Monday, October 14, 2013


This and That in Junior Hockey


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This, of course, applies to all of you who live north of the border between Canada and the United States. The American Thanksgiving comes much later in the year. Canadians are in the process of harvesting all of the goodies from the gardens, and fields, and orchards before the frosts and snows of winter.


I caught two fine hockey games last weekend. The Wellington Dukes continue to roll along, and, across the Norris Whitney Bridge, the Belleville Bulls pulled out a squeaker Saturday night. They edged the Guelph Storm 6-5. The real corker from this result is that the Bulls’ netminder, Charlie Graham, was the first star of the game. Almost unheard of, considering that he was scored on five times.


I neglected to mention that he faced 72 shots in the game. No overtime. No shootout. Just a constant barrage throughout the game. Normally, goalies face an average of thirty shots per game. Belleville took 29 shots at the Guelph goalie to skate away with the victory. That totals more than 100 shots in regulation, a lot of rubber for the ‘tenders to face. The Storm crept back into the game late in the third period, but could not seal the deal.


You sometimes hear the word “rebuilding” with reference to Junior hockey. Personally, I believe that coaches and general managers must rebuild yearly. There are many factors that influence the success of junior teams, none more critical than age. Simply put, the players will move on just when they become really good, because of their age. And the best players move on before the time limit expires!


The job facing all personnel involved in junior hockey is to get the best players possible from the minor ranks, and keep them as long as you can. European players can also be an asset; however, it is difficult to get the best Europeans in the draft.


The Bulls recently added Remi Elie to the lineup. He was impressive Saturday night, and will be an asset this year. He is 18 years old, and has been drafted by the Dallas Stars. The Bulls have two other players on their current roster who have been drafted into the NHL. Jordan Subban and Brendan Gaunce were both chosen by the Vancouver Canucks.


They are both veterans on the squad. I use that term rather loosely, as a veteran in the OHL might even be nineteen years old! The team does rely on these older players for leadership, because of their experience in the league. They have gone through the homesickness, the days at school without all of the assignments completed, all of the experiences growing up away from home. That, of course, would be magnified for the European players.


The Bulls have won twice in ten games. They lost once in overtime, and once in a shootout. They now face a period of long stretches of inactivity. They do not play until next Friday night when they travel to Erie, and move on to play on the road against Niagara on Saturday. The following weekend will be spent on the road as well in the annual northern swing: Sault Saint Marie on Friday, Sudbury on Saturday, and North Bay on Sunday.


Their next home game will be Wednesday, October 30th at the Yardmen Arena. Wear a mask. A Hallowe’en mask, not a goalie mask!


On Friday night, the Bulls will face the latest Player of the Week for the OHL, Connor Brown, a draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is the Otters’ captain, and has 20 points in nine games so far this season. 


The best way to experience Junior Hockey action is at the rink! See you there!


James Hurst


October 14, 2013-10-14

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