AP's Coaches Blog; Bold Statement(s) of the Year

Before we get started, I would like to thank Chris Sparkes and Mr. Lube St. John's for sponsoring my blog. Stop into their Torbay Road location (across from Harvey's and Milestones) to get that car or SUV ready for winter!

While it may not feel like fall, the leaves are changing colour and all forms of hockey are now in full swing. When there's pucks on the ice and Zambonis in motion, I have enough ammunition to make some bold claims about players, teams, and scenarios. I'm sure some people will say "AP is just shootin' his mouth off", and maybe they are right. However, this is my space and this is the 21st century - you have the choice to read it or not!

Bold Statement #1: Abby Newhook is the best 13 year old female hockey player in the world. Nope, that's not a typo, folks. We are talkin' the best female player on the third planet for Abby's age (2003). If you could sum up Abby on the ice in one word, I would go with "beast". Newhook is fast, strong, has tremendous balance, and would rather go through you than around you. Coming from a guy who always wanted to go around rather than through, watching Newhook's game is always fun. I even enjoy watching her practice, especially when her and Patrick Hurley do 1-on-1 drills together. These two have a mutual respect for one another, but are so competitive that they will scratch and claw for every inch...in practice. Ya gotta love it.

Bold Statement #2: The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts will not win the Herder this season. The Cats have the team, and the talent to win the people's championship for an astounding 4th consecutive year. I just think that the hockey Gods are finally going to kick them in the pants for their mismanagement of former starting goaltender AJ Whiffen. Make sense of this one - in a tournament where everyone makes the playoffs, why do you not give Whiffen a start in one of the round robin games? Whiffen was solely responsible for GFW's 20 win campaign in 2012-13; that Cats team didn't win a Herder, but you couldn't get a pea by the Whiffen that winter. Same went for 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16 (how many goalie of the year awards did he win during that span? 2? 3?). Whiffen is a 3-time Herder champion, has participated in 4 Allan Cups, is a great goaltender and a fantastic team mate. It just doesn't make sense to me. To put the cherry on top, GFW mismanaged Whiffen this offseason and in my humble opinion, did not treat AJ the way an organization should treat a local kid with his resume. Whiffen is the type of guy who will be very motivated to get back to the Herder in CeeBees colours and knock off his former comrades - "Whiffler" picking up a shutout in the CeeBees opener is a sign of things to come. Stay tuned.

Bold Statement #3: Avalon Wins the Atom "A" Provincials in 2016-17. Boy, am I going to take some heat for this one! First off, I think that the Atom 'A' division is going to be mighty awesome this season. All teams are capable of winning on any given night, and there is a tonne of talent on all teams. However, I really like Avalon's chances this season with the goaltending tandem of Sean Hogan and Kade Kingsley. Those two keepers can steal you a game when you're not playing well, no doubt. Also, Avalon boasts some snipers (Nolan Avery, Jacob McGrath, Kyle Tucker), some dynamite rearguards (Carter Hynes), defensive depth (Manning, Thoms, etc), grit (Marner brothers, Evan Boland, Quinlan x 2) and some players who are improving every day (Dylan Levandier comes to mind).

- Speaking of Abby's... Abby Fleet (2006) is a good little hockey player! She reminds me a lot of Abby Newhook at that age - big and strong, with a powerful stride and a little bit of offensive punch. Fleet made the Paradise Atom B boys team in 2016-17, and I think that she will continue to improve as the year toils on.

- Congrats to #xhockeyalums Tyler Boland, Cody Donaghey, Kyle Tibbo, and Lee Dower on hot starts in their respective junior leagues! Boland leads "The Q" in scoring, while Cody Donaghey leads all defenceman in points. In the MHL, Kyle Tibbo is pacing the league offensively (24 points in 12 games!) while Miramichi rearguard Lee Dower holds the points lead for defenceman (16). All four players were a part of X Hockey at one point or another - Boland, Tibbo and Donaghey were members of X Hockey since the beginning, and were key cogs in the 1996-born travel team that also featured Clark Bishop (Carolina Hurricanes draft pick), Luke McCaw (Ottawa Jr Sens), Mike Constantine (Miramichi Timberwolves), and Brad Power (Corpus Christi IceRays).

- "When is the right time to send my young hockey player away?" I get this question a lot from hockey parents. The answer that I will give people is the ever popular "it depends". Some of the factors that weigh into the decision: A) How big is your son or daughter? If your child isn't physically ready, it's better to stay home. B) How mentally tough is your son or daughter? Maturity is a huge factor in the decision to send your child away at a young age. For example, I strongly supported Alex Newhook's decision to leave the province at 14 because he was a very mature 14 year old. C) What is your ultimate hockey goal? If your son or daughter wants to play NCAA college hockey and is a strong player and student, then moving away is more of an option than it would be for a player aspiring to play major junior hockey in the QMJHL. Q scouts will see players who play Bantam and Midget hockey in NL, however, most colleges will see you a lot less (if at all). See my point? D) School-program fit. These are important factors too - does the campus feel like home? Does the coach plan on giving you plenty of ice time? Will you be given lots of opportunities to succeed? There are many, many more factors that come into play (financial burden, program quality, proximity to your agent, the list goes on).

I'm sure that there are people who work with HNL that don't like hearing that I am pushing for an elite player to leave the province early. However, I'm only looking at what is best for each individual player's development. I'm not out to try and make HNL HPP teams worse by getting guys to leave early, or to water down the Major Midget circuit. I was a product of the NLMMAAA league, and played hockey in NL until age 17. I wore the HNL colours and the "C" with pride for U16 and U17. But I was 150 lbs soaken wet, with zero muscle tone who didn't mature until later in life - staying home until my last year Midget was the best choice for me. In a guy like Alex Newhook's case, leaving Newfoundland at 14 was the right choice. How do I know that? Well, every legit NCAA D1 program is talking to him right now so it certainly seems like an OK choice.

Until Next Time,