That Kid From Austria – Ottawa’s Marco Rossi Impresses On OHL Day In Cornwall

Fall has finally made its warm greeting into Canada and you know what that means. It’s hockey season! After a dreadfully hot summer it felt great getting into the crisp atmosphere of a hockey arena again. And I started my 2018/2019 season with quite the barn burner.

The Ottawa 67s and Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League graced the City of Cornwall with their exhibition presence on Labour Day. It was the first time the OHL had returned to Cornwall since 1993 when the Royals moved to Newmarket.

I didn’t think I was going to hop into scouting mode for an exhibition game but after a couple minutes into the first, I was kicking myself for not bringing a notepad.

Only one player really stood out to me and that’s unusual. I’ll usually pick a couple guys on each team to look at but this time was different. I could only focus on one kid because he was just that good.

I went into this game blind. I’ve been away from the major junior world for a bit now so I didn’t know who was who on the roster. I didn’t know who to look for and I didn’t know if any of these kids were drafted. What I do know is that one kid stole the show.

Mf131db750823a6f50d71d513d4fd0be2arco Rossi is a 16-year-old centre from Feldkirch, Austria.

You read that right.

Austria.

And you know what? This kid is going places.

Unbeknownst to me, Rossi was selected 18th overall in this year’s import draft by this 67s. He committed early which tells me he’s serious about his future. Picking the OHL at an early age is a hard-enough decision to make for North American skaters let alone somebody from across the pond. Commitment is half the battle.

What I saw on the ice was something I’ve seen lacking a lot in today’s junior game. One is hunger and the other is a hockey mind. Marco Rossi was the hungriest guy the ice. He never stopped from puck drop to the game ending horn. Lazy he is not a word in his vocabulary.

He created space if needed and played with his head. Always thinking. He was constantly moving, looking for any opportunity to present itself. He went hard to the net and was one of the only few on both teams who consistently got in the front of it.

It seemed to me that his hockey knowledge is vastly wise for his age. The maturity of play from this 16 year old is astounding. I mean, he still looks like a baby. Even with that white turtleneck tucked underneath.

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At 5’9 and according to Elite Prospects, 156 pounds, Rossi just flew up and down the ice. There is no worry about cement skates here. His skating ability is right up there on the list of his greatest assets. His edges are so clean, crisp and full of speed. Don’t even get me started on his back check. Which brings me back to the hunger. His hunger for the game made everybody else look a couple speeds slower then normal. Kingston was slow to begin with so they looked like molasses out there whenever Rossi was around.

Another thing I liked about him was that he really wasn’t afraid to throw a check and follow through. So many guys don’t finish their checks these days so it was refreshing to see. There is definitely a hint of the North American style play in his game already.

Rossi clocked in the first goal of the 3-2 shootout win for the 67s. Again, Rossi made the space and the play for himself and provided quite the stick handling procedure and accurate shot. Rossi liked to shoot in this game so it will be interesting to see how he adapts in the OHL. Last season he notched 51 points in 34 games with the GCK U20 Lions in the Elite JR. A league over in Switzerland. That looks great on paper but it might be difficult to translate that into high numbers on North American soil.

Hockey prodigy’s coming out of Austria are not unheard of but they are few and far between. Austria has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 1912 when they introduced their men’s team. They haven’t claimed a medal since the men claimed bronze in 1947. They are at almost 10,000 players registered with 75 outdoor and indoor rinks in the country. Compare that with Canada who has 631,000 registered players and 8,300 outdoor and indoor rinks. You do the math.

 

 

The National Hockey League is home to a few Austrians. Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and Michael Raffl were likely dreamt about by a young Rossi as he skated on the rink. Is it premature to compare him to these fellow Austrian greats? I’d say yes if we were comparing styles of play. But if we’re just talking chances of making a GOOD career out of if? This early snapshot says he’s definitely on the radar. He’s already being lauded as a high pick in the 2020 draft.

What is going to help is he got picked up by a great team. Last year Ottawa was running near the bottom rungs in the standings. That’s a terrible position for the team but it’s great news for a skilled player. More ice time to go around.

