After languishing at the bottom end of the depth chart at Boston College for two years, the athletically gifted native of Miami Gardens, Florida left that university to play Junior “A” hockey in his last year of eligibility.
“Things weren’t working out for me at Boston College, and I was losing my edge, my self-belief. Basically, I had just one chance and that was to come to Vernon. My hockey career would have ended quietly at Boston College if I hadn’t come here. I didn’t even have a full set of equipment!”
Malcolm says that he has “learned a lot about hockey and about life in Vernon.” He adds that he feels “revitalized. I feel optimistic again, like maybe I can be a decent player.” A big part of that rebirth, he says, is “enjoying being around a great bunch of guys on this team.”
The 21-year-old says that “Playing and living in Vernon has been a real eye-opener. There’s a good atmosphere here, a positive vibe. It definitely starts with the owner and coaches and it flows into the dressing room.”
Indeed, he is staying around until early June, when his university classes will wrap up. Malcolm has been taking a full load of courses in order to satisfy requirements that will allow him to play NCAA hockey next year.
This summer he will again train with Mike Boyle and Paul Vincent, who have previously helped develop Malcolm’s legendary strength and quickness. He says, “They are two of the best, and I’d be nowhere without them.”
He has worked hard this year, on and off the ice. He says that he has worked as hard before, but “Now I’m working smarter. Brains over brawn, you know?”
His speed, strength, and mobility have earned him several nicknames. Some refer to Malcolm’s own favourite moniker, Malcolm “Styles” Lyles. He has also been known as “Mr. Excitement,” “Action Jackson,” and “The Chocolate Rocket.”
Whatever the nickname, Malcolm Lyles has left a strong impression on Vernon hockey fans. He will not soon be forgotten.
Written By Don Klepp
Q: How do you pack a 200-pound heart into a 170 pound body?
A: I don’t know; you’ll have to ask Kyle Murphy.
An example of Kyle’s work ethic and determination came in the final two games of this year’s RBC Cup, held recently in Camrose, Alberta. He played the entire tournament on a wonky left knee. Then, in the semi-final against Wellington, he laid himself full out to block a shot.
The puck sliced his right knee open, but he finished the game and then played the final game with both knees heavily bandaged. As Mark Ferner put it, “Some guys in the playoffs will play on one leg because it’s the playoffs. Murph played that final game on no legs.”
“We brought him in to be a veteran leader because of what we heard about his character. That’s exactly what he brought to the team. He was great in the [faceoff] circle, he checked like crazy, and he just played the game right.”
His tenacious play led the Viper broadcast crew to refer to the New Jersey native as a “bulldog, ”a “pit bull,” and a “terrier.” (The Viper broadcasters’ grasp of canine terminology is somewhat inconsistent, but they recognize tenacity when they see it.)
Kyle also put up some decent scoring numbers, 20 goals and 28 assists in 78 games, good for fourth place on the team. His biggest goal was the neat deflection that knotted the score at 3-3 in the Vipers’ sensational comeback win over the Powell River Kings in the deciding game of the Fred Page Cup.
He certainly had the pedigree to be successful. He played at a high level in Boston minor hockey and then at the Shattuck St. Mary’s prep school before accepting a scholarship to the fabled Notre Dame university.
At Notre Dame, he didn’t get the ice time that he expected. So, even though the experience of studying and
living at Notre Dame “was first class,” he opted to leave that school to “play the game I love at a level I could accept.”
The study skills he developed at Shattuck St. Mary’s and Notre Dame have certainly helped him navigate a challenging year in Vernon. In order to retain his remaining two years of NCAA eligibility, this year he had to take a full load of university classes and graduate with an associate degree.
This year he took 10 business classes through the extensive online program at Central Texas College. He completed six of those courses after Christmas. How did he manage it? He says, “I still can’t believe it, to be honest. It’s all a blur. It got really hectic, especially during the playoffs when the assignments and exams came thick and fast. But I got some help from the team’s academic advisors and I tried to plan ahead.”
His work has paid off – he has earned an “A” in every one of the 10 classes, an amazing achievement for someone involved in a lengthy playoff run.One of his business classes was a business internship. He chose to work in the Viper office, with Marketing
Manager Heidi Haas and Business Operations Manager Todd Miller. Kyle helped with publicity, promotions, sponsorship sales, and ticket sales, in what he calls “a really good experience for someone who’s interested in sports and business. I learned a lot about the business side of a sports organization from Heidi and Todd.”
As he reclined in a bed at Vernon Jubilee hospital, recovering from the second of two operations to deal with a staph infection that has ravaged his cut right knee, Kyle spoke of the Viper coaches. “I’ve been lucky to have good coaches over the years, but Ferns and Willy are one of the best, if not the best coaching staffs I’ve played for. Their knowledge and communications make them exactly the kind of coaches a player wants.”
