Weighing in at 5’ 6”, 138 pounds, Shahzil Jivani may never frighten anyone with his size, but more often than not he’ll leave defenders grasping at air. And next season, Jivani will have a new group of defensemen to rise above, figuratively speaking.
The New Westminster, British Columbia native recently agreed to terms with the Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (Junior B), and will be relied upon to step in and contribute immediately.
“I see him as a top six forward who I will be looking to put some points on the board,” pronounced Darren Naylor, Jivani’s new head coach and General Manager.
Coach Naylor doesn’t expect Jivani’s lack of size to be much of an issue at the next level.
“He is only small in stature; he competes very hard and goes to the dirty places on the ice where goals are created,” said the coach, who also suggested that Jivani already has the “skill and work ethic” of a Junior A player.
And based on Jivani’s statistics last season with the New Westminster Midget AA squad, Naylor is likely right. Jivani put up 18 goals and 26 assists in no more than 12 games last season and captained the team as a 16-year-old to boot. But it wasn’t only his stats that caught coach Naylor’s eye.
“I was instantly attracted to his skill level and high energy to go along with his compete level,” said Naylor, who first noticed Jivani at an earlier Rockies’ camp.
In addition to his work ethic and level of determination, Jivani possesses fantastic speed – perfectly suited for the New NHL – an above average shot, and perhaps above all, very slick hands. But he realizes that things won’t come as easy next season playing at a higher level.
“Although I was dominant in Midget hockey, stepping up to Junior B is going to be tough,” acknowledged Jivani, who will be turning 17 next month. “I am a smaller guy, but that’s not going to effect me. The speed of the game will definitely quicken so I just have to move with it, and beat it.”
And how does he plan on beating it?
“I have to continue doing the same things that I’ve been doing, just faster and better. I’m going to have to react fast, play strong, and score goals like I can,” said Jivani, who also drew interest from the Abbotsford Pilots (PIJHL), the Revelstoke Grizzlies (KIJHL), and the Aldergrove Kodiaks (PIJHL). “This includes doing all the little things right. It also means not being a liability on the ice but an asset, and I definitely want to be a threat to every team.”
After some short time with Naylor and the Rockies organization, it didn’t take long for Jivani to decide that Columbia Valley was the team for him – despite the broad interest from other teams.
“Coach Naylor and his staff were great to me and they have a great organization,” said Jivani. “I feel I’ll be able to step into it right away and do what I can to hopefully them help win this year. I am really excited to play for this team and learn and succeed with my soon to be fellow teammates and coaches. In the end I just love to play the game, and I’m getting that chance in Columbia Valley, where my coach is giving me opportunities, so why not take it and do what I love?”
A question there is likely no answer to.
Just like any other Canadian hockey player, Jivani’s ultimate goal is to one day play in the National Hockey League, but he also realizes that it shouldn’t be his main concern at the present time and that he needs to take things step by step. Just like another popular New Westminster native, Jivani believes the NCAA route would suit him best.
“I’m still learning and I just want to play the game to the best of my ability. My long term goal is definitely to put on an NHL jersey on, but I’m willing to be the one that will start as low as I need to in order to get there. I am more focused on the road that someone I know very well took, Kyle Turris. I would love to get a scholarship to play university hockey,” said Jivani, who would like to major in kinesiology once he graduates from high school.
While Jivani is leaning towards the university route – like more and more players seem to be doing – he’s still willing to explore all possibilities with the hopes of turning his lifelong dream into reality.
“Hopefully an NHL team will find me and I can fulfill my dream – I mean, it’d be incredible.”
And Jivani knows that with the right work ethic and attitude, there’s nothing that can stop him from one day achieving his goal.
“Only one person can slow me down, and that’s myself, which means I have to play faster and work harder to keep that from happening.”
Farhan Devji is the author of a hockey based novel, “The Hockey Farmer.” For more information, visit thehockeyfarmer.ca.tp.