I’m hoping for the best with Marco Rossi. He got me excited not only about hockey again but major junior hockey in general. Let’s see how he gets settled with the atmosphere of being on a Canadian hockey team and everything that goes with it. Hopefully his energy and determination will translate well onto the scoresheet. He is a much-needed breath of fresh air on the ice.

 

Hey, has anybody made Marco Polo/Barber Pole joke yet?? Get at it Ottawa 67s fans!!

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An Open Letter To The Cornwall Hockey Fan

So Sportsnet is bringing its big shiny Hometown Hockey production to our fair city. Ron McLean and Tara Slone are lucky to be broadcasting from a city with such a rich and interesting hockey history. (And if you don’t know why, go do your research. Or have a chat with Thom Racine. You won’t regret it.)

Of course, that brings a smile to everyone’s face but I think we need to be reminded of some things.

Every sports loving citizen of the city of Cornwall should be well versed in the historical nature and importance the sport of hockey has had on it’s footsteps. A long and sometimes per petulant journey to win over the masses, Cornwall hockey is in a breed and distinction of its own. Not just because of players who have come and gone, fans who have cheered, cried or hell, thrown beer cans. But because of that face one gives you when you bring up Cornwall and hockey in the same breath. You know the one. It’s a mix of fear and more recently, a slight bit of disgust.

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But we love it.

We thrive on being the outcast. We thrive on being the unwanted. It’s how we grew up. It’s what we know. We left our dreams at center ice on the rinks in the parks of Mattice, King George, 8th Street, Optimist, and Reg Campbell among others. Throwing our sticks into a pile and one by one having them re-emerge as the National Hockey League player we were going to be that day. A select few of us were Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic or Sergei Federov. A player of a high skill. But most of us knew we didn’t have those kinds of hands. No, instead we were another set all together. We were Wendel Clark, Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Theo Fleury. Players we felt were one of us.

Some of us were guys we got to see every week. Mike Hurlbut, Serge Roberge, Josef Marha, Aaron Miller and Paxton Schulte each made us believe that Cornwall hockey will always have a place, however misguided and undesired by some it might be.

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The outcast and the unwanted.

There’s no better way to burst that stigma then to be an Ontario team in a Quebec league. I’m sure there was plenty of cursing going on when our Comets won the senior league championship. Only Ontario team in the mix and we proved our little city belonged with the big boys.

Not just us either. Our friends to the south own the distinction of being the Federal Hockey League’s first ever champions. I was there the night the Akwesasne Warriors won that Cup and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Turtle Dome that packed for a hockey game. After a brief absence, it was nice to have a winning atmosphere back in the community.

Lately, Cornwall fans have worn the distinction of being the unwanted with pride on a couple of occasions. Whether you agree with how some go about it or not, there’s one thing that never changes here. Passion.

And passion describes a very important part of the fanbase that’s fleeting. They’re the ones who sit in the stands and remind you of when they saw Maurice Richard at the Water St. Arena. Or when a then superstar kid from Brantford lit up the Ed Lumley with Team Canada. How about when Cornwall cemented its legacy in hockey history with back to back Memorial Cup wins?

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The Royals and their second straight Memorial Cup in 1981.

These stories need to never die.

And as much as we want to erase the River Kings fiasco, it’s now part of our hockey history. Its story very much needs to be told to serve not only as a reminder of how ugly things can get between a team, its city, its fans and more but to show that we never once lost sight of the fact that hockey brings us together in many ways. Everyone wants to remember the bad. Nobody wants to remember the good. And there was a sure lot of good things that also took place. What other fan base have you heard of that collected money to pay the players themselves? I bet that hasn’t happened often.

And some stories need to be followed.

With a solid developing system in place thanks to the CCHL, the Cornwall Colts will be churning out tons of collegiate players to the fold. Did I mention in our own backyard? NHL teams are looking at Junior A teams more then ever so it would be wise of the Cornwall fan to have their eye peeled on the ice. Speaking of Cornwall stigma, there’s one behind Cornwall hockey fans and the Colts. There’s no reason why one can’t take in a game here in there if you’re a hockey fan. There’s more hitting then you think. The Cornwall Colts fill the outcast and unwanted void more then words can describe. That’s not a good thing.

