Thursday, September 22, 2011


Under Watchful Eyes

The Wellington Dukes headed south a fortnight ago to play in the Woodchuck Hockey Tournament in Burlington, Vermont.

There were almost thirty teams involved in the tournament. Most were from the eastern parts of the United States and Canada, from a variety of leagues. The Atlanta Knights Junior A club was there, from Georgia. Several teams from the Dukes’ OJHL were there including the Lindsay Muskies, Vaughan Vipers, Trenton Golden Hawks, Oakville Blades, Upper Canada Cyclones, and the Aurora Tigers.

There were teams from the Junior College ranks of Quebec, teams from the Ottawa Valley. Most of the teams were from the States, and they were impressive.

It was my first experience at the tournament, and I asked a few questions. Sitting behind us during one of the Dukes games were the coaches from the Portland Pirates. They were preparing for their last game of the tournament. I asked one of the coaches about the quality of play. I indicated that I was pleasantly surprised. His name is Kent Hulst, and he spent many nights at the Quinte Sports Centre as a member of the Belleville Bulls.

As I ambled around the arenas, and chatted with the personnel, I uncovered several answers to the puzzle.

Over the past fifty years, many Canadian youngsters headed south to the United States to play hockey. Some went to American universities and colleges on full or partial scholarships. Others played for professional teams, in the many leagues throughout the nation.

Americans have developed a love for the game. They also decided years ago that they wanted to be able to play at the highest level. In order to do so, they needed funding, (never an issue), and they needed great coaching. So they coerced many Canadians to remain in the States after their careers had expired. The young Canucks married, fathered children, and began coaching at the various levels. As a result, today there is little difference between Canadian and American youngsters in their development.

Kevin Sneddon coaches at the University of Vermont. He kept a keen eye on the ice as we chatted. He attended Harvard several years ago, and was team captain. Following his hockey career, he moved up the coaching ranks to his current position. “I really enjoy watching the games,” he told me. “Our season has not yet started, and that gives me an opportunity to get out and see some games.”

A partial list of the coaches from other universities and colleges attending the Woodchuck: Yale, Potsdam, Amherst, St. John, Plymouth State, Assumption College, University of Alabama at Huntsville, Colgate, Maine, Dartmouth, Holy Cross, Canisius, Army, Clarkson, Brown, Hobart, Princeton, Ohio State, Buffalo State, RIT in Rochester, RPI, and Plymouth State. Pro scouts from the Winnipeg Jets, the Blues and the Capitals were there.

Most wear the same uniform: black shoes, black socks, black slacks, black zippered jackets with team logos neatly embroidered on the left side, just above the heart. All were cleanly shaven, neatly groomed, and were as secretive as CIA agents. They carried similar notebooks, making scratches as the games wore on.

Trevor Large is an assistant coach at West Point Military Academy. A Brampton lad, he went to Ferris State on a scholarship, and remained in the U.S. He informed me that the great military rivalry between West Point and RMC is being revived this year, after a brief hiatus. Very good news. The West Pointers will be in Kingston for the event in 2013.

Hundreds of players, all trying to show their best in this showcase event. A great opportunity for all players to further their education and skill development.

James Hurst

Monday, September 05, 2011


Belleville Bulls 2011-2012

You will need a program to follow the exploits of the Belleville Bulls at the beginning of this season. The personnel have changed radically, for a variety of reasons. There has been a significant injection of new blood, undoubtedly for the better.

The last couple of years have been trying for the Bulls, and expectations are that this year’s squad will fare better than last year’s team. The Bulls squeaked into the playoffs last year, only to be skunked by the St. Michael’s Majors in the first round. That will not happen this year.

Last Sunday, the Bulls hosted the Oshawa Generals at the Quinte Sports Centre. The Generals are expected to do very well this year. Although they did not dress their full contingent, they played well against the Bulls.

The Bulls were rocked with two key injuries last week. First of all, returning defenseman Branden Morris tore his Achilles tendon, and will not dress until after Christmas, if at all this season. Secondly, Russian-born Danny Zharkov, who looked great in pre-season scrimmages, went down with a broken clavicle, and will miss several weeks.

The Bulls dressed backup goaltender John Chartrand, and he backstopped the team to a 6-3 victory over the Gens. Still early in the pre-season, the win had to be a confidence booster for the Bulls.

This coming Saturday, the Bulls will play the Kingston Frontenacs in Wellington at 7:00pm. Yes, you did read that correctly. This is a first. Never before has there been an Ontario Hockey League game of any kind in Prince Edward County.

It will give many Bulls fans a chance to see the Essroc Centre, often referred to as the “New Duke Dome” for the first time. The rink has proven to be almost perfect for the Dukes. Many scouts, coaches, managers, and other hockey authorities have nothing but praise for the new structure. “It is expected to accommodate hockey and other community activities for the next fifty years,” facility manager Andrew Morton told me recently.

The entire facility is worth a gander, for any of you who have not had the opportunity to view the place.

The Bulls and the Frontenacs have had a great rivalry ever since the Bulls entered the OHL. Several players and non-playing personnel have spent winter evenings on both sides of the rink. Larry Mavety has likely spent more time behind both benches than any other coach or manager. A member of the Belleville Sports Hall of Fame, “Mav’ grew up in Belleville, and distinguished himself as an athlete. He was an outstanding ball player, and spent his winters away from home as a professional hockey player. After many years as a coach and manager of the Fronts, he currently serves as a consultant for the team.

There will be many new faces in the Bulls’ lineup this coming season: Jordan Subban, the third brother to dress for the team, Garrett Hooey, Brady Austin, Simon Gronvaldt, and Chartrand. Rookie prospects include Mack Lemmon, Jay Doherty, and Alex Carnevale. Returnees Brendan Gaunce, Luke Judson, Austin Brassard, Carter Sandlak, and Michael Curtis should have a significant impact on the Bulls’ fortunes this year.

Tickets now available at Lavender Furniture.

James Hurst
September 5, 2011

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