QUESTIONING EXCEPTIONAL STATUS
Broken Twigs P. 2 & 35
Vol. 1 No. 1
EARN YOUR STRIPES P. 25
OHL’S FINAL FRONTIER
THE PRE MIE ISSU R E
From Thornhill to London
THRILL P. 18
Born Leaders P. 12
The Troops P. 26
Bits and pieces from around the OHL
TWEET of the week
“A lot of players exceeded expectations playing into conversation for WJC.”
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Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski (through @CHLHockey), when asked by Inside the O if any players jumped up the charts during the Subway Series for the WJC. Inside The O’s
The amount of Subban brothers who have played in the OHL. All three, P.K., Malcolm and Jordan (pictured), all have played for the Belleville Bulls.
We asked, which OHL team has the best jersey in the league? Here are your answers.
London Knights Sault Greyhounds
HAVE YOUR SAY
@TheCamMurphy @Guitarsonist30 Erie Otters, the jersey colours make Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. I’m it look awesome too. biased because I own one, hahaha.
@TheRealDeWaR Nothing better than the Battalion logo. It’s not overwhelming/too cartoonish.
@HockeyFreeze Gotta go with the Sudbury Wolves. The cartoonish figure is what minor league sports is all about.
Letter From The Editor
he Ontario Hockey League is one of the biggest steps in a young boy’s dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup. The OHL produces a large contingent of players to the National Hockey League every year, making it one of the most prestigious hockey leagues in the world to play in. Fans sometimes forget that most of the players are still teens and many are still in high school, while still pursing the goal of a Memorial Cup. Putting everything on the line for a city they barely knew before being drafted by them. In Inside the O’s inaugural issue, we wanted to show a unique side to the OHL. A league that is full of character, historic arenas and a diehard fan base that makes the small-market league a fascinating spectacle. All of this we have tried to capture in the following pages. As a truly Canadian league, we wanted to make our readership proud with a magazine that delivers the answers to questions many hockey fans ponder at their favourite rink. What does “exceptional status” imply? How competitive is it to become an OHL referee? And many more. We hope you enjoy our first issue and remember; keep your stick on the ice.
Inside The O
www.insideohl.wordpress.com ‘Like’ us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter @InsideTheO
6’ 195 lbs. Shoots: Right
Growing up in Windsor, I idolized the Spitfires. Although I have always loved the NHL, the appeal of junior hockey, in what I believe is arguably one of the biggest hockey towns in Canada, was something my friends and I could follow together. It also helped that the tickets were cheap and there’s nothing else to do on a Thursday night in Windsor. My favourite players growing up were Steve Ott and Cam Jansen because of their grit. But the best part of the OHL – a new favourite player every year.
6’4 235 lbs. Shoots: Right Hockey has been embedded into James’ life from birth. Playing since he was 4-years-old and coaching for 6 years has given James the knowledge and love of the game that he incorporates into his stories. With a brother playing in the OHL, James has a personal connection to the league as well as a collection of league sources that he utilizes for Inside The O.
5’11 145 lbs. Shoots: Right Hello, I’m known to many as Larry Cheung, 21, single and ready to mingle. I enjoy NHL 99, and gym class ball hockey. I’m an aspiring professional golfer with a strong taste for physical activity. Borderline waterholic, I believe in hard work and self-belief. Anything is possible if you believe hard enough. Treating others the way I want to be treated one person at a time.
5'7 135 lbs. Shoots: Left Whether it was at the rink, on the street, at a pond or even at home, Taylor Giffin always had a stick in his hands. However, being vertically challenged halted his aspirations of playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Now Taylor stays connected to the game by replacing that stick with a pen and writes about the game he loves.
Separating Average From Elite
To Lead or Not to Lead
Paid to Play?
26 10 Think Before You Tweet
A Conflict of Interest
Is The Status Exceptional?
How the OHL Manages Social Media Use
It’s More Than Just Goals and Assists
The GTA: OHL’s Final Frontier
A Rookies Life
STEPPING UP Belleville Bulls forward Jake Marchment takes on a much larger Josh Brown of the Oshawa Generals. PHOTOGRAPHS JAMES TESSIER
FUTURE STARS 2011 exceptional status player Aaron Ekblad and 2012 exceptional status player Connor McDavid line-up during the Subway Super Series. PHOTOGRAPH JAMES TESSIER
HOME COMING Former North Bay Centennial Nick Kypreos salutes the crowd during a standing ovation at the Battalion home opener. PHOTOGRAPH JAMES TESSIER
econds. That is all it takes for something to be read by thousands, if not millions, of people. Last year, Owen Sound Attack goaltender Brandon Hope found out this harsh reality first hand. After sending out a questionable tweet, he found himself in trouble with the league. Leaving his reputation and his team’s in trouble. Although cases like Hope’s are not common, the Ontario Hockey League has put in place the necessary measures to make sure everyone is well aware of this new media. Paul Krotz, spokesman for the OHL, says information on social media platforms are no different than what can be reported on television or in the newspaper. He realizes that anybody attached to the league needs to be aware of what they are sharing online. “The Social Networking Policy is an internal policy that applies to players, staff, officials and anyone associated with the league and its teams,” Krotz explained. “It just asks that all of
those parties be responsible for what they do on social media and holds them accountable.” For a young player, learning what to share on social media websites can be difficult to understand. No longer can they post whatever they wish, but rather they have to be conscientious of their future. Especially for a player considered to be a top prospect in the league, building their personal brand on social networks is very important. Dr. Ann Pegoraro, director of the Institute of Sports Marketing at Laurentian University and an expert on sport communication. says most OHL prospects receive a lot of advice to stay off of online networks. However, the ones that are active in promoting themselves need to do so with a purpose, she says. “Anything the players are doing on social media is going to be a lot more around building their personal brand, showing teams that they are mature, that they are ready to make that step and those types of things,” said Pegoraro, whose research includes the connection be-
tween various forms of media and consumers of sport. “I don’t think they will be sharing as much about their life because I think that is really the advice they are getting at that point. To not show anything about their personal life and more about how serious they are about their sport and how they are training and ready to make the next step.” All players are expected to follow the Social Networking Policy developed by the OHL. However, it is up to individual teams to make sure their players are aware of it and are educated on how to appropriately and effectively use applications such as Twitter or Facebook. One way teams do this is by bringing in local police to talk about the ramifications from a legal standpoint that could arise from mismanaged social media use, says Jeff Twohey, general manager of the Oshawa Generals. He realizes his players are still teens who can make mistakes so he gives them one general rule to follow. “The one thing I made clear to them is you should never tweet JEFF TWOHEY anything that isn’t positive,” Twohey explained from inside his office at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa. With the majority of his team on a social media network, Twohey takes the proactive approach in monitoring their activity. So far, in his two years as the Generals GM, he has had zero issues involving the league’s policy. “I follow most, if not all, of our players. As do the coaches. We do try and monitor it and they know we follow them and they are now aware that NHL people probably follow them as well,” Twohey said. “They are under the microscope and we hope that they take that responsibility seriously.” ITO