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(Photo: icelevel.com)

And new stories need to be told.

The Federal Hockey League, however wishy-washy it may be, has put trust in the Cornwall market. This is a special time for the Nationals and a special time to be a fan. You’ve stuck through every other team through thick and thin so why stop now? Stop saying things that will bite you in the behind if they come out blazing out of the gates.

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The Cornwall Nationals are a story that is waiting to be told. Who is going to tell it if there’s no one in the stands? No one in the stands to witness what could become a Cinderella story in the making. That’s the beauty of hockey. Things change by the minute.

So, with the news that Ron McLean and Sportsnet’s Hometown Hockey will be making a stop here in March of 2018, I challenge every Cornwall hockey fan to not be fake when you’re out there cheering and smiling for the big jumbo screens. Go to some hockey games in your city. Cheer on the Nationals, support the Colts, watch the Ontario Hockey Academy teams at the Benson Centre, check out the SLC Sharks as the go for the umpteenth championship, support the Typhons, support Junior B. The list goes on.

We live in a world that gets crazier by the day; sometimes it’s nice to have something like hockey to believe in.

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FORMER ROYALS CAPTAIN JASON CIRONE BATTLING CANCER

A former captain and fan favourite of the often-missed Cornwall Royals is under going a battle for the ages. Jason Cirone, the once hard shooting centreman at Ed Lumley’s center ice, has been diagnosed with an aggressive stage 4 cancer. Back in May, doctors found a tumor in Jason’s calf. Labeled as a rare but aggressive soft tissue cancer, myxoid liposarcoma, Cirone underwent five weeks of radiation in an attempt to stunt the tumor’s 59572-3342612Frgrowth in time for it to be surgically removed.

In the meantime, more tumors were found. Another in his calf and another in his chest, just below his throat. Both turned out to be malignant. The tumor in his chest was removed during biopsy.

Myxoid liposarcoma is a chronic reoccurring cancer. As seen from the incidences of how quickly the tumors have come about, doctors have diagnosed it as stage 4. There is hope however as myxoid liposarcoma may go into remission.

Jason Cirone played 4 years with the Royals and was an integral part of the team not only on the ice but in the locker room as well.  Notching 250 points in 189 games, the Toronto native was also a main driving force in the Royals playoff runs from the early 90’s. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 1989 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, Cirone played 3 games and managed a shot on net with a minor penalty. He then headed to Europe to close out his playing career.

As with most retired players, Cirone is currently in the coaching circuit. Cirone started assistant coaching in the NAHL and NA3HL before making the jump to head coach for Midland University. Located in Freemont, Nebraska, the Midland University Warriors play out of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Jason’s family has set up a Go Fund Me page for his ever-accruing medical bills. You can help with financial assistance by clicking the link below. Every little bit helps.

https://www.gofundme.com/helping-heal-jason-cirone

Cornwall is rooting for you Jason!

Once a Royal, always a Royal.

Protect The Nation: Cornwall Nationals And Their Big Off Ice Turn Around

Well look at what we have here Cornwall, a REAL hockey team.

Relax, I’m not talking about on the ice.

Even though the Cornwall Nationals sit in the bottom rungs in the Federal Hockey League standings, the turnaround this organization has had off the ice is nothing short of impressive. This is what hockey in Cornwall has needed for a long time. A plan in what seems like it’s heading in a solid steer headed direction.

In the couple of weeks that have passed since GM duties have been handed to Basem Awwad and Kris McCarthy becoming Sales and Marketing Director, the Cornwall Nationals are finally making a name for themselves. Quite a few events of getting players out into the community have happened in this short period. It’s more then can be said for Cornwall teams in the past who were focused on events to make money. Of course, money is a good thing (they needed it to stay afloat) but players donning their jerseys and showing their face around town shows pride and a sense that they care about the city and not just the hockey. (Exception being the Colts. They’re all over town but that’s a junior hockey staple.)

