fact they’re hosting the event in April.
“He’s a special player,” Pilots head coach Jim Cowden said of his star 5’8” left winger.
“He’s not the prettiest skater when you look at him. But you know what, he’s so smart when he has that puck, he makes the people around him special too.”
Cowden describes Lamb as a mature person, and the 20-year-old’s big-picture approach nearly drew him away from the game on several occasions.
Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Port Coquitlam product nearly hung up his skates in order to focus on his Grade 12 studies and his burgeoning golf game – he’d qualified for the Canadian Junior Boys Championship that summer.
Lamb, in fact, turned down an invitation to rookie camp with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants because he knew his commitment level wasn’t high enough. But he eventually decided to give it a go with the Junior B Pilots, and after cracking the roster as the 13th forward out of training camp, he went on to lead the league in scoring.
Both of the last two years, Lamb again contemplated hockey retirement – he’s been dealing with shoulder and sports hernia injuries, and also plans to get into real estate with his dad at some point.
But the game keeps drawing him back.
“I do love the game, and after this year, I’ll definitely miss it,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of guys this year, and I’m ready to win a championship.”