BY TAYLOR GIFFIN IN AJAX, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY TAYLOR GIFFIN
FROM SEPARATINGELITE AVERAGE
By: Larry Cheung
elief...the one thing that can separate you from the average, and a common trait that those who are successful possess. For D’Arcy McConvey, captain of the 2002 to 2004 Bowling Green State University hockey team and former pro with stints in Europe and the US, belief and drive was what allowed him to utilize his skills on the big stage, and getting him to the pro ranks before injury ended his professional playing career. “For guys that make it, they’re wired a little
bit differently, this is what I’m going to do, and it almost comes off almost not rational,” McConvey said. If you talk to a player, you can almost tell right away whether or not they have a shot of making it or not. How they carry themselves, the way they talk and the way they present themselves, are all telltale signs of what they could potentially accomplish in the future. “It’s those guys, when they have that deep down belief and really feel that ‘I’m going to be a player’. It can sometimes come off as a little bit unusual, almost like a dream, but that’s definitely the separating factor,” McConvey said. Find a player who combines their love for the game with self-belief, and you will find someone who will work super hard to make their dreams real, it is this love and passion that will these players through the darker moments of their lives. Vivian King, who recently graduated with a degree in psychology recognizes this almost irrational belief if you’re an outsider looking in. She also believes that the bigger reward in pro sports pushes amateur athletes who recognize this to the next level. “Pro athletes are rewarded more by winning than amateur athletes. Therefore they work harder to win to get the reinforcement,” King said. “They strive for more than just being content.” The lure of big contracts and celebrity status is part of the motivation that will drive players to step up, work hard, and fight through the pain. Dave Meloff, former scout for the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL, current assistant coach with the Markham Majors atom AAA and director of player personnel and head scout for the Toronto Attack of the GHML, believes that “when you’re in minor hockey, you have 10% that are better than everybody, middle 70% that are the same, and the bottom 20% that shouldn’t even be playing triple A.” These numbers extend to the OHL with very minute differences. “The biggest thing that differentiates whether or not somebody gets there, is work ethic,” Meloff said. “Do they take shifts off, do they follow systems that coach-
es put in place or if they’re on their own path.” He believes the guys at the top are usually pure skills, but the guys that catch up and excel later in their careers are guys that have been just a little behind in the skills department but work super hard to make up for that. “The elite guys are elite in everything they do, from diet to training and work ethic,” Meloff said. Playing any sports (not just hockey) at a high level is a lifestyle. Everything you do in your life and with your life has an effect on how you perform. Things like choosing to drink water instead of pop, not having alcohol, and regular sleeping patterns are just a few things that could be done to better yourself. The journey to make it big isn’t a short one, it isn’t easy either. But those who do make it see this journey as an opportunity and embrace all the things that come with it. At the end of the day, accomplishing your goals and getting there doesn’t signal the end of the journey, it just opens up more doors for further improvement. Each door that opens gives a sense of fulfillment that no one can take away from you. Work hard and believe, the possibilities are there. ITO
TO LEAD OR NOT TO LEAD THE OHL’S HARDEST JOB IS CHALLENGING YET REWARDING When 19-year-old Josh Brown steps onto the ice, his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame along with his stern face demands respect from his opposition and his teammates. The blue “C” on his jersey stands out against the white of the Oshawa Generals home sweater. The stature, respect and the captaincy symbol all create one of the most significant aspects in the game of hockey, a leader. Leadership in the Ontario Hockey League is crucially to a team’s success. BY JAMES TESSIER IN OSHAWA, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAMES TESSIER
REIGN SUPREME Brown rarely has chance to relax on the bench as he must worry about his own play as well as the entire team.
team of 23 players ranging from 16 to 21 years old is a difficult group to keep control of for any coaching staff. Captains and assistant captains are relied upon to assist coaches in controlling and growing a team into champions. It was an offseason of change in the OHL as seven teams re-assigned the “C” to a new player including 17-yearold 2014 top prospect Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts. Of course, not all OHL captains are like the towering Generals defenceman, but although other captains may lack the size, they must have the essential leadership skills necessary to keep control of a rowdy group of young, high level hockey players. Oshawa Generals head coach D.J. Smith knows exactly why he chose Brown as captain for the 2013 season. “He’s a presence. He’s a guy who doesn’t stand for things that aren’t right. He’s willing to stand up and be vocal to guys when it’s easy just to agree with the crowd,” Smith said. And though Brown has never
previously been the captain of a team, he believes he has all the makings of a good leader. “I think that I have always had a bit of a leadership role,” he said. “I think people can feed off the way I play. I play hard and tough in my own end and stick up for my teammates, so whenever they need a hand, I go in for them. I think everyone listens to me because of it.” Smith knows what it takes to be an OHL captain, he wore the “C” on a Windsor Spitfires jersey in 1996. Smith uses Brown as an example of what an OHL captain should be when he said, “The big thing is that people have to be on time and they have to treat people the right way. He comes from a good family and that’s the way he acts. He doesn’t allow guys to do anything different from that.” A hockey team also has assistant captains that take on leadership roles. Oshawa has perhaps one of the most seasoned leaders in the OHL in assistant captain Scott Laughton. The 2012 Philadelphia Flyers first-round draft pick has experienced leadership in the dressing
room of an NHL team and he brings that knowledge back to his OHL club. “You learn to be a pro at the next level. It’s great to take it back here and to help the young guys out. I really don’t think that it matters if you have an “A” or a “C” or you don’t have a letter. Anyone can be a leader and everyone can contribute in their own way,” Laughton said. When a player accepts a leadership role on an OHL team, he also accepts the extra pressure that comes along with it. “It’s definitely a little bit of pressure,” Laughton said. “I had an ‘A’ last year too and I learned a lot from (former captain) Boone Jenner. I don’t really pay attention to it that much. I think I just do my own thing and play my game and the leadership part takes care of itself.” Brown seems to have the kind of pressure that only comes from being the captain of an organization that has been around for over 75 years. “There is definitely a bit of pressure especially because it’s such a well recognized franchise. They have been around for so long, fans and everyone expect a lot from me so there some extra pressure, but nothing I can’t handle,” he said. The leadership roles on an OHL team are difficult for players when they are made captains. Yet there will always be young men who are willing to take on that challenge to lead their club, especially when they know that those qualities are treasured at the NHL level where they one day strive to play. ITO
13 New OHL Captains 2013 Brett Foy Ben Fanelli Connor Boland Aaron Ekblad Jesse Graham Josh Brown Craig Duininck
PAID TO PLAY?
