WINNIPEG, MB. - Eli (Batter) Batt can play. After all, he’s a fifth-year defenseman with the Raiders Jr. Hockey Club, a league champions and one of the veteran standouts in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League.
Eli would prefer that his nickname be “Batman,” but that name was already taken by his father, Dennis Batt so it would appear that until his father relinquishes the name, Eli will have to stick with Batter.
It could be worse, one supposes.
For the those who know them, the Batt family is North End proud. Both of Eli's parents are Phys Ed teachers in the Winnipeg 1 School Division and the family has lived near the Inkster Industrial Park for years. Eli attended Juniior High at Sisler and eventually graduated from Garden City Collegiate.
He recently completed his training to become a fire fighter and has his Levels 1 and 2 and Hazmat certificate. Over the past four years he's worked in Saskatchewan building decks and has been employed with Bayview Construction and the City of Winnipeg doing concrete work.
Eli started playing hockey at age three and his dad coached him right through Peewee at Northwood Community Centre. He played in the Stars and Hawks programs and back in 2012, he was a late cut of the Provincial Triple A Midget Winnipeg Thrashers so he joined the Interlake Lightning in order to continue playing hockey. In 2012-13, he had a solid season, playing 44 games for Interlake, and that got him a shot with the Raiders as a 17-year-old in 2013.
He’s now in his fifth full season in the MMJHL and he counts last year’s Jack McKenzie Trophy win as the greatest moment in his hockey career.
“I also had a great experience in Bantam playing on a team with Adam Brooks, Dane Schioler and Chase Harrison,” he recalled. “We almost won it all. After winning the City and Provincials we lost in overtime at the Western Canadians against the Burnaby Winter Club led by future NHL star Matt Barzal. It’s a moment I'll never forget. The ref called us for tripping in overtime and a shot from the point went bar down on us. It was devastating. It sucked so much.”
Still, Eli Batt has persevered and to this day, he credits his dad and former coach Neil Chow with instilling in him, the ability to prepare both physically and mentally.
“Coach Chow always said the regular season is only preparation for the playoffs,” Eli said. “And I’ve always remembered that”
The Raiders, of course, are coming off a Championship season and they look to be heading in the same direction this year. Through the middle of January, they were 27-2-4 and held a seven-point lead over second-place Charleswood. On a team with veteran stars such as Carson Rybuck, Nick Mathews and Batt himself, no one should be surprised.
“Last year we got off to a slow start,” he said. “Physically we were in every game but we just couldn't close and were losing close games. The guys just decided to focus and work harder and it paid off. We didn’t have an easy route to the championship. We swept the top team (Charleswood), then beat St James and finally ended up beating the Stonewall Jets, a very good team, in six games. It was quite a year.”
The Raiders are a proud, well-run North End-based organization with strong coaching and solid ownership.
Batter summed it up this way: “With Neddie (President Ned Sanders) you never get bullshit. He tells it like it is. It's all about the community and giving back.
“Walking through our rink little kids come up to you and recognize who you are,” Batt continued. “We are role models and that's very cool. And the Raiders Alumni is the best. Picture yourself coming off the ice and seeing 40 guys cheering you on. These are guys giving back to the team and basking in reflective glory.
“The kids get so engaged with the players,” Batt went on. “All the Raider players participate in Let’s Read Month and again, it’s all about giving back to the community.”
Batt describes his style of play as: “A puck-dispensing defenseman." He also indicated that he has grown into “becoming a better a two-way player, focused on defense, but always looking to advance the puck.”
He makes it a point to “lead by example,” showing the way to the younger players and building up their confidence.
“I have to help the younger players just like the veterans helped me,” Batt said. “Past Raiders showed me the way, so I have to do the same. I’ve always believed that coaches guide players and players promote growth.”
10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT ELI BATT
1. As an assistant captain and the oldest veteran on the Raiders’ team, Batt believes the quality of rookie players the Raiders have is terrific especially rookie goalie Jeremy Pikel and forward Carter Ives. He was even more flattering about rookie defenseman Braden Sargent. “Braden doesn’t look like a rookie,” Batt said. “He just fits in perfectly.”
2. Batt likes the parity in the MMJHL and thinks Devin Muir and Chase Faulkner are two of the best players in the league. He also likes the Hawks’ Riley Gilmore and believes the best goalie is Kyle McHolm who the Raiders acquired this year.
3. Eli is an accomplished lacrosse player and attended the Lacrosse Combine this past September. Friends with Keenan Koswin who plays NCAA Division 1 at UMass-Lowell, Batt hopes to play in BC or Ontario next summer.
4. On the topic of food, Batt loves homemade borscht and his favorite hobbies include the piano and guitar. “My favorite guitar riff is Bob Marley's Redemption Song. When me and my family get together we all sing it together. Man it’s fun.”
5. The last book he read is White Fang, the classic Jack London novel.
6. His favorite movie is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and his favorite TV Show is Stranger Things (no argument from anyone at Game On).
7. Batt’s favorite actor is George Clooney and his favorite actress is Jennifer Aniston.
8. His favorite singer is the late Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip and, of course, the Hip is his favorite band although he loves some of the oldies, including CCR and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and his “own song" Eli’s Coming by Three Dog Night.
9. His favorite NHL team is the Detroit Red Winsg and his all-time favorite player was the great Steve Yzerman.
10. He believes the teams to beat in the MMJHL this year are the Stonewall Jets and the Fort Garry/Fort Rouge Twins.
John Ploszay, Game On for Manitoba Post
Photos by James Carey Lauder
Game On is Manitoba's only magazine dedicated to hockey in the province. Pick up a copy at any arena in Winnipeg.