He had options to play elsewhere, was even considering retirement, but couldn’t ignore all the reasons it was right for him to return to the ECHL champions
It might have seemed like a given that James Melindy was coming back to captain the Newfoundland Growlers this season. After all, the Goulds native is just a half dozen years into his career as a professional hockey player and is coming off his most successful season as a pro after having led the ECHL’s Growlers to a Kelly Cup championship in their inaugural season.
But the Newfoundland captain said he had to think a bit about before agreeing on a new ECHL contract with his hometown team. Even though he’s just 25, he was already contemplating the next stage of his life, something for which he’s been preparing. Through sponsorship from the PHPA, the minor hockey players union, Melindy has complete firefighting training courses and has spent more than a year as a volunteer firefighter in Goulds, even during the 2018-19 ECHL season.
And there were options to play elsewhere, including overseas.
“But for a while, I didn’t exactly know if I was going to play this year” said Melindy, whose new contract with the Growlers was announced Thursday.
“Right after the season ended, Snowy (Growlers’ head coach John Snowden) had called me and said he wanted to get something done as soon as possible. But truthfully, the last thing I wanted to do at the end of a long season was to be thinking about hockey, about next season, about another contract.
“But it turned out I wasn’t ready to call it quits. Yes, Europe was a possibility, but I wasn’t ready to go anywhere else. Once I knew I really wanted to play again, I knew that coming back here would be my No. 1 choice, my No. 1 priority.
“And I knew (the organization) had interest in bringing me back, … they told me so at the end-of-the-year meetings, so I guess this works for both parties.
“It certainly does for me.”
Melindy has said the opportunity to play at home for the first time since leaving St. John’s for Saskatchewan’s Notre Dame College in 2008 was the biggest reason he initially signed on with the Growlers last season. That didn’t change when it came to the new deal.
“To be close to family, close to friends to be able to play in front of them … it’s was the main deciding factor in me signing here in the first place and it’s the same thing this time.
“But also it’s because I know I’m coming back to a first-class organization. Coming in last year, I had a good idea it was going to be that way, but now after seeing what the (parent) Maple Leafs are doing, what Dean and Glenn (owners Dean MacDonald and Glenn Stanford) have done, I know for sure.”
Melindy who had four goals, 12 assists, a plus-16 rating and a team-leading 185 penalty minutes last season, is the first of the 2018-19 Growlers brought back on an ECHL contract. But eight others, including fellow Newfoundlanders Zach O’Brien and Marcus Power, have new AHL deals with the Leafs organization.
“Once I knew I really wanted to play again, I knew that coming back here would be my No. 1 choice, my No. 1 priority." — James Melindy
“I’m excited to be coming back to a team that has a lot of guys returning, or at least the potential of a lot of guys coming back on Marlies deals,” said Melindy.
“And then there were the crowd at Mile One that we had in the playoffs, The idea of building on all of that has me excited, too.
“There are a lot of reasons to be excited about this team again.”