Monday, July 11, 2016 - Submitted by Georgia Briggs
If you don’t know Jimmy Byers for his luscious hair and hockey skill, well, do you even watch ice hockey?
When you hear the Brave emcee announce ‘number 17, Jiiiimmmmmmmyyyyyyy Byyyyyeeeeerrrsss’ the Brave cave erupts. There is no doubt that Jimmy is adored by fans young and old.
Jimmy started playing hockey after moving to Canada with his family at age 6. “We watched the Mighty Ducks movie while we were moving across and we just kind of got into it from there. The outdoor rinks were all around us so we [Harry and I] just started skating and playing.”
At 22, Jimmy is well known in the league his stellar defence moves and has gathered an impressive number of awards in his career. “I think winning gold in the under 18’s was a pretty surreal moment. We won gold this year in the men’s team but it’s that first time winning gold, it’s something special. You get to sing your national anthem at the end of it. So that’s probably my best moment in hockey.” As for a worst moment, “we’ve lost a few big games and they always hurt to lose. Probably last year’s final was one of the worst moments, but there’s been a couple of those so you kind of just roll on.”
Regarding injuries, Jimmy recalls, or rather doesn’t recall, being concussed as his worst hockey injury. “I got knocked out and I woke up in the change room. I was trying to reach a puck so I went down on one knee to try and poke it forward and the guy was not going for the puck he was going for me and I flew backwards and my head hit the boards. Well that’s what I got told happened.”
Interestingly though, Jimmy’s worst injury stems from something that’s not quite as spectacular a story. “I got tripped over chasing a water balloon in grade 5. Broke both my bones in my arm and the bone was sticking out.” There was a silver lining though, while he was out with his broken arm Jimmy taught himself to do a few magic tricks with cards, a hidden talent.
But what about the nose? Surely Jimmy’s very distinguished nose was up there in his worst injuries? “The nose, I have no idea. I tell a lot of people that Harry broke it while we were play fighting when we were younger but I have no recollection of how it happened. I just can’t breathe out of my right nostril.”
Playing with his older brother by his side, Jimmy concedes to fans’ suggestions that they’re like “chalk and cheese”, but “I would suggest more like fire and ice.”
“We’ve always played together; we’ve always competed in hockey, a friendly competition. Whenever we’d play stick and puck we’d always play one-on-one, and at outdoor rinks we’d always try and beat each other and win. When we play together, we always just talk about the game afterwards and stuff which is really good.”
Another fan question for Jimmy was why he chews gum when he plays. “I lost my mouth guard last year sometime and so I thought “may as well have something there” so I chew gum.” What flavour he uses depends on what he is given by Bella, a young Brave fan and possibly Jimmy’s #1 admirer. “Bella sits beside the bench and always cheers me on, so it’s good to have her there. She gives me a box of gum each season which is cool, so special shout out to Bella.” This year he has spearmint.
Jimmy plays down his title as fan favourite, despite the obvious signs from noise levels spiking whenever he does anything more than stand and breath. “A lot of people cheer and I appreciate when everyone cheers, it’s really heart-warming, it’s nice. But, I don’t know how to answer that. I really appreciate all the fan support, I don’t know if I’m really the fan favourite. It does feel really good to have all the support and when someone yells out “Go Jimmy” it makes you smile. The support of the crowd is pretty huge.”
Jimmy also reached his 100 game milestone a few weeks ago, to his surprise. “I didn’t realise I had played 100 games. I just walked in and someone was like ’hey, it’s 100 games!’ and then they gave me the award which was pretty sweet. It was a plaque as well as a frame of me, so that’s pretty cool, it’s in my room.”
As for the Brave season overall, Jimmy is feeling good. “We’re starting to come together as a team. I think we’re all coming together now, we’ve bonded more as a team and everyone is getting to know each other a lot more, we’re starting to click. You can see that the wheels are in motion.” Fans will be pleased to know that Jimmy’s number one goal in hockey is to win the Goodall Cup.
When he’s not representing the Brave or Australia in ice hockey, Jimmy’s doing something else amazing. “I study a Bachelor of Science with Honours. I’m doing a research year this year in auto-immunity and in particular Systemic Lupus Erythematous (SLE). We’re looking at a rare genetic variation in SLE patients. They are specific gene mutations which cause the protein to dysfunction and then we can look at why the immune system is acting badly in that patient and try and treat that patient specifically.”
His proudest moment comes from university, though there was great discussion about how someone defines their proudest moment. “That’s a tough one. There’s a few times where you just feel overwhelming joy, but is that pride? Probably just something pretty simple but rewarding, like getting good results, something like that. You just feel pretty happy about yourself and what you’ve been able to accomplish.”
Of course no interview with Jimmy Byers would be complete without asking him about his hair, commonly referred to as The Flow. “I think it started with me just being like ‘I can’t really be bothered to get a haircut’ and then it just kind of grew to this awkward phase where I was like ‘I should get a haircut… or I could just let it grow’ so I let it grow and I just never looked back. The last time I got my haircut was 2½-3 years ago.”