A generational hat trick
Not all East Coast Hockey League fans realize it, but when center Syl Apps III takes to the ice for the Trenton Titans, they're witnessing the third goal of a generational hat trick. The latest link to the Apps name proudly carries the name of both his grandfather and father, both of whom starred in the NHL.
Syl Apps, the grandfather, was a legend with the Toronto Maple Leafs, kick starting his 10-year NHL career by winning the inaugural Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1936 before ending it in 1948 with three Stanley Cup championships to his credit.
Syl Apps Jr. carved himself out an impressive NHL career in his own right. Starting in 1970-71, Apps Jr. appeared in more than 725 games for the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings. He also was the MVP of the 1975 All-Star Game while a member of the Penguins.
Now, Syl Apps III continues the family line on ice.
"There's no doubt that I'm very proud to be associated with both my grandfather and my father but, honestly, to me they were just my grandpa and my dad. My grandfather, before he passed away, never, ever talked about hockey," remembers Apps.
He smiles as he thinks back to the conversations that he did have with the 1961 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
"With me, he was always more concerned with how my grades were in school, or he'd ask about my girlfriend, or how my golf game was going," Apps III recalled.
"It's kind of the same with my dad, He's not the kind of guy that's going to sit around the dinner table telling stories about back when he played. I think I can remember twice when he's told stories of his days in the NHL. To me, he's just my dad, the guy who cuts the lawn and shovels the driveway," Apps smiled.
Mind you, father and son do discuss the nuances of the game and the youngest Apps listens eagerly to what his dad has to say.
"I do talk to him a lot about the game of hockey because he did play 10 years in the NHL at my position and I don't think I'd be where I am today without him as a resource," Apps III said.
The son has listened well to what his dad had to say. While he has yet to appear in the NHL, the youngest Apps has become a valuable member of a Titans team that is in contention for a postseason berth this season. After a solid four-year career at prestigious Princeton University, Apps III has worked hard at improving his game and his style of preparation and play lets his teammates know that his effort is never to be questioned.
"I like to think that with each year that I play, I've improved certain aspects of my game, not just offensively, but on all of the things that I need to do well in order to be successful," Apps III said. "I know what things I need to work on out there and I feel comfortable trying to do just that. I know that I'm not the type of player that is going to score 50 goals or 80 points, but I can be the player that does the little things that contribute to a team's success."
Like his grandfather, Apps wears the captain's "C" for the Titans and takes the leadership role that comes with it very seriously. He understands that not only must a captain be able to talk the talk to rally his team, but that when it gets down to crunch time, he must also be able to walk the walk.
"I think that I talk a fair bit in the room, but I also know that, ultimately, I have to lead by example," he said. "All the words in the world don't mean anything if you can't back them up on the ice."
Trenton coach Bill Armstrong nightly gets to see Apps back up his words in the locker room with his actions on the ice and knows that the captaincy is in excellent hands. He knows that when Apps' teammates see him going that extra mile, they feed off of it and elevate their own game.
There is still one other Apps that has benefited from seeing what hard work can bring a person. No, there's no Syl IV, not yet, at least. There is, however, Gillian, a freshman forward for Dartmouth University. She is the younger sister of Syl Apps III. Gillian was recently named to the 2003 Canadian Women's World Championship team that will play in Beijing, China this spring.
"She got all the talent in the family," Apps III laughs.
So, even though Apps has yet to taste the success both his grandfather and father experienced in the NHL, the desire to get there still burns deeply. Like all players, the NHL dream survives nightly on the rinks of the ECHL.
"I think every player in this league is chasing down that same dream, every kid that grows up playing hockey wants to some day play in the NHL."
That would give all new meaning to the term "natural hat trick".