If you’re a frequent reader of HockeyNow, I’m sure you’ve seen one version or another of our description of the Minor Hockey Player of the Year award, namely that it is given to players who “best exemplify sportsmanship, leadership, hockey ability and performance, and school and community participation.”
But what exactly does that mean? Well, the most important takeaway is that first and foremost, the HockeyNow Player of the Year award is a hockey award. When we start looking for our finalists, which hopefully you’ve been watching this past year, we’re looking for the best of the best in hockey ability. With the likes of Karl Alzner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colin Fraser having proudly received the award, our winners are hardly underdogs.
But with a country so rich in hockey talent, we always end up with top notch finalists, so the qualities that really tip the scales for our winners are their community and school involvement and the character they show on and off the ice.
And the 2016 winners, B.C.’s Josh Williams of Yale Bantam Prep, Alberta’s Bowen Byram of the Lethbridge Golden Hawks and Ontario’s Owen Lalonde of the Windsor Jr. Spitfires are everything the award represents and more. Although our decisions weren’t exactly easy, this year’s winners sure did their best to make it so.
Sportsmanship? Lalonde brings it in droves in the various sports he participates in and excels at. Williams is a mentor and role model to younger players at Yale Academy and makes sure to embody sportsmanship on the off the ice.
Leadership? Captain Byram is known by peers, coaches and teachers alike as a natural and confident leader, in the classroom, on the ice and in the changeroom. Throughout their letters of recommendation, all three winners were described as leaders time and time again.
Hockey ability and performance? How about all three players earning the top pointgetter spots on their teams? And let’s not discount that Lalonde and Byram are defencemen, and obviously the epitome of complete defencemen, as their numbers show. Both players already have plenty of accolades under their belts, with Byram, for example, possessing five Top Defenceman honours from various Western Bantam Tournaments. For his part, right-winger Williams was heads and shoulders above the rest of his team in goals and points.
School and community involvement? There’s just way too much to even delve into with these three guys. Volunteering, mentoring, community clean-up – they’ve pretty much dedicated any extra time they have to giving back. Oh, and they’re all known for their humility.
We’re really honoured to be able to give out the award to these deserving candidates and it’s especially exciting with SportChek’s continued involvement this year and their incredibly generous gift of a complete set of new gear, handpicked by each winner.
As always, we can’t wait to see where our players of the year go from here. We were of course watching Dante Fabbro, the 2013 Player of the Year (when the award was solely given in B.C.), at this year’s NHL draft. He was a pretty special teenager who held his own when he was presented the award in front of industry big wigs and former NHLers. We were definitely pleased to see him go to the Nashville Predators 17th overall. Nashville is known for drafting and developing defencemen so Fabbro couldn’t have done any better for himself.
We hope you enjoy learning about these remarkable young players. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter, and follow us on twitter, Facebook and online as we continue to follow Josh Williams’, Bowen Byram’s and Owen Lalonde’s careers.
1) Reps Ultimate Comeback Kid at 2017 OHL Cup
2) Coquitlam’s Dream Season Continues at Provincials
3) Road to the RBC Cup: Oil Barons Restoring Pride in Fort McMurray
4) McBain Hoping to Follow Father’s Footsteps to NHL
5) Defending OJHL Champion Trenton Golden Hawks on Playoff Roll Again