n the world of junior hockey, the dream for many is to take their game to the next level and compete in the OHL or the NCAA before entering the NHL. But if a player dresses up for an OHL game, he will become NCAA ineligible, even if the player changes his mind. The amateurism rule in the NCAA has a model in place that prevents current and incoming student-athletes from being paid to play. The OHL, along with the WHL and QMJHL make up the Canadian Hockey league, which is generally considered the world’s premier professional developmental league. Adam Murphy, who was looking into playing in either league when he was in high school, remembers his inability to play in both. As a fringe player, he went undrafted and continued to play AA along BY LARRY CHEUNG with his twin brother Scott to ensure they held onto any chance they had of playing in the NCAA. “OHL players are considered pro athletes by the NCAA, it’s the NCAA that declare the OHL and the Canadian Hockey League as a professional league,” Murphy said. “It’s known in the OHL that you sign a contract and are paid to play for them, and in some cases, sponsored to use certain equipment.” That pay comes as a weekly stipend of $50 and a year of tuition paid for for every year you play in the OHL. The NCAA couldn’t be reached for comments but the website states: “Amateur competition is a bedrock principle of college athletics and the NCAA. Maintaining amateurism is crucial to prevent an academic environment in which acquiring a quality education is the first priority. In the collegiate model of sports, the young men and women competing on the field or court are students first, athletes second.” Which has been brought forward in recent times with NFL star running-back Arian Foster admitting that he took money in his last year at the University of Tennessee. Their have been numerous known but unconfirmed reports of elite OHL players that have negotiated special clauses into their contract that include more money, or a percentage of ticket revenues. Some elite players also end up signing endorsement deals similar to those in the NHL. Last December, Reebok-CCM signed an endorsement deal with then 15-year-old Erie Otters forward Connor McDavid. Kurt Gottschalk, now 21 was drafted five years ago by the Guelph Storm in the 11th round but opted for the NCAA route. “I played junior A for four years, but didn’t suit up for them because if I did, I would lose my NCAA eligibility,” Gottschalk said. “If I knew they
wanted to keep me and were going to guarantee me four years of OHL, then I would have played. But they didn’t show a significant amount of interest, and being a late bloomer, it didn’t make sense for me to take such a big risk.” Gottschalk now plays for Fredonia State University, a Division 3 school in New York. “It’s so much fun here, but it can get pretty stressful at times with school and hockey,” Gottschalk said. “I’m going to take what opportunities I get and try to make the most out of it. I want to play pro after and eventually work my way into the NHL.” Scott Murphy, Adam’s twin brother was one of many players that played hockey in their early teens with hockey aspirations. Him and Adam played at the AA and AAA level into high school. They were above average players who might have had a chance of developing further in their hockey careers but decided not to pursue it because of the whole amateurism rule. “My brother and I were decent players, grew up and played with players like Jeff Skinner and Cameron Gaunce, [but] we decided not to pursue playing hockey at the OHL level because of all the things that it would make us not able to do,” Scott Murphy said. “Looking back on it now, if OHL players were able to play in the NCAA afterwards, we might have pursued hockey harder, but as fringe players at that level, it wasn’t worth the risk and we’re happy with our decisions.” The spotlight was pointed towards the amateurism debate with the October 16 release of Schooled: The Price of College Sports, a documentary that featured recognized icons in the sports media industry and former NCAA athletes who shared with us the struggles of putting food on the table while playing for top division 1 schools. ITO
IS THE NOTION OF AMATEURISM HELD
TOO HIGH IN THE WORLD OF THE NCAA?
L a s t
BY Corey Savard in St. Catharines, ONT. Bill Burke and his wife Denise never thought they would be the owners of an OHL franchise, but when their son was drafted by the Barrie Colts, they fell in love with the league. In 2007, his new-found passion inspired him to sell his Newmarket-based printing firm, which was earning over $4 million a month, so that he could buy a hockey team. He bought the Mississauga IceDogs and moved the team to St. Catharines. There, the team would play on the smallest and oldest rink in the OHL – Jack Gatecliff Arena. Burke, always a family man, sees his staff as an extended family and felt the intimate atmosphere of “The Jack” made it the perfect place to make their new home. The Gatorade Garden City Complex (renamed Jack Gatecliff in 2007) has been the home to five junior hockey teams in its 75-year history, but is in need of a minimum of $11.6 million in upgrades on top of over $1 million in annual operating costs. Therefore, the city chose to go forward with the construction of the $50 million Meridian Centre facility set to open next season. Garden City Arena was built in 1938 and was hailed by former OHA President W.A. Fry as “the finest hockey arena anywhere in Ontario outside of Maple Leaf Gardens.” It was the home of the St. Catharines Teepees who won two Memorial Cups (1954, 1960) and witnessed the career beginnings of Hall-of-Famers Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito. Now the historic arena’s future is uncertain as Ontario communities similar to St. Catharines have been investing in new
- Photo courtesy of gardencitycomplex.com facilities to host elite hockey, figure skating, trade shows, conventions and concerts. In order for St. Catharines to compete for entertainment revenue, they passed a motion in 2009 to build a new 4,500 seat arena with 24 suites, plenty of parking and numerous concession stands, all of which the OHL demanded. With a capacity of 3,145 (half the league average) on two-seater painted wooden benches, Burke says there is no better place to watch a hockey game. “There’s no other atmosphere like it in the OHL on game day because it feels like you are right above the players and the action,” Burke said of the tightly packed arena. When Burke first bought the IceDogs, The Jack was just “one of the other barn arenas” in the league, but now it will be the last. It’s low-lying roof made for great acoustics during the game and IceDogs Equipment Manager Kevin Emo says it is one of the loudest arena he has ever been in. “The fans are very loud, especially when the fans are talking, you can hear all the obscenities,” Emo said. “It’s very uplifting for the players, but not so much if you’re the visitors.” All while a large portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II looms over the rink. Emo has only been with the team for a year and finds his workplace can sometimes be a challenge. The dressing room is not as small as the one he had at his last job with the Barrie Colts, but he likes to refer to it as “cozy,” even the low entrance.
Photo courtesy of Doug Heron
As equipment manager he is in charge of all the storage space or lack thereof at the current facility and is looking forward to moving to the state-of-the-art Meridian Centre in September. Although he is happy to have an office at the arena, unlike the management who have offices at a building three blocks away. St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan believes despite the luxuries of a large facility, the city has done a meticulous job in maintaining its character. “People don’t realize, it’s only a ¾ ice, it’s not a full OHL ice surface,” McMullan said. The city fully operates the Garden City
Complex, which combines Jack Gatecliff Arena and the smaller Rex Stimers Arena and funded the whole $50 million Meridian Centre project. The IceDogs have been wearing a commemorative patch all season and have had a special throwback night for alumni of each of the four teams, many of which are in their 70s and 80s, that played before them at The Jack, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary this Fall. “They [Alumni] love it here. Some of them said they had never been back since they played,” Burke said. “They said they got jitters when they went out to drop the puck.” ITO Former St. Catharines Teepee Dennis Hall scores at Garden City Arena.
St. Catharines fans pack Garden City Arena for it’s grand opening on Dec. 20, 1938 to watch an exhibition game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and a few local squads.
The St. Catharines hold a banquet to celebrate the 1960 Memorial Cup champions.
