On the ice, Cody Rich's mind once buzzed with ideas of making the spectacular play look pedestrian.
Success rarely followed until things began to quiet for the 20-year-old forward for the Bellingham Blazers.
"So many times when people play hockey, they try to make the pretty play and try to make it look good or try to do too much," Rich said in a phone interview. "I do the dirty thing. I do the simple play instead of trying to complicate things."
Rich's mentality was a key asset for the Blazers in their inaugural season in the Northern Pacific Hockey League (NPHL). Not only did he lead the team with 46 goals and 44 assists, but he also helped guide Bellingham to an appearance in the USA Hockey Tier III Junior Nationals hockey tournament. While the Blazers failed to advance beyond group play, the appearance was nothing short of spectacular considering they lost nine of their first 10 games to open the 2012-13 season.
It almost goes without saying, but Bellingham looks to open its 2013-14 season on a bit of a different note.
And for Rich, the team the Blazers open up against - the Tri-Cities Outlaws - is a welcomed sight.
In a two-game series with the Outlaws in early February, Rich accounted for five goals and 10 assists - his best series of the season against any one opponent.
"I was calm each game," Rich said. "Nothing got to me. I was calm with the puck. I felt like I had all the time in the world. I just made simple plays and I didn't complicate things."
Rich and the Blazers open up the 2013-14 season at Tri-Cities on Friday, Sept. 27, at the Toyota Arena in Kennewick.
The serene nature that has overcome Rich is a testament to the coaching of Mark Collins. Collins' methods focus on teaching fundamentally sound hockey, Rich said, with players opting for the simple, less-flashy play instead of the opposite.
"What they coach is simpler, but it is creative hockey," Rich said. "Everything is one little move, and then move the puck. ... I love (that style)."
Still, Rich's most desirable asset on the ice is his uncanny ability to score. While his maturation has been steady, what makes him so talented is his unpredictability, or at least that is what his long-time teammate Mason Wade seems to think.
"We always joke about it, that the goalie is trying to see where you look and guess where you want to shoot, and (Rich) doesn't even know where he is going to shoot," Wade said in a phone interview. "He is just one of those guys that has a knack for (scoring)."
Wade and Rich first began playing hockey together some 14 years ago on the hardened ice at the Bellingham Sportsplex. And while Rich is entering his final season of being able to play for the Blazers, returning home to play on the same ice he grew up on has sentimental value.
"I think it is really special to me that I get to finish my junior hockey career where I started, where I have all those memories with me playing hockey as a kid," Rich said. "Those home games, that atmosphere - that is what you play for."
No. Player Pos. Hometown
1 Parker, Broderick G Bellingham
2 Haywood, Chad D Gig Harbor
3 Hansen, Scott D Bellingham
4 Hubbard, Ty D Fort Collins, Colo.
7 Wade, Mason (V) F Bellingham
8 Robledo, Luke D Kirland
9 Toivola, Kristjan F Bellingham
10 Prekop, Richard D Las Vegas, Nevada
11 Perron, Sasha F Victoria, B.C.
13 Rich, Cody (V) F Bellingham
14 Wagner, Luke F Bellingham
15 Fundator, Cole F Las Vegas, Nevada
16 MacDonald, Mark D Greeley, Colo.
18 Quint, Dawson F Glenwood Springs, Colo.
19 Moore, Kyler (V) F Erie, Colo.
20 Byers, Kaleb (V) F Philomath, Ore.
21 Hohl, Gerin (V) F Victoria, B.C.
22 Turner, Micky (V) F 100 Mile House, B.C.
23 Sabin, Austin D Anchorage, Alaska
25 Duncan, Kevin D Los Angeles, Calif.
26 Shaver, Bailey F Everett
30 Stone, Joshua G North Bend
31 MacDonald, Robert (V) G Greeley, Colo.