By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
From the first moment his father took him skating at the public arena in Norway House, Tony Apetagon knew he was going to love playing hockey.
“I was playing since I was four years old – I started off using a chair for balance, but I just kept getting better,” said Apetagon, one of the offensive stars of the MJHL this year.
Now in his 20-year-old season, Apetagon was recently involved in one of the biggest trade deadline deals of the year. The league’s third-leading scorer was shipped from the OCN Blizzard, where he was such a huge part of their offensive attack, to the Winnipeg Blues, who are looking for another successful playoff run. Also headed to the Blues from the Blizzard was Darren Gisti, forwards James Maxwell, with MJHL list rights of forwards Griffin Asham-Moroz, Matthew Mason, and future considerations headed the other way.
Apetagon has been a proven offensive talent no matter what level of hockey he was playing. He started really getting noticed playing for the Norman Northstars of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League. In his last season with the Northstars, Apetagon put up 33 points in 40 games.
From there he moved on to junior B, and while suiting up for the OCN Storm he put up a league-leading 102 points in just 34 games – including 42 goals.
Last season, he made the move to the OCN Blizzard and as a rookie, he had a respectable 33 points in 54 games. But this season, he really made an impression with the hometown fans, moving up to third in league scoring with 49 points in just 41 games.
“I was just trying my best to help out the team,” says Apetagon. “I was doing everything I could for the team.”
But with the team on the outside looking in, and Apetagon playing his 20-year-old season, it was time for the talented forward to move on. Still, hearing the news that he had been traded came as a bit of a shock.
“It’s awesome playing in OCN,” said Apetagon. “They have great fans. It can be tough at times, though, because they expect a winning team. So it was tough, but awesome.”
“It was tough leaving OCN, but I do have a better opportunity here (in Winnipeg) with the playoff coming,” added Apetagon. “Hopefully we can make a run for it.”
So Apetagon joins a team which is in a curious position – five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot, but also just four points out of fourth place and home ice advantage in the first round. If the Blues can get on a late-season roll – as they did last year – they could do some damage these playoffs. And bringing in a player such as Apetagon signals they are aiming to do just that.
“It’s a good group of guys here – it was tough at first but that’s the same with any new team,” said Apetagon. “We’re starting to gel together, and it made it easier with other players coming with me as well.”
Apetagon also took part in the recent MJHL-SJHL Showcase, and he feels it is something every player should strive to take part in.
“There were a lot of great players from both leagues – it was a great event,” he said. “I encourage everyone to try and make it here.”
Apetagon added he wants to keep playing hockey after this season – whether that’s minor pro or at school. He says Blues’ head coach Billy Keane is working with him to find options, but for now, the march to the playoffs will keep both of them plenty busy.