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The Nationals attend the grand opening of Rachel’s Kids, House of Hope by Dr. Rachel Navaneelan

It shows longevity. It tells the hockey fans of the city of Cornwall that they believe that hockey can work here. They are determined to make it work and fans can look to them in joining the fight that is the long-term vision of hockey at the Ed Lumley Arena. Be it the FHL, the LNAH, or if major junior decides to knock on the door again, community involvement goes a long way.

This is what happens when you put real hockey people in hockey positions. People who are familiar with both the league and its players on a face to face level. They’ve been around a few years, got a few notches in their belt and are not afraid to strive. They know what works and what doesn’t already.

In a recent interview with the Standard Freeholder, GM Basem Awwad mentioned that he was cutting ties with part time players and looking to set up player housing in Cornwall. Once again, someone with a straight vision for what is needed to help the team both on and off the ice. Part time players do nothing but hurt the team in the long run. The FHL is trying to become a legit developmental league on the path to the NHL. The Nationals also need to start attracting players from other areas then in our back yard.

"The Autograph Zone" taking place after a home game.
“The Autograph Zone” taking place after a home game.

The way this whole team and season was put together was very fast. I get that they needed big local names to get people in the seats and still do. It might be time to take a minor step back from that approach. You’re limiting your hockey pool by so much. At the same time, posting Facebook comments that complain about the calibre of hockey are probably some of the stupidest things I’ve read. You expect them to be top of the league all season with a team that was put together a month before the season started then complain about scheduling? Give your head a shake, this isn’t your precious National Hockey League.

I wish the team would have taken the season off to garner more community interest and market themselves before making the big splash onto the ice. Unfortunately for me there’s no time machine but I must say that I’m thoroughly impressed with how the new front office has a core belief system showing through. Players are having fun and when that happens, the fans will follow.

Time for me to take in a couple more games and see how we look on the ice now that my surgery is behind me. Look for that article in the coming weeks.

Fans, would you be interested in player interviews or stories about them? Send me a message on Facebook or in the comments of this Facebook post and I’ll see what I can do!

(Oh! And before I forget: #ProtectTheNation sounds better then #ProtectingTheNation. Just some friendly teasing. The new Nationals players will get used to me in a jiffy! Haha)

Another Era in Cornwall Hockey – The Revamped FHL

Hockey season is here again and once more we have another foray into semi-professional/professional hockey by the city of Cornwall. City council came out and said they don’t want to get into the “hockey business” but let’s face it, the name of the city is smack dab on the name of the team. Kind of have to go with the flow now. And they are. Just this week the city of Cornwall bought a rink board inside the Ed Lumley Arena. If that’s not a step in the right direction of a city giving a blessing for the team, then I don’t know what is.

But, why now? Well, for one, the Cornwall Nationals are in a completely different league. A league that has a bit more of a favourable opinion in the hockey world and a league that is trying to actually develop players to the next stage in their career (three FHL players signed with SPHL teams this week, a goaltender attended LA Kings training camp, some are on loan with AHL teams, and some have had ECHL try outs last year). It is not the same FHL that held the Akwesasne Warriors as champions. There’s no staged fighting and you’re not guaranteed a fight every game. I’ll let you decide on the quality of play when you see it.

14291702_184075755356901_2702889070874924457_nThat’s not to say you’re not going to get entertaining hockey out of this venture. Cornwall fans know how to make any team feel like Stanley Cup Champions no matter their record. You can’t deny the heart they put into saving the LNAH’s Cornwall River Kings and I expect that passion to continue with the Nationals especially since most are familiar with the FHL landscape. And for $13.00 a ticket? That’s cheaper then the Junior A Cornwall Colts for crying out loud.

Another thing worth pointing out with the Nationals is the crazy experience they are going have with their roster. A simple click on Elite Prospects can show you the average age of each team in the league. (excluding Cornwall because they are obviously not at full roster status yet). Luckily for you, I went and did this so you don’t have to: (Brewster either folded or went dormant for this year so I’m not counting them and St. Clair is starting up this year and in the middle of signing guys as well, as far as I recall.)