WHERE TO PLAY
DECIDING BETWEEN THE OHL AND THE NCAA
or many young hockey players, deciding where to play after junior hockey could be as complicated as rocket science. The impact that their choice has on their lives could be the difference between elevating their game to the next level and staying stagnant. For many hockey players in high school, their dreams are to enter the OHL or NCAA system and further their games so that one day, their dreams of playing in the NHL could come true. Taylor Christie was a 6th round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2002 NHL entry draft. He had the option to play in the OHL and instead played junior A, before attending Bowling Green State University on a full scholarship and play with current Vancouer Canucks Kevin Bieksa for three years. He now works with College Hockey Experience, helping kids make well-informed decisions on where to play by giving presentations and taking junior teams to NCAA and OHL homes and see what a day in the life of playing in one league or the other is like. “I would say that the OHL no question is the best developmental league in the world for players between the ages of 16 and 19, but that’s just it,” Christie said. “You have to be there developing between the ages of 16 and 19 to really take advantage of what the OHL offers.” “I would say if you do a little inward examination of yourself in terms of where you are as a hockey player, where you want to be education wise, what your target dates are for goals in your life, when you want to graduate university by. You want to take all of the ingredients you can and put them into consideration and then decide whether or not you feel like you fit into that 16 to 19 year old bracket of being in the best league in the world at that time. Or do you maybe need to take a little bit of a step back and then enter the 2nd best developmental league in the world for players between the age of 18 to 25 years old, give yourself a little bit of a
longer window, developing into your early 20s as opposed to your late teens.” “A lot of people want to categorize the OHL or the NCAA as one thing or the other, and this or that is the better route. It’s really so individualized and every kid is so different in how they evaluate themselves, and the opportunity and what they want to do,” Christie said. “But for me, it was an unbelievable life experience, purely life experience playing in the NCAA.” The lure of playing at a big NCAA school and being a student-athlete is a life experience on its own as Christie said. It is not secret that student-athletes, especially at big NCAA schools will be more likely to get preferential treatment, not only from professors, but from the students as well. The friends of these athletes usually hear stories, bigger the school, bigger the story. Johnny Tancredi recalls some of the stories his high school friend told him when they’d get together over the break. His friend attended a PAC12 school on a athletic scholarship and was treated like a celebrity. “Bear in mind, this happened about eight years ago, but when you’re just out of high school, these kinds of stories hold more merit then they do now,” Tancredi says with a chuckle. “I remember when he came back from school over the break, we’d hang out over drinks, and he’d show us pictures of all these very beautiful attractive girls that he had “hung out” with. He’d also tell us how the school would help ensure his marks were decent.” This is just one of many stories that I heard from numerous people about their experiences as a student-athlete at a NCAA institution. Ryan Gottschalk, 23, decided on the other route and played in the OHL for four years before going to Saint Mary’s University for three on a full scholarship, as part of the OHL scholarship program where players will “receive a minimum scholarship of tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees towards an undergraduate degree for each year played in the Ontario Hockey League,” according to the OHL. “The decision to play for Barrie was an easy one for me as playing in the NHL was my dream as a kid and it was common knowledge in the hockey circles I was associated with, that playing in the OHL was the best way to make this dream a reality,” Gottschalk said. “When I made the decision to sign with Barrie, I did not have any NCAA interest, although I believe I most likely would’ve been offered up to a partial division one scholarship.” “The decision to choose going to Saint Mary’s University on a full scholarship over playing in the ECHL was a decision I do not regret and am happy I made to this day,” Gottschalk said. Gottschalk now works at Thomson Reuters. Playing in either league is an accomplishment in its own, both having upsides and downsides. Regardless of the path chosen, work hard and never take opportunities for granted. ITO
BY LARRY CHEUNG
L L E H C T I R E ARN
E, ONT. L IL V E L L E B FIN IN BY TAYLOR GIF OR GIFFIN L Y A T Y B S H P PHOTOGRA
ike every player who makes the step from minor hockey to the OHL, Mitchell Marner needed time to adjust some parts of his game. “My speed, my weight, getting up in the play more, backchecking hard against these bigger guys. You have to adjust to all that,” Marner said. Drafted in the first round of the 2013 OHL Priority Selection draft, Marner was taken 19th overall by the London Knights. Marner, 16, who played his minor midget year with the Don Mills Flyers (86 points in 54 games), is an exciting two-way forward with an offensive skill set. So far through 27 games, just over a third of an OHL season, the Thornhill, Ont. native has been able to produce with the best of his age. With five goals and 22 assists, he is two points behind Travis Konecny, the first overall pick from their draft year., for the league lead in rookie scoring. As for playing in a junior hockey-crazed market such as London, along with the fact the city is hosting the Memorial Cup this year and also starring in Quest for the Cup: A Season with the London Knights, a Sportsnet version of the HBO series ’24/7′, Marner said it did not take him long to realize what life in the OHL was going to be like. “After that first game you get all that pressure off you. It is now just part of your life and you have to adjust to it,” Marner said. And adjusting he has done.
hen he was drafted, Marner was listed at 5-foot-7, 130 pounds. Since then, he has been able to add more weight to his slight frame and also grew three inches. Allowing his transition to the OHL that much easier As a 16-year-old, Marner is still growing. It is important he does not overemphasize the strength component when staying in shape. Helping in that regard is Knights trainer and physiotherapist, Doug Stacey. He says that with rookies in general, the team does not stress adding exuberant amounts of muscle. “Now he is 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. So our biggest concern with [Mitchell] is his development and making sure that he develops properly,” Stacey explained. “So we won’t over emphasize anything except nutrition. Eat, eat, eat. Calories in, calories in, calories in to make sure that being such a go-go-go guy he does not lose weight.” Many teams may have been weary of Marner’s size during draft day but he does not need to be huge, says Stacey. “This kid is growing. He has brothers that are like 6-foot-2 and you kind of anticipate that he will keep going that MITCHELL MARNER way,” Stacey said. “He is a skilled guy, he does not have to be massive. We just want to make sure that he has got the frame or the muscle build that he needs.” The skill Marner has been showing off since the start of this OHL season has been present ever since he was young. That was the main reason why his father brought him to 3 Zones Hockey School. Rob Desveaux, owner and head instructor of the school, remembers the day vividly. “I refused his dad but his dad brought him and picked him up and put him over the boards. I said, ‘Okay, skate around the rink once and I will give you a yes or no’, because I only start them at 6 [years old],” Desveaux recalls. “He flew around the rink so impressively at 4 [years old] I said, ‘You’re in’.” Since then, Marner has developed into an all-around hockey player and one who Desveaux praises. He says Marner may have the best backhand pass in the world for his age and even says he is better than a certain NHL star at comparable points of their careers. “Mitchell is probably the highest skilled kid I have ever worked with,” Desveaux said. “My top student was Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and he is in the top 10 scoring in the NHL
The kid has a ton of skill and the more he gets comfortable with the OHL game you see it coming out
now and Mitchell is better.” Marner still uses Desveaux and credits him for helping both on and off the ice. “He has helped me out a lot with everything. My shot, skating, edge work. Everything I needed help with he is always there for me,” Marner said. “He is always there to talk to if I have problems. He is always there to help my mood, to bring me up if I am down. It is great having him.” It is not just his old hockey school instructor that Marner leans on in his first year playing with the Knights. His family, too, plays a very important role. “My family comes to every game,” Marner said matter-of-factly. “I see them after every game and talk to them for 5 or 10 minutes. They will come to my billet’s house the odd time and stay over for a couple hours and we will talk and hang out.” With all the support Marner has from friends, family, older teammates and coaches, it is no wonder he is off to such a torrid start to his OHL career. Not to mention his natural talent. “The kid has a ton of skill and the more he gets comfortable with the OHL game you see it coming out more and more and more,” Stacey said. But most importantly, Desveaux praises Marner as a person. “He is a pretty, pretty good kid. He is very, very polite and very, very respectful,” Desveaux said. “He is not a me-me player. He is all about the team.” ITO
