By Derek Holtom
When you boil it down to its essence, junior hockey is about two things – winning hockey games and getting players to their next stage of life. There are plenty of other aspects to junior hockey life, but it could be argued winning and continuing their hockey careers are the two main goals of every junior player.
The hockey part eats up most of the ink throughout the season, as teams gather each fall to begin another winter of chasing a championship.
The other goal doesn’t get as much press as it should, and in many ways, is more important in the grand scheme of things.
Playing hockey after junior could mean a lot of things, including suiting up with a Canadian CIS school such as the University of Manitoba or the Brock University (where Stampeder alumni Evan Morden suited up last year), or south of the border at either a Division 1 or a Division 3 school.
And this past year, the Stampeders had a banner year in terms of players committing to playing NCAA hockey. The list includes one player committed to a Division 1 school (Matthew Osadick – Maine University), and four players going to Division 3 schools (Connor Navrot – Minot State University, Taylor Derynck – Marian University, as well as Shane Roulette and Daniel Chartrand, both of which are going to Northland College). Keaton Jameson is also moving onto post-secondary school, as he will be suiting up with the University of Manitoba Bisons this fall.
“It’s tremendous to see so many of our players moving on to post-secondary schools,” said Stampeders assistant coach and head scout Darren Webster. “It’s also great for our organization as a recruitment tool. It’s great for each of them individually, and as a team.”
Continuing hockey after junior is a dream for many junior A players, just as it was for current Stampeders head coach Taurean White, who played post-secondary school on both sides of the border (including a stint with former Stampeder netminder and local product Bo Storozuk). And having someone with that sort of experience within the organization can only help players move onto the next level.
“That’s one of the standouts for me – along with being our coach – Taurean is passionate for the individual players, and understands the route for players who want to play in the NCAA,” said Webster of the team’s head coach and general manager. “That, along with the contacts he’s created, makes him a real asset to the players looking to move on.”
Webster says getting recognized by post-secondary schools requires more than some solid play on the ice. It also includes a lot of work off the ice – both by the player and the organization.
“Players don’t usually send letters to schools, but what they will do is put together videos, and we’ll work with those players with aspirations to move on,” said Webster. “So Taurean will sit with the players and help them make their video.
“We also hold onto their SAT and their ACT scores, and when we go to the (MJHL Showcase) we’ll hand those out to every scout there,” he added. “Taurean will also call coaches who show interest, and talk about the character of the player.”
With six players moving on to the next level, this marks one of the most successful years for the Stampeders in terms of getting players into post-secondary hockey opportunities. And Webster feels the potential is there for even more announcements from this coming years’ team, citing the high level of skill among older returning players who also have designs on continuing their hockey career after junior.