Average age based on 2015-2016 season

Watertown Wolves: 25 years old
Berlin River Drivers: 24 years old
Danbury Titans: 25 years old
Danville Dashers: 25 years old
Port Huron Prowlers: 25 years old

Most of the guys Cornwall has already signed are well above 25 years old and are coming off extraordinary pro careers. The majority of this league picks up guys just turning pro from junior or NCAA. Don’t get me wrong, there’s extreme talent happening in those two categories but you absolutely can not push aside the wealth of experience the Nationals already have in signing what, 7 guys already? Insane.

A lot of people brush me off with my opinions of hockey in Cornwall and that’s their right to do so. Just let me say one thing. The way this team is coming together in this league so far, I have my doubts that anyone will be able to stop them.
As long as the team doesn’t fold at Christmas.

Just kidding.

Check back once the roster is complete for a complete player profile and run through so you can have an idea of who you’ll be cheering on!

A competitive Cornwall River Kings? They just may surprise you

It’s felt like 40 degrees for the past couple weeks and doesn’t seem to stop for the foreseeable future. It’s time to start thinking winter and with winter comes hockey! In my temp neck of the woods of Cornwall, Ontario, that means it’s time the Cornwall River Kings to come gliding out onto the ice of the Ed Lumley Arena.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I haven’t written about them lately. I know most of you turned a blind eye to some of my articles when I was elaborating on issues and moves. (Hey, I spoke the truth and I was right.) However, it’s time to speak up once again.

Why haven’t I been writing about them?

Because they’re doing things right.

And it’s now, more then ever, that we need to praise them for it.

Now I can only talk about roster moves because I’ve been blocked from seeing things on facebook but for the first time in several seasons and maybe since the inaugural season, the River Kings are going to ice a competitive team. Overall, they’ve traded better, they’ve acquired better, they’ve drafted better and they’ve signed better. The brass has gone after guys with exceeding reputations. Likely the work of Bob Desjardins that I hope Rick Lalonde is exemplifying his valuable input.

Let’s take a look at some of the newcomers that are going to grace the bench of the very quite possible Big Red Machine of the Cornwall River Kings.

MARTIN LARIVIERE

Back in the beginning of June, the River Kings sent Maxime Vachon to the Thetford Assurancia in exchange for tough guy Martin Lariviere. Lariviere has spent his entire hockey career in Quebec having his Jr. A days with the Lachine Maroons and bouncing the around the old crazy Quebec senior league and the LNAH. It will be different to not show up to the arena in Thetford this season as spent the past 8 years with the squad.  However, it was here where he fine tuned his reputation as a pest and an agitator. While not a big lad, 5’9 on skates can be just as intimidating as 6’4. After leading the team in PIMs with 210 last season, you can look for the big man from Verdun to put up just as much.

 

OLIVIER CROTEAU AND JEREMY VIGNEAULT-BELANGER

QMJHL (LHJMQ) hockey profile photo on Prince Edward Island Rocket Olivier Croteau December 16, 2011 at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec city.
Croteau

In the middle of June, the Kings acquired Croteau and Vigneault-Belanger from the Jonquiere Marquis for a draft pick. Heck of a deal I might add.

Croteau has a couple of really decent Jr. A seasons combined with experience from not only teams in the QMJHL (Gatineau Olympiques and PEI Rocket) but with Team Canada U-17 World Championships as well. At 6’2 and boasting a left handed shot that is much needed on the depth chart, Croteau will be a nice welcome to the younger guys on the squad and on the ice.

 

 

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Photo: Mariane L. Gelais

Another young kid that has QMJHL experience is Vigneault-Belanger. A season with the Quebec Ramparts was enough to cross over into the LNAH territory. Two years ago he put up 58 points in 38 games with St. Georges. Last year while bouncing between St. Georges and Jonquière, Vigeanaut-Belanger was almost a point a game player with 35 in 38 games. Given the right players to play with him, this kid could turn out to be something.

