Fritz Captures 2011 AJHL MVP Award

When Tanner Fritz joined his hometown Grande Prairie Storm as a 16-year-old in 2008, he did his share of press box duty, knowing some day it would be his turn.
At that time, it was hard to imagine he would one day captain the club and lead it in scoring; represent his country twice, earn a scholarship to the NCAA’s Ohio State University; and culminate his last regular AJHL season with an MVP award.
The Grande Prairie centre edged Bonnyville netminder Julien Laplante, Okotoks forward Kyle Reynolds and Drumheller netminder Cole Cheveldave in gaining this year’s honour.
Fritz finished the regular season with 74 points – fourth overall in the loop – while playing all 60 Storm contests.
Over his Swan City career, he played 199 games, scored 81 goals, added 98 assists for 179 points.
He turns 20 in August and come fall, he’s off to Columbus to play for the Buckeyes and continue an education he has already began at Grande Prairie Regional College.
It is the third time a member of the Storm has won the award. Spirit River product Mike Lefley was the first to gain the honour in the 2001-02 season. Wanham native Dustin Sather did likewise in 2006-07.
His journey through his Junior A career has taught him a lot about hockey but a lot about life too – a rewarding journey indeed.
“Not knowing what to expect coming from midget, I quickly learned that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be an elite athlete,” says Fritz.
“Practising every day and playing every weekend was a difficult adjustment for me since I was used to practising just twice a week in midget, but that helped me mature as a player because I knew everyday I had to prepare for a hard day at the rink.”
The award comes as no surprise to his coach and GM Mike Vandekamp.
“He is deserving of this award because he is the true all-around player,” says Vandekamp.
“He plays all 200 feet of the rink equally well and with equal accountability.”
“Tanner suffered a setback in his first season when he suffered a broken arm and missed approximately half of that season. But he really hit his stride in his 17-year-old season when he was a major contributor to our AJHL Championship season.” Vandekamp says to be named AJHL MVP, one has to be much more than just a great player. Intangibles and an unrelenting dedication to all endeavours are a must.
Fritz has that in spades, says Vandekamp.
“His number one asset right from the beginning was his on-ice instincts and intelligence,” says Vandekamp.
Fritz, in turn, credits his coaches, his teammates and his family for helping him stay focussed.
“I owe all the thanks to my coaching staff and fellow players because they are the ones that have pushed me to be a better player and have helped me accomplish everything I’ve received these past four years,” says Fritz.
“It’s been easy to stay on the right track – the coaching staff makes it fun to come to the rink and work hard with your fellow players and playing hockey is something I love to do so it makes it easy to keep up my work ethic.”
The latest honour is another on a long list of AJHL accomplishments that Fritz honestly admits he never thought would he would achieve. But apart from hockey, he has always understood the value of community support.
“I have learned that being involved with the community is such a huge thing for us … getting to reach out to kids and families is very important because they are the best Junior A fans in Canada and we enjoy getting to know them better,” says Fritz.
“Throughout my career, I have been through ups and downs, but I’ve learned one thing about myself: I can push myself to the limit and make myself a better player and person.”
Vandekamp agrees Fritz’s dedication to community core values has helped him excel on the ice but also in his other endeavours.
“He is a great young man off of the ice, the captain of our team, our best player on the ice, and all of this while being a full time student at GPRC. He is definitely our MVP and a deserving of being named the AJHL MVP as well.”
As his club heads into a first-round AJHL playoff series against the Lloydminster Bobcats, Fritz can graduate top of his class and like any grad, he saves his top kudos for family.
“My dad (Irwin Fritz) he has been there for me through the ups and the downs and has always given me good advice when I needed it,” says Fritz.
“His guidance has made me a better player, but most of all a better person.”

Fred Rinne
Sun Media