The long-time Stingers sniper says adieu to the University’s program
They say all good things come to an end. They never say how they might end, though.
With the Stingers down 8-4 in the third period of game two in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference first-round playoff series against the McGill Redmen, time was running out on George Lovatsis’ Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s hockey career.
The Stingers had lost game one and a loss in this game would eliminate them from playoff contention, much earlier than any of the Stingers would have ever hoped, especially Lovatsis.
The fifth-year captain did everything he could that night to drag his team back into the game; but the deficit was too great, the Redmen’s lead was insurmountable.
The normally mild-mannered Lovatsis had two outbursts of emotion in the final game.
The first was a moment of blind rage. Lovatsis gave a solid hack to the back of a Redmen’s player’s leg. Lovatsis then slammed the penalty box door behind him as he was sent off for slashing.
Lovatsis was watching his career end in the last possible way he could have ever imagined, but he made sure to make his presence felt one last time.
The second was the outpouring of heartfelt tears into the shoulder of his head coach, Kevin Figsby. They stood alone on the ice near the Stingers bench in a long embrace, exchanging a few words as the moment overcame them.
“I’ve been here for five years. This is what my life has been the last five years. This is pretty much the end of the era of me being here,” said the Markham Ontario native. “I was thinking about all the things I’ve experienced here, all the good things and the bad things. I’ve learned so much over the past five years from being here.”
“He [Figsby] just said that he was proud of me, that it was a good five years together. That was pretty much it. It was more just emotional, just tears flowing more than anything else,” said Lovatsis.
“George has been a pleasure to coach over the past five years. He’s matured as a player and as a young man,” said Figsby. “We don’t usually have players with us who stay for the entire five years, since a lot of them are [major junior] players who’ve already been going to school before coming here. We’re lucky when we have a guy for three, four years, so to have a guy come in as early as George did from when he got here to him graduating now, it’s been a real treat to watch.”
After half a decade of early morning practises, late-night road trips and countless glorious on-ice moments, you’d think Lovatsis would have a few special stories to share. Instead of specific moments, what he’ll fondly reminisce about the most were the people he spent those five years with.
“I think it’s all the teammates I’ve had over the years,” said Lovatsis. “Every single one of them have been a great teammate. I’ve never had a problem with anyone. I think that’s one important thing to take from the past five years, just the relationships I’ve made over the time I was here with my teammates. That’s the thing that stands out the most.”
Lovatsis was rewarded for his strong play and leadership qualities over his first four years by being named captain by Figsby before this season. Figsby could have put it to a players vote, but he knew that either way, Lovatsis would be the one wearing the ‘C’ over his heart.
“You get the opportunity to watch the guys grow and mature,” said Figsby. “George came in and he was a quiet, unassuming, pretty shy kid. To be honest he hasn’t changed all that much except I’ve seen his maturity and leadership capabilities have grown, and that’s precisely why when we we’re looking at making a leadership group going into this season I decided to name George the team captain. Just watching him play, watching his leadership on the ice, off the ice, we knew it was a good opportunity for us as a young team to have a mature young man like George as our leader this year.”
“It was an honour to be named captain,” said Lovatsis. “Coming in I knew we were going to have a young team and I knew it was going to be my job to guide them along in the right direction this year, just by teaching them from my experiences. It was a good learning experience for me too, and I hope they learned from me.”
Reflecting on his career, Lovatsis saw the most of his personal growth happen off the ice. He had to learn to fend for himself while being away from home, on top of having to balance the hectic student-athlete lifestyle.
Now that his time at Concordia is drawing to a close, he’s ready to look ahead. A fork in the road awaits him; continue his hockey career or join the workforce right out of school? With the potential of going pro with a couple of teams in France, Lovatsis has some big decisions to make.
“If there are opportunities there, it’s definitely something I’d like to pursue,” he said. “There might be some opportunities in France to go pro. If something comes up and it’s worth it for me then I’ll definitely consider it. For now there’s nothing set in stone and eventually I’ll have to start looking ahead to getting a job and start making money, stuff like that. So it really depends on if it’s worth it and if it’s a good experience and whatnot.”
“If not, the plan is to apply to teacher’s college in Ontario and hopefully within the next three years become a teacher,” said Lovatsis.
When people look back on Lovatsis’ career, they’ll remember the smooth skating stride and the lighting-quick release that led to 56 career CIS goals, including playoffs.
Lovatsis, though, wants to be remembered for his role as an individual off the ice as opposed to his role as a sniper on it.
“I hope I’m remembered as a good person, as a good teammate, and as a good friend, as being there at the right time for my teammates and friends. I don’t know, I think I’m a good person, so I hope people will remember me for that.”