As the summer heats, up so does the hunt for players as teams in the Bud Light West Coast Senior Hockey league prepare for next season.
Clarenville Caribous' general manager Derek MacPhee has signed what he believes will be a big addition to the Caribous team when they start their quest this fall for another league championship.
"I've got this superstar signed. I got him on a card," boasts MacPhee.
Eric Braff is the player MacPhee is talking about and he is a big signing ... literally. The Orleans, Ont., native is six foot four inches and weighs 220 pounds.
Braff played four seasons with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League before moving on to St. Francis Xavier University, where he played three seasons in the Atlantic universities conference. He also played one season in the East Coast Hockey League with the Pensacola Ice Pilots before moving to Europe where he played three seasons win England ith Basingstoke Bisons of the British Elite league
MacPhee had hoped to have Braff signed with the Caribous for the 2009-10 season, but the timing wasn't right.
"Last year, when I contacted him, he was heading back to Europe. I contacted him again this year and basically, by luck, I called at the right time because he was just starting a job in finance in Ottawa," says the Caribous general manager.
Braff has a bachelor and masters degree in finance.
"He's an excellent stay-at home-defenceman," says MacPhee. "Our captain Dustin Russell played with him in university and he says he's going to be the best in the league. He's good enough that he brings a goalie's goals-against average into a good zone."
He's a good fit for the team, says MacPhee.
Every team tries to build from the goaltender out, adds the general manager.
"We've always been told we need to be bigger and tougher to protect the front of the net," he says. "So this is a help."
Braff will be the fourth import player in the Caribous' lineup this season. David Victor now resides in the province, but is still considered an import player. The others are Travis Chapman and Ryan Lauzon. However, Lauzon hasn't yet committed to playing next season.
"Ryan is a question mark because he's applied to the Ontario Provincial Police, so he won't have a definitive answer until August," say MacPhee, who has been contacting his players over the last few weeks to gauge how many will be returning to the Herd.
So far, he says, just about all the players he's contacted have indicated they will be coming back.
"But... with a few months left prior to the start of the season, things can change," he says. "Family pressures and school work and the like will come into play. So things don't always work out the way you want them to. As it stands now there aren't a lot of holes to fill."
The Caribous' season officially ended with the Alan Cup tournament in April. However, MacPhee hasn't taken much of a break.
"This year is shaping up to be a very good recruitment year, compared to last year. There have been a lot of fellows, high quality players, coming home to live and go to school and such," he says.
Meanwhile, MacPhee says, the executive has been busy with other issues as well.
"We're hoping to have an AHL exhibition game in September. Just last week, we started the ball rolling to have an exhibition games against the Mount Pearl Blades here in Clarenville," he says. "That would give fans a lookat some senior hockey prior to the start of the season.
"So I guess we're going into next season on a high note. Fans can rest assured that we're working hard even in the off-season to build on our team."