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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Telus Cup tidbits
2018-04-25
by Randy Pascal

Quinton Byfield was not terribly shocked when the Sudbury Wolves got around to naming him as the first overall player to be selected in the recent 2018 OHL Entry Draft. Rumours had circulated for some time of his ascension to the top spot in the rankings of Ontario minor midget hockey talent.

A chance encounter, however, with a gentleman who is as relevant to the history of junior hockey talent assessment in this province as anyone else alive, well, let's just say that this did come as something of a surprise.

“Every year, they still invite me to the OHL office, where they bring in the top four players drafted, because they have interviews and what not,” noted 83 year-old former long-time head of OHL Central Scouting Jack Ferguson, taking in his umpteenth TELUS Cup/Air Canada Cup this week in Sudbury.

“They were kind of sitting there, so I went up to him and said, congratulations on winning the Jack Ferguson Award – I'm Jack Ferguson! He looked so surprised, but he shook my hand and everything and we talked. I'm going to tell the good people up here in Sudbury that this kid is not only a very, very good hockey player – he was number one in my mind – but he's also got great character,” said Ferguson.

“I explained to him how he is going to like it up here,” noted the man who, for years, was a regular visitor to the Big Nickel Hockey Tournament each and every November. “When you go outside the rink, everybody knows you, not like in some of the bigger places. I think he is really, really thrilled to come here.”

While Ferguson no longer attends events such as the 2018 TELUS Cup in an official capacity, countless are the key hockey contacts he has made along the way. “My friend up here, Doug Bonhomme, had asked me if I would come up for a few days,” Ferguson explained. “I said fine, then I realized I have a wedding this Saturday. My grand-daughter is getting married in Toronto.”

“I'm still a believer of midget hockey, and there's still six pretty good teams here.” Ferguson maintains Sudbury ties, even back home, living directly across the street, in Toronto, from long-time Hockey News senior editor Ken Campbell, also a native of the Nickel City.

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The players on the ice for the 2018 TELUS Cup might not yet be household names, but that doesn't mean there are not some very recognizable faces in town this week for the Canadian Midget “AAA” Boys Hockey Championship.

Winners of their first two games of the tournament, les Cantonniers de Magog (just outside of Sherbrooke) are led, behind the bench, by none other than former NHL goaltender, Felix “The Cat” Potvin.

A veteran of 13 NHL seasons, including eight as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Potvin is thankful for the opportunity to transition to the coaching ranks. “I was fortunate to coach my son a little bit earlier, when he was younger, and I kind of enjoy working with younger kids, to teach them to try and prepare them to become better hockey players,” said Potvin following his team's 6-4 win over the Toronto Young Nats on Tuesday.

Sure, some will suggest that goaltenders might be the least prepared, of any positional hockey talent, to make the move to leading the next wave of young on-ice prospects. Potvin doesn't see it that way at all. “I think it (a mind for coaching) kind of comes with the position (of goalie),” he said.

“You're back there, watching everything develop, you see the whole game from way back there. It's the case for a lot of goalies that I know, that used to play goal and now play out for fun. They know the game really well, they see it really well. As a goalie, you need to have a good sense of anticipation, and I think that helps a lot.”

True to others in the coaching fraternity, Potvin acknowledged that he has certainly drawn upon attributes of some of his mentors in putting together a style of leadership that he feels comfortable with as he attempts to guide the Quebec representatives to their first national crown since 2001. “I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of coaches that really helped me,” he said.

“As a pro, I had Pat Burns as my first coach. Pat was tremendous for me – not only for me, but great for our team. I learned a lot from him. You know, there's always a lot of good and a little bit of bad with every coach, so you try and model yourself with the good points from every coach.”

And though his mind is clearly focused on the task at hand in Northern Ontario this week, Potvin admitted that he might allow himself a little time to check in on his former team, as they head to game seven against the Boston Bruins. “I'm pulling for them,” he stated. “(Frederik) Andersen is doing a tremendous job in net, and momentum is on their side. It's going to be a great game seven.”

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Sturgeon Falls' netminder Joel Rainville may or may not ever duplicate Potvin's achievements between the pipes. Either way, the 16 year-old puck-stopper is going to have great memories of the 2018 TELUS Cup.

Approached to volunteer to the seldom utilized role of “emergency goaltender”, Rainville was pressed into action Tuesday afternoon, serving as a back-up to Olivier Adam of Magog, facing the Toronto Young Nats.

“I was in school (at Ecole Secondaire Franco Cité), going to my second class,” he recalled. “I got a phone call that said “Alberta” on it, and they told me they need me in Sudbury. Alright, I'll be there – that's what I said.”

Interestingly enough, the position itself was not even one that Rainville need apply for. “I got an email from Anne-Marie (Murphy), who works for Hockey Canada,” he said. “I guess someone put my name there and suggested me.”

As for the game itself, Rainville was more than happy to play his small part. “It was cool. They're a very nice group of guys, very welcoming. I got to warm-up and just tried to cheer on the boys.”

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