By Martin Cleary
If you were to put a title on Mike Evelyn’s athletic career to this point, it would have to be: Blades and Ice. For two decades, he was a high-level competitive hockey player, skating in the Central Canada Hockey League and for the Dalhousie University Tigers.
But today, his hockey sticks and equipment bag are in storage somewhere as he has become a member of the Canadian men’s bobsleigh team, travelling mighty fast on much longer blades down narrow and dangerous ice chutes.
After the fourth of his five years with the Dalhousie Tigers, the Ottawa native attended the RBC Training Ground finals in Atlantic Canada. His physical testing results were impressive and he was recruited by Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton.
In the spring of 2018, he flew to Calgary for a one-week session of sliding and learning to pilot a sled. He fell in love with the speed and the sport. But first things first. He returned to Dalhousie to complete his engineering degree and hockey career in 2018-19.
Evelyn played 127 career games for the Tigers and collected 22 goals, 14 assists and 182 penalty minutes as a forward. In four CCHL seasons with Nepean Raiders (2010-12) and Ottawa Junior Senators (2012-14), he had 149 games, 25 goals, 49 assists, 128 PIM.
Evelyn, 27, joined the national bobsleigh team for the 2019-20 season and successfully raced on the North American circuit. He had six two-man bobsleigh races with pilot Patrick Norton, which was highlighted by one fourth- and three sixth-place finishes.
He pushed for pilot Taylor Austin in his only four-man assignment and earned a victory at Park City, Utah. In his second, third and fourth two-man races with Norton, they significantly improved the time differential between their sled and the winner each time.
The 6-3.5 and 230-pound Evelyn also has been selected to the national team for this season and he’s aiming to compete in both the two- and four-man 2021 World Cup competitions with pilot Chris Spring in Europe. He feels bobsleigh is the perfect athletic fit for him.
“I thought it was for me,” said Evelyn, after attending his bobsledding initiation in Calgary 2.5 years ago. “I motorcycle, too. I get the same rush (bobsledding). But with bobsleigh, we don’t have vehicles to crash into.”
During the 2020-21 national team tryouts, Evelyn “exceeded expectations.” “I love the speed, going fast, the lifestyle, sprinting, lifting and the team culture. I missed that after I retired from hockey,” added Evelyn, who doesn’t drink coffee, but loves milkshakes.
When Evelyn was young, his favourite movie was Cool Runnings, which featured the Jamaican bobsled team. “I could recite the lines verbatim. Probably seen it 12 to 20 times. But I had a lot of misconceptions about bobsleigh from watching that movie.”
But now that Evelyn is living his own version of Cool Runnings, he’s learning all about the chilly and bone chilling sport first hand. “We’re glorified sprinters and then a sack of potatoes. We have no view. There’s no cardio required,” he said.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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