A Conflict of Interest
BY COREY SAVARD
e wasn’t looking to hurt Carter Sandlak, but PeterborFighting only accounts for 10 per cent of head injuries in ough Pete’s enforcer Brandon Devlin still hit him from the OHL and Branch wants to focus on plays near the boards behind. With little need for his teammates to stick up because they are a player’s biggest hazard. for him, Sandlak, coined “The Sandman” by the local newsBrian Miller, head trainer of the Peterborough Petes, wants paper, instinctively gets up and charges Devlin because he to see less debate about fighting in the sport and is calling would do it again if nobody straightened him out. The two for the OHL to review the flexibility of the boards. In the NHL, enforcers know each other well, having played on rival teams there are standard dimensions and degrees of flexibility for in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, now they are on every rink, but in the OHL it depends on the age of the arena. teams only a short drive down the 403. Sandlak has the “They’re stationary and a player is moving. Boards are not advantage both in size and rage, all Devlin can do is clench 100 per cent the cause, but all you have to do is watch the his opponent to slow the onslaught. highlights and see players hit from behind into the boards.” At the beginning of last season, the Miller says the most severe injuries he has seen have Ontario Hockey Leagues introduced been from hard contact into seamless glass, which a 10-fight limit resulting in a 24% requires stiff boards. “There are more actual hits into the reduction in fights, far beyond what boards than there are actual fights.” was expected. Under the new rule, Miller says fighting has its place in the game, but he a player who surpasses the 10-fight believes there is a double standard when it comes to mark will get an automatic two-game the portrayal violence in hockey compared to suspension for every additional bout other major North American sports. up until his 15th fight, after which he “In MMA the goal is to knock the other will be suspended two games per guy out cold, in hockey that’s the biggest fight and the team fined $1000 to sin,” Miller said. curtail “needless fights” and concusCarter Sandlak, 20-year-old forward sions. for the Belleville Bulls and son of VanThe Canadian Hockey League couver Canucks legend Jim Sandlak, (consisting of the OHL, WHL, QMJHL) was second in fights last season with is the only amateur league in the 12 which caused him to be suspended world that still allows fighting, with the for four games. It’s not a role he sought U.S. collegiate system and European coming into the OHL as the 11th overall leagues coming down hard with ejecpick in 2009, it’s a role he grew into. tions and suspensions for just one “With the 10-game limit, it starts to get drop of the gloves. tricky towards the end of the season when The OHL is the largest contributor playoffs are about to start, guys will be Photo courtesy of Charles Warburton of talent to the NHL, with 50 players down to 10 fights and that’s when it starts drafted in 2013. OHL vice-president Baker says the rule was to get dangerous (for skilled players) with cheap shots from introduced to head in the direction of European and NCAA guys on the other team knowing there won’t be retaliation,” style hockey. Sandlak says. “I hope they don’t take fighting out of the “I think more and more people are recognizing that when game bcause it would be taking away a job from a guy who you’re watching the World Juniors and playoff hockey there deserves it (in the NHL).” is very little fighting, but the interest and the passion is still Sandlak points to the brawl the Toronto Maple Leafs were there,” Baker said. involved in during the pre-season that was started by Buffalo OHL Commissioner David Branch has been nowhere near Sabres tough guy John Scott going after Leafs star forward as outspoken as his counterpart QMJHL’s Gilles Courteau in Phil Kessel. Kessel knew he could not defend himself against banning fighting. In fact, Branch sees no need for a complete Scott’s 6’8 270-pound frame so his teammate David Clarkban. son was forced to jump on the ice to defend him. Several NHL general managers are calling for a ban on knock the to is al o fighting altogether, but there is still interest in junior league g e In MMA, th enforcers. Windsor Spitfires forward Ty Bilcke was in 37 ’s that ; in hockey, ld co t u fights in 2011-12 the year before the rule was introduced, o y u other g but only 10 last season. This summer he was invited to the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp and fought twice in prosn the biggest si pects tournament against two other aspiring enforcer prospects because players like Bilcke cannot make it in the NHL on skill alone. ITO - Kevin Emo, Peterborough Pete’s equipment manager
CLASSIC RIVALRY RENEWED BY CHL BY JAMES TESSIER IN OSHAWA, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAMES TESSIER
marked a period in sports history that has long since embedded itself into Canadian culture. The Summit Series is one of hockey’s most notorious clashes of the sports. Superpowers the featured a team of Canadian stars versus a team who was widely considered the greatest team on earth in the Soviet Union. It was the egotism of Canadian hockey that truly spawned the rivalry. When outof-shape, over-confident NHL all-stars showed up for game one of the series at the Montreal Forum, a place where losing was an uncommon occurrence, Canada received a much needed reality check. A faster, more skilled, more physically fit Soviet Union team made hockey fan in Canada realize the unfortunate truth that Canada was no the only greatest hockey nation. After Paul Henderson’s historic goal to clinch the series for the Canadians, the facts were that Canada won like they were supposed to, but the feeling of almost losing to the Soviet’s after a gruelling competition created hatred towards the foreign opposition. Fast forward to 2013. In the spirit of the classic series, Canada and Russia once again participate in the Subway Super Series. The sixgame series that began in 2003 puts Canadian major junior all-stars against a team of Russian selects. With this annual series, the question must be raised, is the classic rivalry of Canada versus Russia as strong as it once was in ’72 or is an event like the Subway Super Series diluting the significance of a Canada-Russia matchup? Many believe this is not the case.
“This series allows the best Canadian junior players to go up against the best junior aged Russian players,” said OHL head coach DJ Smith. “When you get the chance to have both countries play each other every year, you end up just keeping the rivalry alive.” With one of two games between the OHL allstars and the Russian selects being played in the jam packed General Motors Centre in Oshawa, this question was answered convincingly. Team OHL was filled with future NHL stars and like the ’72 series, it seemed as if the Canadians couldn’t lose. Since the inauguration of the series the Russians have never came to Canada just to play, they come to win. So it was no surprise when the Russian team began beating up the OHL in all aspects of the game.
With the OHL losing to the Russians for the majority of the night, that was when that almost genetic hatred of each other took over the game. The OHL resorted to the old fashioned rough and tumble Canadian style and players like the London Knights’ Josh Anderson was at the forefront. From puck drop to the third period buzzer, Anderson physically punished his Russian opponents. When asked about if the series today is as competitive as it was in ’72, OHL forward Michael Dal Colle had no doubts. “I think [the rivalry] is definitely still strong and every guy in that room knew that it was going to be a very hard-fought game and it was a physical game and a bloodbath out there. We don’t like them and they don’t like us, so I don’t think there is any difference.
The game ended as expected from a Canadian stand-point. If they were going to lose, they were going to go down fighting which was the mentality that started the game ending scuffle in the Russian crease. “It’s huge, growing up as a Canadian kid and going up against the Russians, everyone is competing and it sucks to lose,” says London Knights’ star Max Domi. “We don’t like each other out there that’s for sure and we both want to win so it’s fun to play in and it’s fun to watch for the fans.” So it seems as if the Canada versus Russia rivalry has not been hampered by an annual show put on by the CHL as just another money maker, but instead it has been carried on by the memory of one of hockey’s greatest series. ITO
Russians in the
EARN YOUR STRIPES The path to becoming an official BY TAYLOR GIFFIN IN PICKERING, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY TAYLOR GIFFIN
Know your signs?
