ST. JOHN'S MIDGET PRODUCES GREAT PLAYERS AND GREAT PEOPLES
Teams from St. John’s have certainly made their mark on the National Midget Championship over the years, with several appearances at both the Air Canada Cup and TELUS Cup.
In fact, since the first national championship in 1979, St. John’s-based clubs have made eight appearances at the nationals, tied with Dartmouth, N.S., for most among Atlantic centres and third-most on the all-time list, trailing only Ste-Foy/Séminaire St-François (14) and Notre Dame (10).
Many current and former pros have donned St. John’s colours, first as the Maple Leafs and later the Fog Devils, including Ryane Clowe of the San Jose Sharks, Teddy Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning and rookie Luke Adam, who made his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres this season.
Colin Greening, another first-year pro, also debuted this season, with the Ottawa Senators.
But St. John’s Midget hockey teams have been a spawning ground for more than just hockey players.
The vast majority of the hockey players have become productive members of society, like goaltender Graham Cook, who suited up for the 1998 edition of the St. John’s Maple Leafs.
Cook graduated from Memorial University’s School of Medicine in 2009 and is currently a resident in radiation oncology at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Halifax.
It was in Charlottetown, P.E.I., that Cook starred for St. John’s at the Atlantic Regional, but the powerhouse Leafs came up short after beating the host club 10-0 and the P.E.I. champions 7-4, losing 1-0 to Pictou, N.S., and 2-1 to Saint John, N.B.
“It’s a bitter hockey moment,” he says with a chuckle. “I think we had the best team in Atlantic Canada that year, but it was a brutal schedule. We played four games in 34 hours. It’s just the way the schedule went.
“I let in three goals in three games, and finished with a 1-2 record. How often do you hear that?”
Though he played minor hockey at an elite level, which included extra practice time and extra tournaments, Cook managed to maintain a 90-plus average through school.
It was a credit to his parents, both doctors, who instilled in him the importance of balancing work (in this case, school) and play (hockey).
“They made sure my homework was done first, and then my reward was hockey,” he said.
Hockey, he said, helped shape him as a person. An introverted kid growing up, Cook was sometimes forced to call a friend or the coach for a ride to a game or practice if his parents weren’t available because of their work schedule.
“I would have never done such a thing, only I had to,” he said. “It was either that, or I couldn’t get to the rink. So hockey, in a way, helped me come out of my shell.”
He’s the first to admit juggling the books and hockey wasn’t easy. But, he said, both instilled in him the value of hard work.
“I was raised with the idea that if you went at something, you go at it with your best,” he said. “And the way I was raised is that if you didn’t do well in your test, you didn’t get your reward, which in this case was hockey.
“That in itself,” he joked, “was reason enough for wanting me to do well in school.”