When it comes to amateur sports in this province, there is no shortage of athletes who compete in a number of different sports throughout the year, sometimes within the same season.
Mike Dyke is no different. What sets the Gander native apart, however, from many of his sporting peers is that Dyke competes at the highest level possible. Before this summer is out, he will have participated in three - yes, three - national championships in a 12-month span.
© — Photo by Kenn Oliver/The Telegram
Before this summer is out, Mike Dyke will have participated in three national championships in a 12-month span - the Allan Cup national senior hockey tournament this past Spring, and the national ball hockey and baseball championships next month. As if being an all-star caliber player in three sports wasn't enough, Mike Dyke took up touch football this year.
"I've always wanted to challenge myself and push myself to be the best at whatever sport I'm trying to play," Dyke said following a St. John's Coors Light Touch Football League game with the Panthers earlier this week. "I love competitiveness. I love winning.
"If I'm losing in backgammon, I'm going to cheat."
Most people know Dyke as the Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars stud defenceman from the past eight provincial senior hockey seasons, but in addition to his recent escapades into touch football, he's also a standout baseball player, suiting up for the Storm in the St. John's senior league. He is also considered one of the best ball hockey defenceman in the province, who is also making his mark on the national level as well.
But hockey has long been his first love and during his tenure on the CeeBees' blueline, he quarterbacked the team to four Herder Memorial Trophy championships (2006-2008, 2013), won five straight Avalon East defenceman of the year honours (2007-2011), and one provincial defenceman of the year (2011) award.
Dyke has also played in three Allan Cup national senior hockey championships, winning with the Clarenville Caribous in 2011 and earning an all-star nod at this year's tournament in Bentley, Alta.
Not bad for a guy who fell short of playing major junior or collegiate hockey, competing instead at the junior A level with the Maritime league's Amherst Ramblers. Even more impressive considering he was a forward until halfway through his second year with the Ramblers.
"Once I made the switch (to defence), it seemed like every single year since I have improved. Who knows, back then maybe I could have made it a little farther," Dyke says, but quickly adds that has no regrets about the path he chose.
Lord knows the CeeBees are glad he came home to play senior hockey.
"The first year he played, he was one of the best defencemen in the league," says Ian Moores, Dyke's former blueline partner and now the CeeBees' bench boss. "He's been one of the biggest reasons why we've had success, and everyone in the province knows what he's all about and what he brings to a team. He's a great all-around player."
Dave Roper, a teammate, trainer and coach to Dyke over the years, says it wasn't until this past season, when he served as the CeeBees' trainer, that he saw how truly valuable the player was to the franchise.
"We have guys in the league who have NHL experience, AHL exeprience, European experience, and for the amount of hockey he's played, he's still, by far, among the top two or three defenceman in the league, up there with Martin Lapointe, Luke Gallant and Doug O'Brien," insists Roper.
"There's not one senior hockey team which would not take Mike Dyke in a second, and the same thing at the local baseball level. There are five club teams who would take him in a heartbeat."
Roper, the Storm's coach, calls Dyke a five-tool player on the diamond, one who, "can drop down a bunt for an infield single and in his next at-bat, rip one into the gap off the fence.
"He's just got it, he's a natural."
Dyke has been playing senior baseball since his midget days, when he was regularly picked up by the Grand Falls-Windsor Beothucks for the provincial playdowns. Dyke admits the Beothucks weren't always the most competitive team, but the experience alone did wonders for his game.
"It made me a better baseball player seeing that caliber of pitching all my life."
This summer, for the first time in his ball career, Dyke was invited to join the St. John's Caps for the national championships next month in Windsor, Ont.
Both Moores and Roper are familiar with Dyke's exploits on the ball hockey floor as well. He's been a part of five provincial championships with the Jets, and has been to two national championships with Newfoundland's team. Make that three after he joins the province's entry at this year's nationals in Montreal.
Dyke was even on the long-list to make this year's national team for the world championships staged in St. John's. Both agree he has the skills to crack the lineup, and Roper goes so far as to suggest he should have been part of this year's roster.
"After seeing some of the guys who were playing for team Canada, he's definitely better than three or four of those guys. He would have helped the team if he had dressed."
For his part, and as is his nature, Dyke is a little more humble.
"I didn't have the best national tournament last year, but it's just something to work on and try to get to Switzerland in two years," Dyke says, referring the 2015 worlds in Zug.
These days, Dyke, a self-professed football nut with a penchant for Sunday morning Pro-Line purchases, is working at improving his skills on the touch football field. As if his summer wasn't busy enough split between baseball and ball hockey, Dyke wanted to see what he could do.
"I'm sort of built like a wide receiver," he explains. "I have speed, I'm tall and lanky, I'm a good receiver, having played baseball.
"I figured I have the tools, so I would see if I could put it all together."
Sports, it seems, has always been and always will be a big part of Dyke's life, moreso considering the profession he's chosen. The 28-year-old just wrapped up a physical education degree at Memorial University.
"I knew in order to be happy for the rest of my life in my career, it had to be something sports-related. Something I've wanted to do is get a phys-ed degree and teach some young kids what I've been learning myself."
If his own sporting legacy isn't enough, here's hoping a handful of the students Dyke instructs in the coming years turn out to be half the athlete he has become.
Mike Dyke has been a CeeBee since he returned home from playing junior A hockey in Nova Scotia in 2005, and through last season he was the longest-serving active member of the organization. (The Delaney brothers, Keith and Ryan, had a one-season foray with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.)
Take a quick glance around S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace during a CeeBees' home game, and one is bound to see dozens of people donning a C.B.N. jersey with Dyke's name bar and his No. 19 stitched across the back.
"He's part of the family, in terms of the organization and the community," insists CeeBees coach Ian Moores.
But rumours of an impending move from C.B.N. to his hometown Gander Flyers - a team his father, Bernie, helped to a Herder title in 1980 - have swirled through the senior hockey circles since the organization joined Newfoundland Senior Hockey League last season.
Dyke is tight-lipped about whether the move will happen for the upcoming season, but insists it will happen.
"I'm going to play for Gander eventually. It's something I'm going to do," he confirms. "Seeing all the support the Flyers got in their inaugural year, it was amazing."
When and if the move west happens, Dyke knows the decision won't be an easy one.
"It's going to be hard," he says. "I've had so many strong relationships come from the organization, the fans and the people around the community who have grown close to me over the past eight years."
Including his long-time girlfriend, Caitlin O'Brien, born and bred Harbour Grace, the heart of CeeBee country.
"I'm sure she would want me to stay, but she knows it's my decision to make.
"If I did make the switch, I'd have buy her a Gander Flyers jersey, for sure."