 

LOU DICKENSON

When Dickenson retired from pro hockey earlier this off-season I shook my head when the River Kings drafted him. (I still forget that the LNAH is semi-pro!) I knew how great of a player he is and was equally excited and disappointed at his retirement. After I finally realized my mistake, I jumped for joy and wondered how the hell the Kings pulled this off.

ag_HLh5lDickenson, who you may remember from CBC’s Making the Cut back in the early 2000s, has had a huge and lengthy pro career that has taken him almost everywhere. Well, at least all over Europe. He’s a scoring machine which is definitely needed badly for Cornwall. Even if those European clubs are sometimes a lesser calibre it is not a knock on Dickenson’s play. Those pictures out there with him in a gold helmet? That’s to showcase the top scorer on the team. Neat thing to have.

He played 13 games with Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, crushed out 20 points in 13 games and took home the championship. Last season he spent it with the Dundee Stars of my beloved EIHL and went over a point a game. Another asset is he’s a big guy who can skate and can hold his own. He’s another left handed shot (told you they need them badly) and accustomed to the bigger ice. If Bob Desjardins can put a smart right winger who isn’t flashy and sticks to the little things on his line combined with the smaller ice, Dickenson will be scoring for days in this league.

 

JEFF LEGUE

Legue_Lifts_the_TrophyIf you’re a hockey fan that lives in Cornwall and don’t know who the hell Jeff Legue is then I’m sorry, you need to get out to the rink more. Legue, who has reached legendary status in Sheffield, England, had decided to retire from pro hockey and move back home to Cornwall with his family. It was obviously a no brainer that a conversation about playing for the River Kings was going to come up at some point. I’m not going to ramble about how much Legue’s hockey means to the city (and to the country of England) because like I said, if you don’t know then there’s a problem. But if you do want to brush up on his career, have a read at a sort of biography I did with him a couple yeas ago. You can check it out here:  Jeff Legue: Two Cities and the Sport of Hockey

I can truly say with all honesty that for the first time in a while it is an exciting time to be a Cornwall River Kings fan. They celebrate a milestone this season in turning 5. I hope we can look forward to different events and celebrations to mark this feat. Maybe there’s a 5th Anniversary patch in the works?  Who’d ever thought we’d last this long? Who knows.

What I do know is it’s only 3 more months until you can start chanting “Go Kings Go.”

ONTARIO HOCKEY ACADEMY FIRE – HOCKEY FAMILY IN NEED

While millions of viewers had their eyes glued to the Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the eventual winners Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, a feeling of fear and sadness was rolling through the city of Cornwall, Ontario.

See, as Sidney Crosby was raising the Prince of Wales trophy as Eastern Conference champion, 90 students/players of the Ontario Hockey Academy saw their on ice dreams suffer a major setback.

OHA was on fire and burning quickly.

article_largeCornwall’s fire Chief, Pierre Voisine, seems to think it had been started in one of the dorm units that houses the students (no official confirmation as of yet). As the flames continued to rage and get worse an evacuation was called. Over 100 people, students and staff alike, spent the night in the Ramada Inn down the street. No one was hurt.

Here’s where things get sad and tricky.

Belongings were lost, hockey equipment has been lost and maybe most importantly, passports have been burned.

Most of the students are European and classes were supposed to finish up today. Flights had been schedule to fly out as early as this Saturday. Of course, I don’t know which players are still here but just taking a gander at the men’s Major Midget AA team roster, it includes students from the UK, Australia, Israel, Belgium, and Germany. That’s just for one team! Luckily for UK students, the British Consulate in Ottawa has already been in contact with OHA to see how they can help in speeding things up. However, it’s not clear just yet about the others. Hopefully as the day goes on today we’ll get some kind of idea of what’s happening on the international front.

CjbPIq1XAAEu1bvFor those that don’t know what the Ontario Hockey Academy is, it’s a high performance academic-athletic private school. Basically high school and an awful lot of hockey. They prepare you for the University or College route to the big time. It’s a big thing internationally because students from all over the world can come and learn from hockey’s best: Canadians.

While the fire has been put out and I’m sure an investigation has been put underway, thoughts now turn to what can we do to help. If you’re looking to start fundraising, collecting items for care packages, helping to replace items and what not, drop me a line at march.hockey@gmail.com so I can get the word out. I have a pretty big reach locally and in the UK that I’m sure could be useful to help these kids get their dreams back on track.