BELLEVILLE MINOR HOCKEY
Junior A game that night in North Bay and the supervisor for the OHL [was there]. He thought I could do the job and put the phone call in for me and it just went from there,” Ferguson said. Of all the officials that show potential, Hache and his team select 20 “prospects” to attend main training camp. Here, they have every opportunity to make the officiating team. “They work some pre-season games and at the end of [the camp] we finalize our decisions and those that we feel are ready, we bring on,” Hache said. “Those that are not, are kept in our files.” At the camp “everyone is the same ... everyone is on an equal playing field” Ferguson explained. A “prospect”official could take a job away from a veteran official. Each year, out of this training camp, 8 to 10 new officials on average make the cut. Although the OHL provides a route to professional hockey for players, that is not always the case for the referee. Some stay in the league for the duration of their career but a select few are further scouted. In the last six years two officials were hired by the NHL, Hache said. He has 87 officials right now in the league and the NHL is currently watching about 10 of them. All the officials that come into the league are very good at what they do. However, Hache says, it is always the little things that can be worked on, until they become second nature. “You can never stop learning. You always have to keep improving and learning and wanting that,” Hache said. --With two minor midget showcases, a peewee AAA OMHA final tournament, an under 16 OHL camp and an under 17 OHL camp already on his resume, Desroches is getting meaningful experience to further his chances of finding a way into the OHL. But he under-
25 HO CK EYTR ON
ll eyes at the Don Beer Arena in Pickering, Ont. are focused on the faceoff dot. And for all Scott Desroches knows, there could be a set honed on him this night. He stands confidently, the centre of attention, and with a quick flick of his wrist the seven-year official sets the play in motion. At this point, his mind is zeroed in on the action, never wavering to the thought that this, like every other game, could be his big break. “Making sure I do exactly what the supervisors say I need to work on is the biggest thing,” said the up-and-coming minor hockey official. “So if I am positioned wrong or am doing my penalty call procedure wrong, I have to make sure the next time [the supervisors] come out to see me I have fixed my mistakes.” After all, the dream of becoming an OHL official is a difficult one. Unlike a player, you can never take a night off. --Every young official begins their career in minor hockey. It can separate ones who have it and ones who don’t. The better officials will get bigger, better games or perhaps move up to the Junior A leagues. Just like an organization does with a player, Conrad Hache, the director of officiating for the OHL, and his team look for future officials. “We have officiating managers that go watch minor hockey games and Junior A games,” Hache said. “When they notice an official that has the ability to work, or the potential to work in the OHL, then they are referred to us.” That is exactly how Scott Ferguson was noticed. “I worked a
stands there is always work to be done. “One of the things that I constantly do is when I go to watch hockey games, I’m watching the senior officials who are ahead of me to pick up on things that they do,” he said. ITO
NORTH BAY FROM THE WORST ATTENDANCE IN THE OHL TO THE HOTTEST TICKET NORTH OF THE BAY... THE TROOPS ARE FINALLY HOME BY JAMES TESSIER IN NORTH BAY, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAMES TESSIER
Since losing their Centennials, North Bay has longed for a chance to support another OHL team
orth Bay Memorial Gardens housed a once-proud franchise that was at the centre of life in the city north of the bay. It has been eleven long years since the Centennials left town after being bought and relocated by American owners. The return of the OHL to North Bay in October was nothing short of a historic homecoming for a small northern town. Monday, November 5 of 2012 was day that the Brampton Battalion announced their intention of relocating the team. In the final four years of existence, the Battalion ranked last in the OHL for overall attendance which played a key role in the move. North Bay Mayor Al Mcdonald was the primary figure on the cities side of the agreement and he spared no expense when working on the deal to bring the OHL franchise to his town. Fast forward through a long offseason, a $12-million arena renovation and nine road games to start the season, all culminating into one night that will not soon fade from the memory of the North Bay fans. Arriving at the Gardens before the Oct. 11 Battalion home opener, two things were apparent. The arena was not yet finished but was game ready and the crowd lined up on Chippewa Street would be just as rowdy inside as they were outside. “Right before the game we can hear the crowd going nuts and you could feel the energy in the room,” said Battalion forward Nick Paul. The pregame ceremonies lasted well over 30 minutes and the crowd was rarely quiet throughout. The building was at its loudest when former North Bay Centennials forward and Sportsnet NHL analyst Nick Kypreos followed the red carpet to centre ice. “We wanted to get the game going and we were ready to go, we were all fired up. We have been waiting for this the entire season the anticipation was killing us all,” explained Battalion Jake Smith in his first year as starting goaltender. After the long video ceremony featuring head coach Stan Butler, OHL commissioner David Branch, Battalion owner Scott Abbott and North Bay
mayor Al Mcdonald, the arena erupted as the players were introduced. “It was amazing and as soon as we stepped foot on the ice the fans went crazy. It was definitely something that none of the guys from Brampton last year have ever been used to so it was a great feeling to have all the support in North Bay,” said Smith. The Battalion started the game at a slow pace which was against their reputation as a hard forechecking and high energy team. The team believed that the slack start was because of the unfamiliar atmosphere that surrounded them. “I think it was great and it may have caught the players off guard too. I think sometimes even though in life you think you know what you’re going to get, I think it was even more than what we expected,” said head coach Stan Butler. After an uneventful first period, the Battalion fell behind Peterborough early in the second. But history was made at the 10:16 mark of the second period when the first ever North Bay Battalion home goal was scored. Dallas Stars draft pick Nick Paul tipped a point shot from Marcus McIvor for his fifth goal of the season. “It feels very special to get the first one,” said Paul. “It wasn’t really going through my mind at first but then I got to the bench and saw all the guys and they gave me a big pat on the back and it just hit me that it was the first one.” Although the Battalion lost their homecoming 2-1 to the Petes, they received a standing ovation as they let the ice. The team was disappointed about the result but they got a taste of what to expect from then on. “I call it a unique week,” said Butler “It was a crazy week trying to get set up in here and stuff like that, but that’s no excuse. You get 4500 people out here supporting your team the way they did and I just feel like we let them down. We just didn’t play the way we needed to play in order to win hockey games.” The North Bay Battalion sold more than 3,000 season’s tickets for the 2013-14 season and about 4,200 fans, both North Bay and Brampton fans, christened the new arena with energy and excitement. ITO
IS THE STATUS EXCEPTIONAL?
3 straight underage OHL players seems to dilute the meaning of “exceptional” BY JAMES TESSIER IN TORONTO, ONT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY JAMES TESSIER
When John Tavares was granted exceptional status and was drafted first overall the by Oshawa Generals in 2005, the Ontario Hockey Federation knew what it was doing. As if scoring 158 points in 72 games with the Toronto Marlies minor midgets in 2004 wasn’t exceptional enough, how about scoring 28 points in 20 junior “A” games in the same year as a 14-year-old? Since Tavares, there have not been any players quite as exceptional but a sudden three-year streak of exceptional status players in the OHL have hockey minds wondering how three players can come along in consecutive years after Tavares was deemed exceptional. In 2011, it was monstrous defenceman Aaron Ekblad. In 2012 it was phenom Connor McDavid and this season, smooth-skating, offensively gifted D-man Sean Day. These players all went through the same application process to try and jump into major junior hockey one year early. “The boys had done everything that they could have in minor hockey and were ready,” said North Bay Battalion assistant general manager Matt Rabideau
“I have never seen a kid that has the offencive ability and the skating tools that Sean hAs...”
who previously worked at the OHL.
