Rekindling a rivalry

Givens family on different sides of Alpena-Central matchup

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena assistant coach Cam Givens watches from the bench during the Wildcats hockey game against Petoskey on Wednesday night at Northern Lights Arena.

Sports can bring families together. Many sons and daughters grow up playing youth sports and are coached in some way by a parent.

After an athlete’s playing days are over, some tend to use the knowledge they gained from their parents and other coaches to teach and begin coaching themselves.

Tonight’s Big North Conference hockey matchup between Alpena (5-2-3) and Traverse City Central (4-3) will be more than just a game between two rivals.

Tonight’s contest will have a different feeling for the coaches behind the bench of the two conference foes.

Alpena head coach Chris Limback is still recovering from shoulder surgery and assistant coach Cam Givens has filled in to coach the team on an interim basis along with assistant coach Caleb Montroy.

Givens grew up playing hockey in Traverse City and later played high school hockey for the Central High Trojans before going on to play junior hockey for the Traverse City Hounds.

While playing for the Trojans, Cam was coached by his father, Chris Givens. A lot has changed for Cam since playing for Traverse City. After sporting the Trojans’ black and gold for so long, he has spent the past ten games wearing Alpena green and white.

“I moved to Alpena two years ago and I’ve known coach Limback since I was little when he coached against my dad. When coach Limback knew he was going to be out for a while, he let us know a week in advance that we needed to step up and pick up the slack coaching,” Cam said. “It’s going to be a little weird seeing my dad on the opposing bench after playing for him for so many years. As far as the Alpena-Traverse City rivalry goes, I think this definitely adds more fuel to the fire.”

For as much that has changed over the past few years for Cam, the duties of his father remain the same.

Chris is still coaching the Trojans and will be making the trip to Northern Lights Arena tonight and for the first time, Cam and Chris will be on opposite benches, coaching against each other in one of the Big North Conference’s top rivalries.

“It’s going to be different. We’ve been going to Alpena for so many years and I’m happy he got this opportunity to coach over there,” Chris said. “I know he’s been looking forward to this game on the schedule for a while. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be special, but also weird seeing him on the other bench.”

The two teams will meet tonight riding a ton of momentum. The Wildcats are winners of their last three games, including two big wins in their annual Blue Line Tournament over East Kentwood and Macomb Dakota. Alpena will return to the ice fresh off a conference win over Petoskey on Wednesday and will enter tonight’s game with one win and a tie in conference play.

The Trojans sit atop the conference with a 3-0 record and have victories over Cadillac and Traverse City West in their last two games.

“I’ve seen Alpena play and they are a very good team. I think this is one of the better teams they’ve had in while because they have some real good skaters and are solid all around,” Chris said. “We know they’re going to be fired up playing in front of their home crowd and we need to go out and match their intensity. We’re expecting a tough challenge and great game. I’m looking forward to Friday night.”

Tonight’s matchup has so much at stake, from family bragging rights to an early season grip on first place in the Big North for the winner.

“We both want to win and it’s going to be competitive, but before and after, I’m sure we’ll have our same old conversations and keep it light. It’s going to be fun, maybe a little weird at first, but once the puck drops it’s just another hockey game,” Cam said. “I expect a fast game. Both teams work really hard and I don’t expect it to be a high scoring game, but it’s going to be quick and I hope it’s packed here Friday night because it’s going to be a really good game.”