Ontario Hockey Academy. What happened has happened and now it’s time for the rest of hockey’s family to step in and have your backs. This won’t keep the Mavericks down.

TRENTON GOLDEN HAWKS FLY TO THE OJHL BUCKLAND CUP

For the first time in 18 years, the Trenton Golden Hawks are back in the Ontario Junior Hockey League finals. After what seemed like an easy four game sweep of the Kingston Voyageurs in the North East Conference finals, the Hawks begin their Buckland Cup championship journey in the next few days.

CfPFB0XUUAESajvIt’s been a season to remember for Trenton as they’ve had little trouble compiling wins throughout the season. Ending it with a record of 44-6-1-(3), the Hawks ran the whole way as league leaders. Players such as Danny Hanlon, Mitch Emerson and Hunter Fargey contributed on a pretty much nightly basis to keep the gold and black machine rolling. The goaltending greatness of Daniel Urbani kept the door closed to the opposition with little trickling through. Injuries were played through; giving the impression that this was Trenton’s time.

 

“You don’t play for a championship too often.” – Jerome Dupont

 

CfZ92LwWIAA0P-tCoach Jerome Dupont, (or JD to those around him), demands a high level of execution when it comes to his players. He wants to win with the Trenton Golden Hawks and he wants to win now. A former National Hockey League defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs, Dupont is used to having winning ways as a coach in the OJHL. Upon his arrival four years ago, he turned his Trenton team from last place dust collectors to a first place powerhouse. His guidance is what propels these Hawks players to the next level. It’s their time.

The 2016 playoffs have been a somewhat easy road for the Trenton Golden Hawks. The first round saw them roll past the Newmarket Hurricanes. Then came the Battle of Quinte as the Hawks were victorious against the Wellington Dukes. A final sweep of the Kingston Voyageurs keeps them at the head of the OJHL pack, salivating at the mouth for a taste of the Buckland Cup. “We have something special and it’s only going to get better from here,” said Hawks forward Kevin Lavoie, “I’m proud of every single person on this team. We believe we can do it and we truly feel that this is our time.”

A Buckland Cup win will send the Hawks to the Dudley Hewitt Cup out in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. If they’re successful, they’ll make the hard road out west to the national championship, the Royal Bank Cup. There’s no reason not to believe these great young group of kids can’t go all the way.

Why?

Because it’s their time.

MATT SUDERMAN 1983-2016

It’s never easy to lose someone.

It’s even harder to lose someone close unexpectedly. You’re not prepared for the emotional toll that follows the days, months and even years after one’s death. But a death is much more then mourning. It becomes a time to reflect and celebrate a life once lived to its fullest.

When the unexpected news of Matt Suderman’s passing arrived on my plate this past weekend, I was stunned as many of you were. That news is still bothering me which is only natural. When I started writing, Matt was one of first players I became good friends with. While I only caught the end of his career, I could tell that he was a special guy; especially by the way people spoke about him.

At 6’3 and 235 pounds, Suderman was a giant, albeit a very friendly one that most can testify too. A big boy coming out of the prairies with a solid junior career with the Saskatoon Blades under his belt, Suds was never known for his goal scoring prowess or point totals. No, he was that big body you wanted in front of the net, to block shots and to know you’re safe on the ice whenever he was around. Everyone needed a guy like him in the locker room.

Being a likable character and knowing his role on the ice lead to being a very late draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 7th round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Yes, that may be a late round pick but being drafted is being drafted and it’s a fantastic accomplishment. Sudsy played his entire career bouncing around the minors. That’s not unusual for most. But being able to get paid to play a game you love can sometimes be a reminder to one self that you’re one of the lucky few.

matt_sudermanSuderman was a fan favourite almost everywhere he went. Whether he was dropping the gloves against Mario Joly and Erick Lizon with the Arizona Sundogs, blocking shots for the Dundee Stars or taking the lead with the Hull Stingrays, Suderman was a man who commanded respect. And that respect was given to him a million times over.  In Hull we saw him fight for what was right and for what he believed in.

