Friday, October 26, 2012


Hockey-Southern Style 2012

You can only keep a good man, or a good woman, out of a hockey rink for so long. For that matter, bad people count as well. Once we settled into the southern life style here in Fort Myers, we scouted the possibilities of upcoming games of the Florida Everblades.

They began the season with six games against a new team in the league, the Orlando Solar Bears. It is a revived franchise. Almost fifteen years ago, I watched a Solar Bears game, and Alan Bester was in the Bears’ net. He got shelled, and pulled himself before the end of the second period. I waited to speak to him after the game. I think he was showered, dressed, and on the road before the third period began.

Also that evening, far up in the stands, sitting all by himself, was a keen hockey observer who also knew a little about the game: Bobby Orr. I introduced my sons, and myself to him, and told him one of my favourite Dukes was Doug Orr, his nephew. Perfectly understandable.

At last Wednesday’s game at the Germain Arena, old eagle eyes spotted another hockey legend in the last row, on a scouting mission: Scotty Bowman! These guys never quit. Always on a bird dog mission to find that certain individual who might have been a late bloomer., and an important piece of the hockey puzzle.

The Everblades are celebrating their fifteenth season in the ECHL. Team President Craig Brush sits in the corner of the rink, keeping a close eye on his team. He is a transplanted Canadian, from the Toronto area who played his shinny at Cornell several years ago. They are also celebrating their Championship Season last year when they won the Kelly Cup, for the  first time.

                                                        Dylan Clarke-South Carolina Stingrays
The Everblades were playing against the South Carolina Sting Rays, a team they faced 13 times last year. Listed on the Sting Rays roster is # 48 Dylan Clarke. Dylan hails from Belleville, had a cup of coffee with the Wellington Dukes, and spent the rest of his OPJHL time with the Kingston Voyageurs. “I was traded to the Voyageurs for Sean Turner, and a little cash,” he told me at the game. Unfortunately, at this point in the season, Dylan, along with a few teammates, including Tyler Johnson, is sitting out a few games.

                                                        Tyler Johnson and Dylan Clarke
This inactivity comes directly from the NHL lockout. Players who would be skating in the NHL have been sent down to the American Hockey League. The Stingrays are affiliated with the Providence Bruins of the AHL, and the parent team is in Boston. As a result, players who would normally skate for Providence have been shipped to the Stingrays, and players like Clarke get the short end of the stick, for the time being.

Clarke spent his minor hockey days in the Quinte area under the tutelage of local hockey coaches including his father, Robert “Buzz” Clarke. He attended Georges Vanier School, and St. Theresa’s Secondary School in Belleville. He began his junior hockey career in Napanee, moving up from the Bantam ranks. He spent three years with the Voyageurs, two as captain, and caught the eye of several American College coaches. He decided on the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, and spent four very productive years there, earning his degree.

He also had an opportunity to renew acquaintances with a few former Dukes who had chosen to play in Oswego. “We had a great rivalry with that team. All of a sudden, I was facing Peter Magagna, Josh Chamberlain, Tyler Lyons, Jared Anderson, and Joe Hall,” he added, smiling. “Same old guys, same intensity!”

Dylan believes that he and Rusty Masters are the only players from his minor hockey days still “living the dream”. Masters also played three years in the OPJHL with Port Hope and Trenton. He is currently with the Rapid City Rush of the Central Hockey League.

Clarke told me that he likes his chances of upward mobility better in the ECHL. “There is more opportunity to get called up from here.” He played for the Tulsa Oilers in the CHL last year. He is well aware of the opportunity to see the world as a hockey player, as his brother Dale, also a former Duke, has played for a dozen teams in the last 12 years, including a stint with the St. Louis Blues.

He sent his best to his many hockey friends in the Quinte area. He enjoyed watching his teammate Daniel Koger score as the fifth player in the shootout to give the Sting Rays the victory.

James Hurst

October 26, 2012



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