By SCOTT FISHER
At the end of the day hockey is 'just' a sport.
It's 'just' a game.
We love it, we argue about it.
Sometimes fists are traded.
But at the end of the day, the game is just that ... a game.
All of us - players, fans, parents, media, scouts - have a love for the game.
But it is just that ... a game.
Until it's not.
Airdrie Techmation Thunder goaltender Ryan Simpson lost his twin brother Morgan in a tragic accident as his team headed into the Heritage Junior Hockey League North Division final.
Nothing will ever replace that loss.
But it will be respected.
Morgan, 19, was a standout forward for the Coaldale Copperheads and his passing will be recognized by the Thunder prior to Game 2 of the Heritage Junior Hockey League North Division Final.
The Thunder will host the Red Deer Vipers in Game 2 of the HJHL series Friday night at the Ron Ebbesen Arena (8 p.m.)
Thunder head coach Derek Stamp acknowledged that the last week has been extremely trying for his players.
“It's challenging because it's definitely something that sits on everyone's minds,” Stamps said. “We're all trying to be supportive of Ryan first and foremost and supportive of each other.
“We understand that when we hit the ice, it's a chance to play hockey and focus on one common goal and maybe take away from the real-life problems.
“He's definitely on everybody's minds.”
The Thunder face a 1-0 series deficit when the Vipers come to town on Friday night.
And there's every reason to believe the Thunder will rebound.
Look no further than Zachary Giroux, an uber-talented forward that has been hit-and-miss throughout this season.
But when he plays, the opposition pays.
Giroux potted a pair of goals in the Thunder's opening 6-4 loss.
“He's a fantastic hockey player,” Stamp said. “He scored 20 goals in the AJHL, so that tells you how good he is.”
The Thunder were 1-2-1 against the Thunder during the regular season, including an overtime loss, so there's no doubt this team has what it takes to get to the league final.
Especially after a less-than-textbook Game 1.
“They jumped out on us real quick and capitalized on some mistakes that we made,” Stamp said. “We closed the gap but every time we built momentum, it seemed we did something that shot ourselves in the foot.
“But there's definitely some positives to build on.”
The Thunder were also without all-star defenceman Ben Orde, suspended from an earlier-round suspension.
Game 2 of this hotly contested series goes Friday at 8 p.m.