All the Devils get their due

Kenn Oliver
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Next year's batch of Fog Devils will get another crack at nationals at home

Sunday's bronze-medal win at the Telus Cup Canadian major midget hockey championships in Levis, Que., marked the grand finale in the minor hockey careers of nearly half the St. John's Fog Devils. Eleven of the team's 24-man roster will bid farewell to their minor hockey associations, with most starting anew in junior leagues at home and abroad next season.

The rest of the squad who helped capture Newfoundland's second national midget medal will hold the fort and attempt to repeat or improve on this year's performance when the Telus Cup is staged in St. John's next April.

Sunday's bronze-medal win at the Telus Cup Canadian major midget hockey championships in Levis, Que., marked the grand finale in the minor hockey careers of nearly half the St. John's Fog Devils. Eleven of the team's 24-man roster will bid farewell to their minor hockey associations, with most starting anew in junior leagues at home and abroad next season.

The rest of the squad who helped capture Newfoundland's second national midget medal will hold the fort and attempt to repeat or improve on this year's performance when the Telus Cup is staged in St. John's next April.

But is the crop of 1993 and 1994 born players, along with a fresh batch from the 1995 age group, talented enough to deliver another medal?

Head coach Wally Bray says right now, of the '93 boys who are eligible to return next season, only Marcus Power is at a higher skill level than most.

He says the team's leading scorer for three seasons, Zach O'Brien, "had a really good supporting cast in (Cody) Squires, (Andrew) Sullivan, (Michael) Cole, (Robert) Cahill and then on defence (Rodney) Mahoney, (Dylan) Brake, and (Alex Powell)."

"I'm not sure Marcus will have that next year."

What's more, Bray is not even sure if Power will be back next season. After finishing second in scoring at the heavily scouted nationals, Power - like former Fog Devil-turned-Notre Dame Hound, Paradise' Andrew Ryan - could end up playing his final year of major midget outside the province.

"In Marcus' case, there's probably a very good chance. If we lose him, without a doubt, he's a big leader to lose and trying to replace him won't be easy."

Asked if the coaching staff considered using a younger crop of players throughout the season in order to gain experience for a good showing at the 2011 nationals in front of a home town crowd, Bray contends it never crossed their mind.

"The guys that have been here for three years, we felt they could lead the nine guys who are probably coming back next year. With a younger team this year, we wouldn't have got to the nationals to get that experience.

"We felt it was a good mixture."

Next year's mixture, however, could be decidedly different.

Since the province's major midget teams operate differently than minor hockey squads, players must try out and make the cut in order to don the Foggies colours each season. That means 1993-born players who didn't make the cut this past season but wound up suiting up for the Tri Pen Frost or one of four teams in the AAA Doug Marshall Hockey League would be welcomed back into the fold.

The other possibility rumoured to have been discussed is to put the major midget league on hold for a season, leaving the Fog Devils with the right to choose the best midget-aged players in the province.

"If there is a guy who comes in from across the island, we could even have the possibility to replace a couple of players next season. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but if you're trying to ice the best possible team at this level, sometimes your hands are tied," the coach contends.

The major stumbling block in this plan is trying to gain entry into the St. John's junior league. The Fog Devils have played in the league previously, but were unsuccessful in gaining entry this season. The reasoning, he says, comes back to having 21-year-old men potentially playing against 15-year-old boys.

"In the game, people are going to give others a whack, but some players might not feel like giving them a whack back because they're only midget-aged. It's a touchy line."

But the way Bray sees it, having the Foggies hit the ice against the juniors would be akin to having a crop of midget players auditioning for future spots on one of the league's eight teams. Granted, only if they aren't picked up by the St. John's Caps, who hold the rights to players emerging from the St. John's major midget system.

"Let's say a kid doesn't make the St. John's team because they've only got so many openings, if I was a coach, I know what he's like so I'll try to pick him up."

The matter is expected to be brought to the table at the junior league's AGM next month, and again at Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador's in June.

Bray is hopeful some concrete plans are put in place.

"It's a big event to host and you want the host team to be as competitive as possible, so you're going to do what you can to make them as such."

koliver@thetelegram.com




Departing Devils

The 1992-born St. John's Fog Devils major midgets, some of whom will move on to junior leagues at home and abroad ranks next season: John Bursey, Dylan Brake, Alex Powell, Zach O'Brien, Cody Squires, Michael Cole, Iain MacIntre, Robert Cahill, Andrew Sullivan, Rodney Mahoney, Scott Bray.

Organizations: Telus

Geographic location: St. John's, Levis, Newfoundland Notre Dame

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Recent comments

  • Common Sense
    July 02, 2010 - 13:35

    Laughable that the Fog Devils would stack there team this year with 3rd year players when they are hosting the championship next year. Not to bright in my book but i guess when the head coach and the manager want their sons to get all the icetime and priase , it becomes clear. Andrew Ryan was smart and left for a good program. Unfortunately , when you have the coaches looking after their own agenda's rather developing players to move on that what happens. They earned a bronze against teams full of 1st and 2nd year players with a star who wasnt tough enough to stick with a QMJHL team....Keep patting yourself on theback Wally....no one else is going tooo!!! what a joke

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Notre Dame can give scholarships to recruits from across Canada. If it wasn't for that, the Devils would have probably been national champions this year.

  • Common Sense
    July 01, 2010 - 20:25

    Laughable that the Fog Devils would stack there team this year with 3rd year players when they are hosting the championship next year. Not to bright in my book but i guess when the head coach and the manager want their sons to get all the icetime and priase , it becomes clear. Andrew Ryan was smart and left for a good program. Unfortunately , when you have the coaches looking after their own agenda's rather developing players to move on that what happens. They earned a bronze against teams full of 1st and 2nd year players with a star who wasnt tough enough to stick with a QMJHL team....Keep patting yourself on theback Wally....no one else is going tooo!!! what a joke

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Notre Dame can give scholarships to recruits from across Canada. If it wasn't for that, the Devils would have probably been national champions this year.