By Pam Pardy
As Todd Skirving prepared to suit up for his fifth season with the Newfoundland Growlers, an ECHL franchise of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he admitted to experiencing a somewhat healthy case of the jitters. “It’s always exciting, or maybe it is nervous energy, whatever you want to call it. Just getting to that first game and getting on the ice with the guys and just seeing what we know and seeing how we play, and just kind of seeing what we got to offer is exciting. It’ll be interesting to see how we stack up early on because we obviously want to win some games,” the Thunder Bay, ON, native told Downhome at the start of the 2023-24 season.
Since then and up to presstime, the Growlers have won five of their first 12 games and Skirving has been named team captain. He’s only the second in Growler’s franchise history, following in James Melindy’s skates.
Fans have known #15 since the Growlers won the Kelly Cup in 2019, an adrenalin-fuelled way to finish the franchise’s first season. After six seasons in the ECHL, and the last four with the Growlers, Todd admits he’s “at the tail end” of his on-ice career and he’s taking things “year by year… I’m just really excited to see how this season goes,” he says with a smile.
Todd finished out last season second in the club with 31 goals. Heading into the new season, he was a returning player and experienced teammate with a bunch of new faces. Though he wasn’t yet captain, he sounded like one back in October. “The players that we have are skilled players and now it’s just trying to take them under my wing and help them out as much as possible – help make them comfortable out in the community and in the locker room, and then hope that translates into comfort on the ice, too,” he said.
The Growlers have a new head coach this season, Stanley Cup champion Matt Cooke, who says about Todd, “He’s been making me feel at home ever since I got here. He’s probably the biggest leader in any room – he does everything he can on the ice and off the ice.” He adds, “Obviously, [Todd] is a guy that considers himself from Newfoundland now. He’s really ingrained himself into the community and that’s just who Todd is. He’s a guy that’s willing to do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Over the years, Todd has become as much of a fan favourite off the ice as on for his contributions to the community. From clearing snow for a neighbour, to donating time and talent to a worthwhile cause, Todd is there when called upon. “When you give to other people, it helps create a better environment at the rink, a better environment in the community, and creates a better world in general. That’s all I’m trying to do,” he says.
For the last two years, he’s been heavily involved in prostate cancer awareness. He partnered with graphic designer Paul Loder, The Newfoundland Embassy and Saltwater Designs to create and sell a specially designed Skirving T-shirt (the “Skirvy”), with proceeds benefitting the Newfoundland and Labrador Prostate Cancer Support Groups. “We wanted to make sure all the money raised was put right back into the province of Newfoundland,” he says proudly.
Like hundreds of thousands of men worldwide, Todd also takes part in Movember (a global moustache growing challenge to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues). It became even more personal last year when his father, Rod Skirving, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“Dad’s doing better, but it’s all about raising awareness and allowing people to feel comfortable having those important conversations,” says Todd.
Todd, a multi-time nominee for the ECHL Community Service Award since arriving in St. John’s in 2018, concludes by saying that he’s just happy to be playing the sport that he loves in a place he has come to adore. Having that ‘C’ on his chest makes it all the sweeter. “I am ecstatic to be continuing my professional hockey career here in Newfoundland, a place that’s truly become a second home.”