Matt Suderman was also diabetic.

I find this must be mentioned for all of young athletes out there struggling with the terrible disease or those who have just been diagnosed and thinking they have give up the sports they love. While there famous hockey stars that played and continue to play through it (Bobby Clarke and Max Domi come to mind), it’s important to know that even the tough guys and guys who you have more in common with then you think you know, also have to fight through something. Sudsy never let the illness define him. That’s one of the main reasons he’ll always be a close friend to me.

Yes, we must mourn our loss. Another great human being has left this Earth way too young. But let’s honour and celebrate our friend’s life and career with laughter, smiles and fond memories.

I leave with you a message I received one morning from Sudsy.

“Ashley, I swear to god if you use the words “semi-pro” again, I’ll slap you in the arm. Not the face, but the arm. Stings more.” 

I haven’t used that word since.

#RIPSudsy. We’ll miss you.

 

John Scott: Is This The Fitting End Of The Enforcer Era?

It’s all over.

As John Scott grins from ear to ear on his teammates shoulders and as he collects the NHL All Star game Most Valuable Player award, it seems to be a fitting ending to a long chapter and era of the National Hockey League.

Without realizing it, John Scott, sitting on top of Taylor Hall and Mark Giordano’s shoulders, is the TRUE last of the enforcers. As he waves to the electric Nashville crowd, the era of goons and enforcers of the NHL close out like a Hollywood movie.

(Photo: Toronto Star)
(Photo: Toronto Star)

Throw away the drama that the NHL created about this guy for a moment and just think about that. Is there any other guy in the National Hockey League at this moment who plays the same role as Scott? There’s no promising that Scott will ever get called back up to the big leagues again. Montreal doesn’t have a spot. He’ll grind it out on The Rock, in St. John’s, Newfoundland as their Canadiens affiliate.

Hollywood honestly could not have written a better ending to the enforcer era even if they hired Mike Myers to do the writing.

This is a crucial time for hockey in general. As more and more criticism and arguments come out based on head shots, concussions, CTE, players committing suicide and depression, the league slowly started to phase out the enforcing role and let it ride quietly into the night. However, most hockey players will tell you that role keeps hockey safer and keeps players in check.

This weekend was a huge win for John Scott. You can tell with every flash of the camera on him that he’s happier than he’s ever been to be apart of a spectacle like that. He turned into the NHL’s very own “Rudy”, and carried the hearts of thousands. I’m sure his story even turned on new fans to the game as well. I bet Arizona is kicking their behinds now on the amazing marketing campaign they could’ve had. John Scott, Coyotes jerseys would’ve sold out within seconds.

And he earned his keep. Anybody who juggles 4 years of playing hockey at Michigan Tech while earning an ENGINEERING DEGREE is more than deserving of the opportunity.

(Photo: Players Tribune)
(Photo: Players Tribune)

It was a win for Scott but it was also a win for every enforcers who has EVER played the game of hockey no matter what league you’re in. Seeing one of your own be ridiculed by management and league officials then embraced by the entire league’s fan base at a game that showcases the best of the best is a definitive high-five for the job they do night in and night out. (Just FYI, Scott’s not the first tough guy in the All Star game, Mr. Probert was selected in 1988.)

The enforcing occupation is a dirty job but for the past 30 years, someone has had to do it. There’s a lot of pride that goes into the hearts of these guys just from protecting their players. They become respected around the league even if they come with much less talent. They are also some of the most soft-spoken guys you will meet off the ice. Case in point, John Scott.

As the All Star weekend came to a close, it really does feel that we finally come to the end of an exciting and fantastic era of NHL hockey even though I’m afraid of what’s next. Will fighting make a comeback? Maybe. If things get insanely out of hand 10 years from now it just might. But if you want to see a quality scrap in the meantime, you’ll have to make your way to the LNAH.

All in all I can actually say that I have not had this much fun over an All Star game or a player for that matter since I was a kid. Great job Nashville for hosting it as well even though I’d rather have James Hetfield coach then Vince Gill.

Oh, and who do you think will play Gary Bettman in the John Scott movie?