The Scott Taylor Manitoba Amateur Athlete Profile – Tyler Kirkup


WINNIPEG, MB. – For Tyler Kirkup, hockey is fun. It’s fun to go to the rink, it’s fun to hang with his teammates and it’s even more fun to put on the Virden Oil Capitals uniform and play the game in front of family and friends.

When it comes to the Oil Capitals, Kirkup is the Hometown Hero. It’s true, All-Star level defenseman Tristen Cross and rookie forward Tanner Andrew are both from Virden, and while Cross is an outstanding player, Kirkup is part of a Virden hockey family. His sister Karissa, is in her final year with the University of Manitoba Bisons and his parents arrived in Virden seven years ago to establish the town’s first Tim Horton’s.

“Yeah, my sister played a couple years at Maine and one year at UMD and now she’s at the U of M,” he said with a smile. ”My dad was a goalie for the Cougars when he was younger, but my dad didn’t want me to become a goalie. I thank him for that.”

Obviously, his dad made the right call. It also appears that moving back to Virden was a great idea, too. Tyler wouldn’t trade his opportunity to play for the hometown junior team for anything.

“It’s been a great experience, playing in Virden,” said Kirkup, who is in third full season with the Caps. “I’ve been able to play in front of my friends and family at home. I love playing home games.

“Virden is a small town, but I love the guys on the team and we’re always doing something as a team. I love being around the rink and I love spending time with my teammates, so it’s a lot of fun.”

Kirkup isn’t in the Top 10 in scoring in the MJHL, nor is he a former member of Team Manitoba (like Cross), but he was a ninth-round pick of the Red Deer Rebels in the 2013 WHL bantam draft and to his coach, Troy Leslie, he’s the living, breathing example of hockey’s rare 200-foot player.

“This is his third year with us and right from Day 1, he had a great game and a great year as a 17-year-old,” said Leslie, the Caps head coach. “He stepped in right away and was able to play in our Top 6. He did it in an unorthodox way because when he came in, he was quite comfortable with the physical play. Most 17-year-olds take a while to get accustomed to the physical part of the game, but he had no problem with it.

“What’s most impressive about his game and what was most impressive when he stepped in, was his work against the wall when he was a young guy. He has tremendous balance and a strong core and his best work as a young guy was done deep in the corners. That made it easy for the veteran guys to play with him right off the hop. He was able to contribute right away.

“When people talk about having the ideal 200-foot player on their team, Tyler is the definition of that.”

Kirkup actually grew up in Portage la Prairie and played all of his developmental minor hockey there. Then, when he was 12, his parents got the franchise rights to first Tim Horton’s Restaurant in Virden and he was off to a new town. Because he was a hockey player, he fit right in.

He played a couple of seasons in Virden and then, at 14, joined the Southwest Cougars Triple A Bantam team. He played a year of Triple A Bantam, two years of Triple A Midget with Southwest and then, at 17, made the transition to the Caps.

And it’s been quite a transition. In his first year with the Caps, he had 10 goals and 33 points in 60 games. In his second year, in 2016-17, he had 17 goals and 48 points in 57 games. This season, he had 11 goals and 24 points in his first 19 games. Playing at home has never been a problem.

“My greatest memory playing hockey was when I was 16,” he recalled. “I got called up from midget by the Caps and I scored my first goal as a junior,” he recalled. “It happened at home so there were a lot of fans at the rink, a lot of friends and family, and I think I scored on my second shift. It was a pretty cool experience.”

This season, he got off to a great start and was named the first MJHL Player of the Week for the 2017-18 season. He was the Caps leading scorer through the first seven weeks of the season and had risen to 12th in the league in scoring.

But make no mistake, Kirkup isn’t perfect. In fact, he remembers his most embarrassing moment as a hockey player as if it were yesterday.

“Oh, man, I’ll never forget it,” he laughed. “I was playing at Wayway, and I got a close shot at an empty net and I missed. Man, that was bad. When I got back to the bench, Troy (Leslie) didn’t say a thing to me. He knew that I knew I messed up. There was nothing he could say, really.”

Just 19, Tyler has one more year of eligibility in the MJHL. His goal is to, one day, play college hockey.

“Yeah, I’m hoping to go and play college hockey somewhere when I’m done here,” he said. “I’ve talked to a couple of schools and so we’ll see what happens there. I’m just excited about playing here this year and next year.”

Coach Leslie is certainly happy to have him in the lineup every night.

“He’s just so dependable,” Leslie said. “He leads quietly. He can play in every situation. He’s a tremendous checker, has a good stick and he can play on the power play and the penalty kill. The best part of his game is his ability to check and kill penalties although he does have a lot of offensive ability so he’s a complete player.

“On the rare night when he isn’t contributing offensively. He finds other ways to make us good.”

Scott Taylor for the Manitoba Post

Photos by Laurie Anderson and courtesy the Kirkup Family

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