BOISE, ID – Tulsa Oilers forward Joey Sides recently completed a three-game set against the Idaho Steelheads. For Sides’ teammates, this was just another game on a very long road trip (14 games.) But for Joey, however, it was so much more.
Joey grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho, which is a little over 160 miles from where the Steelheads play in Boise. This was a homecoming for Tulsa’s alternate captain, having family in attendance and being a stone’s throw away from his actual hometown. In an odd coincidence, the last time Sides played an ECHL game at CenturyLink Arena was almost five years ago to the day, only back then, he was a member of the Colorado Eagles.
“Really? I didn’t know that,” a surprised Sides said. “I’ll have to share that with my family.”
Joey took the time after the second of three games against Idaho to discuss his homecoming, hockey career stateside and abroad, and what the future holds for the 31-year-old veteran.
The Sin Bin: Five years almost to the day since you came here with the Colorado Eagles. You score a goal in your return trip home. That had to be a big boost for you?
Joey Sides: It was pretty awesome. I had my sister in the stands that night who lives here in Boise. It’s great coming back here; it feels like home…I’m two hours from home (Sun Valley). Not that it feels like a break, but it feels a little different than all the other cities that we travel to. Just a little more comfortable.
To score a goal the other night with her in the stands and some friends in the stands, that means a lot. I was excited to be able to put that one up. I had some good chances tonight…my mom was in town and my other sister and more friends. It would have been nice to score. (Note: Joey’s only goal was the one mentioned earlier on November 29.)
TSB: Growing up in Sun Valley, it’s not exactly a bastion of hockey up there. How’d you become interested in the game?
J.S.: I was born in Tucson, and we moved to Idaho when I was four. Immediately, my dad built a rink in my backyard my first winter there. We went to the Calgary (Olympic) Games in ’88 when I was two years old, and we went to a hockey game. I came home, we had a mini stick, and I was just stoked on it – I’d run around the kitchen with a tin foil ball and just rip around. So, when we moved to Idaho, my dad built a rink and I jumped on it and never looked back. We had all the kids in town skating; we all grew up together and had a pretty good team. We won state every year growing up. We had a lot of fun and I just loved it; that’s all I wanted to do.
TSB: Now you’re living the dream. Can’t complain, right?
J.S.: Yeah, absolutely. Very grateful to have had as long of a career as I have out of college. It’s been great.
TSB: Speaking of your career, you’ve spent time in the CHL (Central Hockey League) when it was still around with Arizona; you played in the Netherlands; Colorado Eagles, Rapid City, Wichita, Reading Royals, and of course the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL; St. John’s Ice Caps in the AHL as well. You also played for the Dundee Stars over in Scotland. How was it playing hockey across the pond?
J.S.: It’s been great. Netherlands, my first experience over there…(I) maybe expected it to be a little more upbeat, but I had a great time, it was a great experience and made the best of it over there. I went over there with some friends I played with in the Central League, and then was fortunate enough to come back mid-season, and that’s where I got my start with the Eagles. That felt like home; that was a great organization. I loved playing there, every minute of it. More recently, went back over to Scotland, and had an opportunity there to play with some kids I played with in Rapid City. It was a fun town; Dundee is a beautiful city. Bigger ice sheet, so a little bit different of a game…maybe not as physical here, but I enjoyed it over there. But, I also missed here. I like the quick pace of the game here, and the little smaller ice so you can get to the net quicker and plays happen quicker. It feels great to be back, it feels comfortable, and I’m enjoying Tulsa.
TSB: Your coach, Rob Murray, had a bit of scare a couple of weeks ago against Quad City when he collapsed on the bench and had to be taken off the ice. What was going through your head when that occurred?
J.S.: I was on the ice. We had a crazy shift going, had a couple scoring chances and we were just kind of buzzing. Then, the whistle blew, we had the puck, and we were all just hands up in the air like, “What’s going on?” Then, I made my way over to the bench and saw Rob being held up by our trainer, and just…scared, immediately…I think that was my first instinct. The medics came out and did a great job, but we were all still so scared. We just held strong and were hoping for the best for him and hoping he was okay. When I came over to the bench, I saw he was alert and breathing, so that was good. But we just didn’t know what happened.
After finding out what happened, just being super grateful that he had medical attention around him and were able to get him to the hospital. We thought he was going to be gone for the whole road trip, for a month, and just take a break back home with his family. But, the guy loves the game so much and believes in all of us. To see him come back after a week is really endearing, and we were excited to have him. Not that we were lost, but to have him back feeding us meant a lot. You could see it in the team, you know? It just keeps us going in the right direction. It’s awesome to see him back and healthy.
TSB: I saw him walking down the hallway before we started this interview, and I just said, “Hey, Coach Murray…it’s good to see you. I’m glad you’re doing well.” He said, “Thanks. I’m feeling better, doing good.” It’s not just a Tulsa thing; people that pay attention to the ECHL were praying for him and had him in our thoughts as well.
J.S.: Oh yeah, we had great support from the rinks when we were in Quad (City) when that happened. The whole stadium was up on their feet clapping for him when he was getting taken off the ice. Then, his return in Rapid City…the whole arena was clapping for him. Just to see the support from around the league is really awesome.
TSB: Last question…this is your eighth season, you’re 31 years old. How much longer do you want to play hockey, Joey?
J.S.: A few more years. I take it a year at a time and just see how my season goes. The big thing for me is I want to win a championship. I haven’t been able to do it at the pro level. I’ve been to the playoffs and I love being in the postseason. I really would like to get a championship, and that’s one of the reasons I came back (to the ECHL). So, taking it year by year, see where it takes me. But, maybe a couple more years…just hope to play as long as I can.
Joey Sides has five goals and nine assists for a total of 14 points through 22 games for Tulsa this season. He also boasts a plus-8 with 50 shots on goal. His next game with the Oilers is against the Toledo Walleye Friday night at the Huntington Center in Toledo.