In a small town where Wranglers fandom reaches wide and runs deep, there’s one local fan whose loyalty might run deepest of all.
100 Mile House coach Dale Hladun says it best of Christian Samson, the team’s assistant trainer for the last two seasons: “I think if you cut one of his veins, it would bleed blue and gold.”
Samson, 23, has been a part of the Wranglers organization since its inaugural Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season in 2013.
A regular presence around the home team’s bench at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre when the Junior B club takes the ice, Samson is an integral part of the behind-the-scenes action. As the right-hand man of trainer Rainer Meyer, he performs the many small but essential tasks that need to be done in and around a hockey dressing room: filling water bottles, handling sticks, tape and equipment, collecting laundry, fetching game sheets, and things like that.
While Samson likes to joke about the Wranglers not knowing what to do without him, it seems there’s some truth to that.
The team really misses him when’s he not around, coach Hladun explains.
“When Christian can’t make it, it’s: ‘Where’s this? Where’s that? We need this!’ Christian plays a strong role with us. He’s very detailed. He’s accountable. And he’s important to us on game day.”
It’s also fair to say Samson’s emotional investment in the team’s success likely matches that of anyone else.
If you catch him in the hallway after a win, Samson is a grinning, one-man fist-bump machine. After a loss – especially a bad one – his head shakes from side to side and his eyes scan the floor like they don’t believe what they just saw. It’s likely he’ll register a particular dissatisfaction with the recent result, followed by something about the boys having done their best, and getting them next time.
Plain and simple, he loves this team.
“I’m glad he’s involved with us,” says Hladun.
Meyer has also been with the Wranglers since the beginning. He was a trainer in Germany for a professional hockey team before coming to Canada. A registered physio-therapist, his main job is tending to players, preventing and treating injuries. Which leaves him little time for much of the many other ancillary things going on. Where Samson comes into play.
“He helps everywhere,” Meyer says of his assistant. “Christian is running around. He fills up the water bottles. He looks for the pucks. He looks for a stick if a kid breaks a stick.”
Samson is also employed part time at a local grocery store. If he’s not in his Safeway uniform, he’s wearing something with a Wranglers logo.
Spark up a conversation with him while you’re doing a bit of shopping and it’s going to be about one thing and one thing only – this team.
“He loves being a Wrangler,” says Meyer. “He’s proud to be on the team.”