“It’s a pretty extensive interview process that they go through with the family and the agent and with the boy himself, to see if they are physically ready and mentally ready for that next step.” Like the trio before him, Mississauga Steelhead’s Sean Day was put through the process outlined by the OHF in his efforts to get to the OHL early this year. “I had to write an essay and get questioned by a psychiatrist,” said the 15-year-old Day. “It was tough not telling anyone that you are doing it and having all of the rumors going around about if I’m not going to get in or I am going to get in. I didn’t even know and people were making rumors about me and that was tough.” The OHL wants these players not only because it is beneficial to keep future stars from playing elsewhere, but also because the league provides a new level for players no longer challenged in minor hockey.
“He went 4th because I think the three teams that were ahead of Mississauga wanted to take fowards.”
OHL director of central scouting Darrell Woodley was involved in the decision to grant exceptional status to McDavid and Day and he believes that there are nothing but positives from properly selected exceptional players. “If they are as good as they are touted to be than they can help promote our league,” Woodley said. “ We want players that are exceptional to be challenged because if you have a guy like McDavid scoring 60 points in our league last year, than imagine what he would have done if he was in minor midget with the Marlies.” Since the landmark case of John Tavares being granted access to the league, three players in three straight years makes it seem as though the process to gain approval by the OHF has become slack. However the OHL does not see it this way. “I think if you look at it were the bar is set with Connor [McDavid] and it was originally set with John Tavares who was the first to come in, you have guys who may have thought about applying but rethought it because of how high the bar was set,” said Woodley. “So at the end of the day I don’t think that they [OHF] have cut back on their standards and if you look at them all now, you can’t say that they have got it wrong.” It is obvious that all three recent exceptional status players are worthy of the playing in the OHL, but with Sean Day being chosen only 4th overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection, is he really as exceptional as the three players before him. “He went 4th because I think the three teams that were ahead of Mississau-
ga wanted to take forwards. Like when Logan Couture was supposed to go number one overall he ended up dropping to 12th when Tavares came in and that’s because some of the team committed to other players early,” said Rabideau. Woodley believes that people should over look the fact that Day was not the 1st pick and that he cannot be compared to the only other exceptional defenseman Aaron Ekblad. “The thing with Sean Day is that he is a different entity than what Ekblad was. This kid is a pure offensive defensemen were as Ekblad was more complete with the offense and the defensive game too. But I’ve been here for 12 years and I have never seen a kid that has the offensive ability and the skating tools that Sean does, he is exceptional in that aspect,” said Woodley. So it seems as though the last three years were simply a hot streak for the OHL and exceptional players trying to play at the next level. As for the 2014 draft, Woodley has yet to hear of any player who can make it four straight seasons with a player granted exceptional status and he says that if there was one, we would have heard of him by now. ITO
The Perks of being Loud BY Corey Savard in Oshawa, ONT.
rowing up as an Anglophone in Ottawa, a young Kyle Reid had a dilemma: Watch les Canadiens on a French channel or watch the Toronto Maple Leafs in his native language. The choice was easy, but when he moved to Windsor when he was 16, he chose to channel his love of hockey through his hometown team the Windsor Spitfires. The Canadian Hockey League launched its 2013 Ultimate Fan competition in 42 junior hockey towns across the country on Oct. 16. Team representatives are looking for the loudest and most passionately dressed hometown fans in attendance on their club’s night. But one of the OHL’s most famous “superfans” could not take part this year to defend his title. Oshawa’s “Captain Oshawa”, who refuses to reveal his real name, knows there are fans that love his team as much he does. Although it would be a daunting task to out-do the captain, who always sports a baby blue wig, theatre mask, cape and his trademark goatee.
His absence this year was much to the delight of Robin Barnier, another popular face at games, who finished with a perfect score in the intermission trivia competition. He won with the answer to “who was the last Oshawa General to wear no. 22?” (Boone Jenner). “I’m not much of a stats guy,” Captain Oshawa said. “Robin would have still won.” Barnier has been coming to Generals games for 45 years and has had season tickets for the last five. “I love following the players that are trying to make the jump to the NHL,” Barnier said. “It’s also great that the GM Centre has free Wi-Fi so I can follow other OHL games.” The captain says he doesn’t go to the games to be “the” superfan, but to be a regular fan when he attends
every Sunday afternoon game. Despite a following of more than 700 people on Twitter, he rarely tweets or looks away from the ice before the whistle. “’When I’m at the game, I respect everyone around me that are there to watch the game just like me,” he said. His C aptain Oshawa alter-ego was born three years ago at a playoff game in St. Catharines against the Niagara IceDogs. The little-known caped captain had got into a play fight with “Bones”, the IceDogs’ mascot. Fans told him after the game that he made their day and that’s all he ever wanted to do. “I do my part (giving back) by making people smile and being me,” he said. “I just want to be a positive outlet.” He often makes appearances at local charities and will sometimes show up in full uniform unannounced at Oshawa businesses that follow him on social media. Unlike Captain Oshawa, Windsor’s Kyle Reid superfan identity was given to him by the team. In 2006, the Spitfires new ownership announced it was building a new arena to replace the deteriorating Windsor Arena built in 1924 and was looking to re-energize the fan base that had been
Before, I was just a rude fan with a loud mouth,but it made me perfect for the job...
Photos courtesy of Goodall Media and Scott Webster
waning. Former NHLer Warren Rychel and his ownership group hired Windsor filmmaker Mike Evans to produce a short movie for opening night in which Evans asked Reid to appear in with a red-painted Spitfires crest on face. “Before that I was just a rude fan with a loud mouth,” Reid said. “But it made me perfect for the job.” In 2009, Reid, was asked to be in an $80,000 marketing campaign that was started by the club’s new ownership. His face painted with the Spitfires’ red shield was on billboards and in magazines for more than two years. “If you have pride in your community, you have very few ways of showing it,” Reid said. The Spitfires would win backto-back Memorial Cups with Reid as the face of a re-born fan base. It came with its perks; he was able to bring the Memorial Cup on a 30-stop tour around the city after the team’s first win in 2009, one of those stops being an LCBO where his friend worked. They took the Cup in the back and drank out of the top mug like they were champions. ITO
ITâ€™S MORE THAN JUST GOALS AND O O ASSISTS X BY TAYLOR GIFFIN
The movement in hockey and
the OHL to use advanced stats
Advanced statistics are nothing new when it comes to professional sports. After all, most people have heard about Moneyball and the ways of the Oakland Athletics in Major League Baseball. Now their use has emerged in the Ontario Hockey League.
