BY SAM LASKARIS /
While for most it seems like the minor hockey season in Ontario has just finished, plans for next season are already well underway.
The 2012/13 campaign for Toronto-area rep players begins in April, when GTHL tryouts are staged.
Many players already know where they will end-up this coming season, perhaps returning to the organization they toiled for last year. Or they could be on the move to a new club that has recruited them.
For others, however, this can be a rather stressful time – not only for players, but for their families as well, who all wonder if the young puck-chasing athletes have what it takes to crack a team at the A, AA, or AAA level.
It’s not uncommon to have some concerns. Even some highly-touted current players who had illustrious minor hockey careers felt uncertain at times.
Take goaltender Liam Herbst, for example. Herbst recently backstopped the Mississauga Rebels’ Minor Midget AAA team to the OHL Cup Showcase championship.
Herbst is now considered the top goalie prospect for the OHL Priority Selection, set for April 7.
During his first year in the GTHL, Herbst suited-up for the Toronto Junior Canadiens’ Minor Atom AAA club.
“In my first exhibition game, we played against the (Toronto) Marlies,” Herbst said. “I let in four goals during the first period.”
But Herbst did not let that result bother him.
“I knew I could play there,” Herbst said of his first season in the AAA ranks, eight years ago.
In fact, Herbst said he knew he would be suiting-up for the Junior Canadiens, that season. He moved up an age grouping that year specifically to play for the club.
That was the first year Herbst was eligible to play rep hockey in the GTHL. Had he not jumped up to play with others a year older than him that year, the highest level he could have played at that season would have been Select hockey.
The move to play for the Junior Canadiens that year proved to be a wise one. Herbst recalls that December, when his side competed at a prestigious tournament in Ottawa. Despite being a year younger than other netminders, he was selected as the top goalie at the event.
Herbst went on to play four seasons with the Marlies. And he spent the last three years with the Rebels.
One of his teammates for a number of years has been highly touted forward Robbie Fabbri. He too played the last three years with the Rebels. And he spent four years before that with the Marlies.
Fabbri had started his GTHL career with the Mississauga Senators’ Minor Atom squad. He made that club when he was still eligible to play in the Novice ranks.
Fabbri recalled about 40 players attended the Senators’ tryouts that season.
“Talking to the coach before, I knew I could play there,” he said. “I just came out and tried my best.”
Fabbri said it’s an approach he’s maintained each hockey season come tryouts, even when he basically knew his spot on the team was virtually guaranteed.
“You still have to come out and try hard,” he said. “You don’t want to take anything for granted.”
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