He’s looking forward to getting rid of the IV drip line, which he’ll have for a couple of weeks after he leaves
hospital: “once the antibiotics kick in, I’ll get back to training and I’ll get ready for this fall.”
Heather Kakoske (L) and Kim Robinson (R) participate in an RBC Cup trivia contest
Jason Williamson's puppy, Bauer, joins the Viper tail gate party on May 5
Viper players' parents participate in a tail gate party before the May 5 game
Viper Fans Converge on Camrose
May 6, 2011. Special report from Camrose.
Viper marketing manager Heidi Haas has been busy fielding requests for tickets at the RBC Cup in Camrose.
“Each game we’re allowed 100 tickets for our fans to purchase and I’ve had no problem moving those tickets,” says Heidi.
In addition to the travelling group of Viper die hard fans, most of the Viper players’ parents have travelled to Camrose. Some, such as the Kakoskes, Corkeys, Thompsons, Voths, and Robinsons, have been here all week. Others, such as the Murphys and Nowicks, have arrived in time for the weekend games.
Mike and Karen Murphy and Kyle Murphy’s younger brother Brendan arrived Thursday afternoon from New Jersey, just in time for a tail gate party in the Edgeworth Centre parking lot. Brendan, one of four hockey playing Murphys, was somewhat disappointed because Kyle sat out the Thursday game with a nagging injury.
Benton Hadley, who has been on a lot of airplanes lately, likes the Vipers’ chances: “this team keeps rising to the occasion. Earlier in the playoffs, we were in the process of booking a family holiday, and Aaron told us to wait until the RBC Cup was finished. That tells me something about the players’ confidence!”
Marcus Basara’s parents, Milos and Karen, talked about the joy they see in their son. Karen said, “Marcus was on a team that won the Telus Cup last year, so he has some experience in this kind of atmosphere, but he’s very excited this year. We’re delighted to see him so happy.”
Heather Kakoske and Kim Robinson shared a chuckle about their appearance on the big screen during an intermission at the Viper/Wellington game. They participated in an RBC Cup trivia quiz hosted by Camrose play-by-play announcer Tim Ellis. “We just tried to have some fun with it. I mean, who cares which Ontario team last won the RBC Cup?”
All told, 17 of the Vipers had family members at the tail gate party that was organized by the Corkeys and Heidi Haas. More will be present for this weekend’s playoff games.
Jack Gilroy, David Robinson’s uncle, played junior hockey in Vernon and Brandon and then went on to a pro career. He said, “People in Vernon are excited for the team and what they’ve done for Vernon. We’re known nationally again. These kids are amazing ambassadors for our community so we’re here to support them.”
The Vipers had a day off on Sunday but they couldn't stay away from the rink! Some of the boys caught the 3:30 game where I had the chance to chat with Bryce Kakoske
What do you think of Camrose so far?
The rink is really nice but I haven't seen much of the city, been busy with playing and practicing.
Is the RBC as special the 3rd time as it was the 1st and 2nd time?
Oh for sure I think so. I don't know how many others have done it. It's pretty cool.
What makes the Vernon Vipers so special?
We were so young at the start of the season and we came together right at the start. A lot of great guys on this team.
What's everyone doing in their spare time?
I got to hang out with my parents and brother this afternoon. It's pretty cool having them here and my bother hasn't seen me play since last year so it's nice that he can come watch my final junior A hockey games.
Last year, last games...how are you feeling?
I just cherish every moment and take it all in, it doesn't get any easier after this.
Congratulations on winning the Doyle Cup. Your team has made it all the way back to the RBC Cup again to compete for your third consecutive National Junior A Championship. The season started with 137 Junior A teams competing for this great trophy and your team is one of the remaining five teams, so you should be proud.
If you are looking to follow your Vipers at the RBC Cup, here are a few ways to make it real easy.
Website – real time scores, stats, interviews and tournament stories – www.hockeycanada.ca/rbccup
Twitter – constant updates from the venue in Camrose – www.twitter.com/HC_RBCCup
Facebook – Like the RBC Cup on facebook and follow along throughout the tournament with daily updates – www.facebook.com/RBCCup - let us know who you are cheering for!
Want to watch live? We have that too! All games can be seen via pay-per-view at http://hockeycanada.fasthockey.com. There will be live action, player interviews, thoughts from the coaches and more!
Want photos of the National Junior A Championship – they can be found at www.hockeycanadaimages.ca.
Congratulations and good luck to your team at the 2011 RBC Cup, April 30 to May 8, 2011 in Camrose, Alta.