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August 30, 2010

Getting to Know Robert Farmer

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Camp starts this week and there will be a new import among the hopefuls - 19 year old Robert Farmer who hails from Nottingham England and who spent last year playing with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the United Kingdom. This self-described big skillful winger played 36 games last year with former 67's Joe Talbot and Jon Zion, scoring 6 goals, 11 assists and spending66 minutes feeling-guilty-before-going-free.

I met up with "Farms" (one of the nicknames Jon has for Robert) and Jon Zion a few weeks back to find out more about our newest import.

The EIHL is the highest level of professional hockey in the UK and Robert was an 18 year old playing against men. He wasn't being used a lot and Jon thought that he would be a good fit for the 67's and told them so. The club brought him over in June to see him skate and were impressed enough to draft him in the import draft.

He's been here for much of the summer skating and training in preparation for the upcoming season. In addition to skating with a couple of 67's, he's been working with a skating coach in Arnprior and playing summer hockey. With his season having ended in April and the limited opportunities to skate in the summer in England, he felt it was best to get here and get skating well before the season started. And it didn't hurt that Jon was here to take him under his wing.

This isn't his first trip to Canada, he has relatives out west and has been to tournaments in Ontario and Quebec. And he's been living away from home for a few years now playing hockey much like many of his new team mates. But it will be his first full-on Canadian winter and with Jon's "you're gonna die man" ringing in his ears, he's bracing for the shock.  He doesn't plan to own a vehicle while here. 

As for other expectations, he really doesn't have too many. The game in the UK is more styled to a North American game, physical and fast. And fighting is allowed. With up to 11 imports allowed on each team, and many of those imports coming from North America, it's like playing in the professional minors here.

He's also used to playing a schedule that has 3 games in 2 1/2 days as they had some of those last year too.

Depending on who they are playing, audiences can range from between 7000-8000 for a good rivalry to as few as 300 - 400.  Like the OHL. (Ya Brampton - I'm looking at you).  It can be tough competing for fans when both local football teams are playing on the same weekend. 

One difference is that he will likely spend more off-ice time with his team mates. In Sheffield, the players all scatter to their own lives with their wives and kids. Here in Ottawa he will be like most of the other players, living away from home without other obligations (other than school for some).

He's eager to play hockey and seems very open to the experience (cold and all).  With Jon Zion showing him around now and helping him get ready for the season, he should be in a much better position than most imports.  Keeping in touch with the family across the pond will be easy with Skype and other social media and his family has already booked their flights to see him here in late October.

As for Jon Zion, at 29 he hopes to keep playing for a while but he notes that it's not as lucrative as it once was.  When it's all said and done, he plans to return to Ottawa and seek a career in either the police force or as a firefighter.  Ottawa is where his family and home are - cold winters and all.

The 67's Camp Schedule:
Thursday Sept 2nd
9:00 to 11:00Practice, Civic Centre
2:30 to 4:00Scrimmage, Civic Centre
Friday Sept 3rd
9:00 to 11:00Scrimmage, Civic Centre
2:30 to 4:00Scrimmage, Civic Centre
Saturday Sept 4th
9:00 to 11:00Scrimmage, Civic Centre
2:30 to 4:00Scrimmage, Civic Centre

Not sure if I will be able to make it to any of the camp sessions but will post if I do.

In the meantime, welcome back gentlemen, we have been waiting all summer for the season to begin!!

August 05, 2010

Summer Re-Runs: Then and Now with Seamus Kotyk

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We're deep in the doldrums of the hockey off-season so I have decided to re-run a few articles about former players that I wrote for the Ottawa 67's news letter last season.  

The second one is with Seamus Kotyk who was in town early in the season last year.  It's interesting to read the article almost a year later and see how much has changed.  His good buddies Nick and Brian won the Stanley Cup and he's back in Canada as the goalie coach for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds as was announced today . Congrats Seamus and good luck!

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Then:
This London born player had quite the ride during his four years with the Ottawa 67’s: he won the OHL Dinty Moore trophy in 97/98 as the first year goaltender with the best regular season goals against average (2.66), was named to the 98/99 OHL All Star team, was a member of the 1999 67’s Memorial Cup winning team and had the tournament’s best GAA with 2.83 (Roberto Luongo was 4th with a GAA of 3.67), and won the 2000-01 Wayne Gretzky award as the MVP of the OHL playoffs backstopping the 67’s to an unexpected OHL Championship and another trip to the Memorial Cup. Oh, and during that time he had his 1999/00 season cut short by a heart arrhythmia that needed corrective surgery (think the Monster Leaf Gustafson).

His most memorable moment as a 67’s? His very last game on home ice to win the OHL Championship in 2001 and a return trip to the Memorial Cup. “There were about 4 of us that had played 4 years together and those guys were like my brothers. No one expected us to make it through the second round and we had gone on this unbelievable run. To win the last game I would ever play in this arena in front of these fans…I remember Jonny Zion jumped right into me and I have a picture on my wall from the Ottawa Sun with everyone around the net, Lance Galbraith, Joey Talbot. That was us winning the Mem Cup among ourselves. It was a run that no one expected us to make and we did.”

Now:
He’s in Austria for the second time, playing for the HC Tiroler Wasserkraft Innsbruck. He just landed there in mid-January after the team he played for last year (also an Innsbruck team) folded at the end of the season.

Between Ottawa and Innsbruck, this 29 year old has covered a bit a ground. He was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round (147th overall) of the 1999 draft but never signed. The San Jose Sharks were lurking in still waters with an offer and he dressed for 7 games for the Sharks but never saw ice time. Seamus then spent 5 years with various teams in the professional minors in the US before getting a chance to play in Europe.

He had never travelled to Europe much less considered living there but when a former teammate asked him if he was interested in filling in for an injured goalie in Wolfsburg Germany, he leapt at the opportunity. From there, he played in the Austrian league for Jesenice (Slovenia) and Innsbruck.

His experience in Europe gave him new insights into how the European imports have to cope when they come to Canada. Simple things like understanding menus, figuring out how to mail stuff, shopping, and communicating with teammates.

On-ice memories are great but it was the friends, the growing up, the shared goals that stick with him. He still speaks with Mark Bell almost everyday, he’s playing with Luke Sellars in Innsbruck, and a few of them, including Nick Boynton and Brian Campbell try to get together once a year to catch up and play golf.

When I caught up with Seamus, he was in Ottawa catching up with old friends and practicing with the 67’s to keep in shape. He thoroughly enjoyed his visit in Ottawa and with the club – it was like he never left and was clearly touched by the warm welcome he received.

He hasn’t decided what he will do when his playing days are done so he’s keeping his options open. In the meantime, this very personable goalie is enjoying playing in Europe in the winter and figuring out what’s growing in the gardens at his waterfront home in the summer.

August 02, 2010

Toffoli Heads to The Rock for Team Canada Camp

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Tyler Toffoli and the rest of the National Junior Team hopefuls head to St. John’s, N.L for development camp that runs August 4 - 7. Tyler has been assigned to Team Red.

Click here for the roster and access to other development camp news.

Good luck Tyler!