level of play he pen eventually. is up against on “We don’t use the ice. Rela[statistical analyztive plus/minus ing] at this point. gives Pfeffer a One because of measure of how the cost and two much contribution because it is tough a player gives to to employ extra the team by subpeople for inputtracting the team’s ting data,” DeGray plus/minus from the said. “But as we player’s personal plus/ move forward it will be minus. something we definitely This season, howlook at.” ever, he may have DeGray understands lent his methods why these types of stats to a much more can be beneficial. He significant decision explained a situation in for the OHL club. which having the right The 67’s passed information available over Sean Day, would make a world a 15-year-old of difference. given excep“If player A loses tional status, in x-amount, or x-perthis year’s draft centage, of faceoffs and instead on the right side, selected forward defensive faceoff dot, MATT PFEFFER Travis Konecny. why would I put him in “Some of the numbers show that there?” DeGray explained. [this] may be a good pick based “Anytime you can come up with inforon what we saw in Konecny,” Pfeffer mation to maybe give you an advantage explained. “What Konecny did in minor midget as to who to play in what situations and why, relative to history, we really thought he was a that is always going to be beneficial.” guy that we couldn’t miss on.” Pfeffer believes in his craft and is going to Konecny was able to put up 114 points in keep trying to develop it and find new ways 54 games while playing minor midget for the of recording information from a hockey game. Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs. His scoring has not With other teams slowly gaining more interest subdued at the OHL level either, after a hot in what he and the 67’s are doing, it may not start sees him at the top of the rookie point be long until all teams in the OHL have their totals. own statistical analysts. However, not all teams have jumped on the “The quality of stats, the quality of what statistical side of hockey as quick as the 67’s we can get out of a hockey game is always have. improving. The more data we can get, the Dale DeGray, the general manager of more we can do with it and the more useful it the Owen Sound Attack, has yet to inbecomes,” Pfeffer said. ITO corporate the use of advanced stats, or a statistical analyst, in his organization. But that is not to say it won’t hapMATT PFEFFER TWITTER
ne of the people leading the way is Matt Pfeffer. An economics student at Trent University in Peterborough, but born in the nation’s capital Pfeffer has spent two seasons in the OHL as a statistical analyst. After a year with the Peterborough Petes last year, he now lends his craft to the Ottawa 67’s. Pfeffer knows the methods he prescribes may take a while to catch on in the hockey world, but more and more teams have shown an interest. “We didn’t have the same kind of numbers that we have now,” Pfeffer said. “We didn’t have the kind of brilliant minds working in [advanced statistics] that we have now. It is a new thing that people, who have been in the business for a long time, can find difficult [to understand].”coachCHRIS BYRNE ing change in Peterborough at the end of last year meant the man who hired Pfeffer was let go. It was not long before another team took interest in his work and came calling. Chris Byrne, the head coach and general manager of the 67’s, knew bringing someone like Pfeffer on board could only help his team. “We look at anything that will help us and make our team better,” Byrne said. “ For us, it gives us another perspective on what we are doing, on players in the league and how players are valued. It is not the only factor when we are valuing players but it another tool that we can use.” Pfeffer looks at all kinds of things for the 67’s. He reviews simple stats that anyone can see, such as goals and assists. But he also understands more difficult ones, such as quality player competition and relative plus/minus. Quality player competition allows Pfeffer to see how well a player performs compared to the
“Anytime you can come up with information to maybe give you an advantage as to who to play in what situations and why, that is always going to be beneficial.”
BY COREY SAVARD
nce upon a time at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens, the Toronto Maple Leafs raised 13 Stanley Cup banners to the rafters. Right next to them were seven Memorial Cup banners won by their farm team, the Toronto Marlboros of the Ontario Hockey Association, the most successful team in Canadian junior hockey history. The Marlboros would move down the 403 to Hamilton in 1989 due to poor performance and low attendance. In the last seven years, the Brampton Battalion and Mississauga IceDogs have moved outside of the Greater Toronto Area, while only the Oshawa Generals remain and are struggling to draw a half-capacity crowd. The Marlboros were once a powerhouse on the national stage with not only seven Memorial Cups, but 10 OHA (predecessor to the OHL) championships in 17 appearances. In the 1950s, they were the hottest ticket in town. The Leafs did not win a Stanley Cup from 1951 to 1961, but the city’s economy was on the rise after World War II and so was its passion for hockey. Former Maple Leaf Turk Broda was hired as the coach of the Marlies. He demanded success and won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1955 and 1956. The 1950s was the Marlies heyday. They had several players making the jump to the NHL, which was not always an easy task with limited jobs
OHL’s Final Frontier available on only six teams. Bill White, a defenceman for Team Canada in the historic 1972 Summit Series and played 19 years in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. He played three years under Broda in the late 1950s. White remembers a time when the Maple Leaf Gardens stands were packed for him and his Marlies teammates. “Sunday doubleheaders were unbelievable,” said White, who is now 74 and living in Toronto’s “Beaches” neighbourhood. “The mites (the younger division) played in the morning and we played in the afternoon.” The team was unique in that it was the only amateur association in Toronto that provided equipment to all its players by its owner at the time, Conn Smythe. “We would go to a skate room at Maple Leaf Gardens and we tried on reconditioned skates that belonged to the Leafs,” White says. “The sense of honour and pride was put through the ranks of the organization by the Smythe Family.” That was 56 years ago.
“It’s not about converting Leafs fans,
It’s about converting non-hockey fans...
Now, there is no Toronto Marlboros and with them went the appeal of junior hockey in the city. Scott Rogers, vice-president of the Steelheads, is aware of OHL teams’ failure to take a slice out of the Maple Leafs monopoly in the GTA market and knows it won’t be an easy task. “Mississauga is clearly a hockey market and it’s clearly a big market. Just look at the excitement the people have for the Leafs,” Rogers says. “I know it’s not the same thing, but OHL hockey is next to the NHL. These guys are future stars.” Rogers says the new ownership group led by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk sees the opportunity for growth in a diverse market like Mississauga and aspires to build a hockey culture in the Toronto suburb similar to those in London and Kitchener. “It’s about promoting awareness (of the team),” Rogers says. “It’s not about converting Leafs fans. It’s about converting non-hockey fans.” The Steelheads have an average attendance hovering around the 50 per cent at the Hershey Centre, but the ownership sees potential with their most expensive tickets at $21, compared to the Leafs’ cheapest seats at over $100. “You can’t beat quality hockey and a family outing for under $100,” Rogers said. The Marlboros also benefited from cheap seats to fill the stands. Dan Berger, assistant general manager at Mattamy Athletic Centre (the new name of Maple Leaf Gardens), fondly remembers going to Marlies games in the early 1980s to see future NHLers Sean Burke and Peter Zezel thanks to free tickets from the Toronto Star. “As a 10-year-old, I used to be a paperboy,” Berger says. “There were games that the Toronto Star would give us free tickets to, where there would be 16,000 paper boys jammed into the building.” Rogers doesn’t see the departure of the Brampton Battalion as sign of an OHL exodus from the GTA, but rather as less competition. With the departure, the Steelheads have the Peel Region to themselves, a population of over 1.2 million, and are even promoting the team in downtown Toronto. ITO
The sense of honour and pride was put through the ranks of the organization by the Smythe Family...
Photos courtesy of Charles Warburton
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It would be tough. It will take a pretty gifted goal scorer to play long enough to beat him. Brad Selwood, John Tavares’ former coach while with the Oshawa Generals, when asked by Inside the O if anyone will beat Tavares’ record.
Quote of the week
@budgracey Both Domi and Nurse should be on the team. But not even an invite Dispicable. @TheRealDeWaR What about Brendan Gaunce???
The amount of goals John Tavares (pictured) scored in his OHL career. A league record.
Inside The O’s
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We asked, who was left off of the selection camp roster for the Canadian World Juniors? Here are your answers. @gr8goodwin73 No Nurse is a bit crazy if you ask me. Domi, there are more options for that role. @brownsugar1990 Scott Kosmachuk.
WEB POLL Head to Inside The O’s website to add your answer to the web poll. What are you waiting for. Get ‘er done.
Which OHL team has the best chance of winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup? Erie Otters Guelph Storm London Knights
Oshawa Generals Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds