I love making that phone call.
What a privilege it is to get a deserving young man on the line and let him know he’s won a significant award. Not long after our selection team chose Coquitlam, B.C.’s Dante Fabbro to win HockeyNow’s B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year Award, I got to make that phone call.
“I’ve never received a recognition like this, before,” said Fabbro, as he struggled to find his words, seconds after being told. “It’s cool... it’s weird... I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless. It’s just such a huge honour.”
The 15-year-old Burnaby Winter Club Bantam AAA team captain was the Seattle Thunderbirds’ eighth overall pick in this year’s WHL Bantam Draft.
The 6-0, 175-pound Fabbro will play Major Midget, next season, and is targeting the latter part of the 2013/14 season to decide whether he will sign with Seattle or pursue NCAA college hockey.
BC Hockey Hall of Famer and 1,300-game NHL veteran, Dave Babych, chaired the selection team for the award.
“As far as Dante goes, what’s not to like? Like so many kids in our province, you’ve got a person who does the right things on the ice and off the ice,” said Babych. “As a young defencemen, I’ve watched Dante play for a lot of years, and his game is almost vanilla – in a good way – he’s always doing the right things.”
When the Fabbro family was asked to RSVP for July 26’s BC Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Celebration in Penticton (where Fabbro will be formally presented his award), they immediately asked to reserve at least 10 tickets. It doesn’t take long to realize how tight-knit this family is.
“We’re a very close family,” said Dante. “Almost every Sunday, we have dinner with everybody—all the relatives, too. And every summer, we go up to our cabin in the Okanagan. We’ve always been close—it’s just always been like that.”
Fabbro will join fellow B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year finalists Beck Malenstyn (Okanagan Hockey Academy), Davis Koch (Okanagan Hockey Academy), and Josh Anderson (Cowichan Valley Minor) at the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s prestigious Allstate All-Canadians Mentorship Camp, Aug. 6 to 10 in Mississauga, Ont.
John Batchelor, Fabbro’s Bantam coach, says Fabbro was a big part of the 2011/12 team’s Western Canadian Championship and the 2012/13 team’s run to the provincial final. Fabbro won many individuals awards, along the way, including All-Star status at the John Reid Memorial Tournament and two game-MVP awards at the Medicine Hat Hounds Tournament. Fabbro is an ‘A’ and ‘B’ Grade 9 student at Coquitlam’s Centennial School and has fundraised for Cystic Fibrosis Canada and the Terry Fox Foundation. Since 2010, he has also helped mentor younger players.
Award's rich history begins with two-time Cup-champ
Surrey Minor’s Colin Fraser won HockeyNow’s first-ever B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year Award in 2000. Since then, Fraser has become a two-time Stanley Cup-champion— one with the Chicago Blackhawks and one with the Los Angeles Kings.
“I feel like an old man talking about this award,” said the 28-year-old, who was named Player of the Year as a 15-year- old Bantam. “Obviously, it was something special at the time and something I’ll never forget.”
The award has been won by 11 NHL-Drafted players, including 2008 first overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.
“The award is a great honour, especially when you look at some of the people who have won it in the past,” said Nugent- Hopkins of players who came before him like Fraser, Gilbert Brule, Karl Alzner, and Stefan Elliott.
“This award stands for the qualities that not only make up a tremendous hockey player, but someone that represents our sport at the highest level of integrity,” said Dixon Ward, 599-game NHL veteran and VP of Okanagan Hockey Schools & Academy. “If you look at the greatest hockey players of all- time, they possess the qualities that this award stands for. You look at the Joe Sakics and the Wayne Gretzkys and the Steve Yzermans and the Mario Lemieuxs; these guys had all the qualities that this award stands for.”
Babych reiterated that the award is all about celebrating all that the game means to British Columbia.
“There are so many positive stories of minor hockey players in this province—and I’m not just talking hockey,” he said. “I’m talking about complete people. It’s more than just a hockey award, I think it celebrates a lot more than that.”
HockeyNow will donate $1,000 to the award winner's minor hockey association or a hockey-related charity in the case that the winner is from a private club.
There can only be one: razor thin difference between Fabbro and Malenstyn
At the end of the day, the selection committee could only pick one, and they were pleased to name Dante Fabbro. But Beck Malenstyn, Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA) captain, was right there with Fabbro in what proved to be a razor thin final decision.
“We’re talking decimal points between kids,” said Babych. “I think Dante and Beck had different situations; Beck was at an academy, Dante was at a club. And, I mean, both represent what the award stands for in terms of how you treat people, how you act away from the rink. And at the end of the day, unfortunately, you can only pick one.”
Malenstyn is an outstanding player, an excellent student, and one of the most respected people to ever come through OHA.
“It’s an honour to be included [in the selection process],” Malenstyn said on Twitter. “Congrats to Dante on being named B.C.’s minor hockey player of the year.”
Many regard Fabbro and Malenstyn to be the Top 2 B.C.-born ‘98s. Other finalists included Fabbro’s teammate, Jake Kryski, Cowichan D-man Josh Anderson, North Shore Winter Club teammates Quinn Benjafield and Tak Anholt, and Malenstyn’s teammate Davis Koch.
Selection team works to recognize players across B.C.
Babych chairs a selection team that ranks players, regionally, throughout the season, before narrowing down to a small group of finalists. “Throughout the year, in our regional rankings, we were able to spotlight kids from every region of British Columbia,” he said. “That was really important to us and that’s really important to me, that you can encourage and recognize a number of young players.”
The selection team was made up of mostly WHL and BCHL scouts: Billy Coupland (NHL and WHL scout), Mario DiBella (Major Midget coach and BCHL scout), Jim Hardington (WHL scout), Adam Hayduk (BCHL and Team BC coach), Wade Klippenstein (WHL exec and BC Hockey scout), Chris Moulton (WHL scout), and Trevor Sprague (WHL scout and Major Midget coach).
Player of the Year Award to roll into Alberta and Ontario in 2013/14
HockeyNow is bringing the award to Alberta and Ontario, for the first time, next season.
“Hockey is full of great people and we want to recognize them,” said Scott Whitemarsh, manager of brand marketing for Hockey Now. “In many cases, it starts with the players. They may not all make it to the pro ranks, but will be part of the game for many, many years.
“The award doesn’t just take into account how good a hockey player you are—it’s about the complete person. And the award really aligns with our purpose, which is to promote and find ways to grow the game.”
Publisher Larry Feist has been with the company since the award first launched.
“The player of the year award has a really great 15-year history in B.C.; it’s really a who’s who of top B.C. hockey players,” said Feist. “HockeyNow has been in tune with the minor hockey communities in Alberta and Ontario since 2000, so it’s high-time we promote and celebrate all the good aspects that produce the top players there by giving this award out in all three provinces.”
Storied history: past B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year winners
2013: Dante Fabbro
2012: Mathew Barzal*
2012: Jansen Harkins*
2011: Joe Hicketts
2010: Curtis Lazar
2009: Morgan Rielly*
2009: Griffin Reinhart*
2008: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
2007: Kevin Sundher
2006: Stefan Elliott
2005: Geordie Wudrick
2004: Dustin Sylvester
2003: Karl Alzner
2002: Gilbert Brule*
2002: Brock Bradford*
2001: Tyler Burton
2000: Colin Fraser