If you know hockey, names like former NHL players Doug Glimour, Adam Graves and long-time Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean are familiar to you. Add Steve Mason
and Nick Sucharski, two of the Blue Jackets 2006 draftees, to that list and you have five names which all have something in common?
All five hail from Oakville, Ontario, Canada, a 30-minute drive southwest of Toronto, along the coast of Lake Ontario. This town of approximately 155,000 (2004) people is the 26th largest city in Canada and equivalent in size to Tallahassee, Fla the 134th biggest city in the United States.
“(Oakville) is a small town, but it’s always growing,” Mason said. “There is housing going up everywhere.”
Mason and Sucharski aren’t the only Blue Jackets with Oakville affiliation, Goaltending Coach Rick Wamsley makes his home there as well. Wamsley was an NHL goaltender from 1980-1992 with Montreal, Toronto, St. Louis and Calgary, highlighted by a Stanley Cup Championship in the 1988-89 season.
“The fact that we’re both from Oakville is pure coincidence,” said Wamsley.
Trivia: What team won the Stanley Cup in 1989? Who did they defeat? Answer below.
While not a native of Oakville, having Wamsley a two or three minute drive down the street will be nothing but a benefit to Mason. Mason is looking forward to having his goaltending coach close enough to walk over and ask him questions. Wamsley said he’ll have more opportunity to watch and develop Mason, considering the proximity of their homes to each other and the Ontario Hockey League.
Hockey starts at an early age in Oakville. Its youth hockey program is the Minor Oaks Hockey Association (MOHA), which annually has between 3,000 and 4,000 players from ages six to 17 years old. The MOHA uses the Mitron High Performance Hockey System to develop its youth players physically and mentally. This system has been successful and is part of the reason why Mason and Sucharski are 2006 NHL draftees, along with Nick Dodge who was selected by Carolina in the sixth round.
“Oakville makes sure they have good youth (hockey) programs, they bring their players along slowly but they develop into good hockey players,” Mason said. “They definitely hire good coaches for the ‘Rep.’(representative) teams - my coaches all had professional experience playing hockey.”
Current NHL players from Oakville are Eric Cairns, a veteran defenseman for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Matt Foy, a right winger for the Minnesota Wild, who played 19 games in his first NHL season in 2005-06. Mason also said, Red Wings 2004 selection and fellow Oakvillian, Evan McGrath signed a contract with Detroit recently.
“A couple years a go, Oakville really wasn’t on the map for hockey,” Mason said. “(Players from) Oakville are getting out there and showing that the Oakville minor system brings up quality hockey players.”
Other notable athletes who were born or lived in Oakville include; former NFL tackle Tony Mandarich, former NFL kicker Steve Christie, Dallas Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagt, and Olympic Gold Medal sprinter Donovan Bailey.
Trivia answer: The Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens, four games to two in the 1989 Stanley Cup Finals.