By Paul Krotz/OHL
The 2011-12 OHL Awards Ceremony had some extra flare for the players and guests in attendance when three graduates returned to help present some of the league’s 15 major awards.
Former players Steven Stamkos, P.K Subban, and Cameron Gaunce were among the presenters on Tuesday afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“It brings back a lot of great memories,” said Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning star and former member of the Sarnia Sting. “I can’t believe it’s been as long as it has since I was here, I played two great years in Sarnia and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent in the OHL.”
Stamkos made two appearances to the Hockey Hall of Fame as an award recipient including 2006 when he received the Jack Ferguson Award as the league’s first overall pick, then in 2007 when he won the Bobby Smith Trophy as Scholastic Player of the Year.
The 2006 Awards Ceremony also gave Stamkos and his minor midget teammates the opportunity to be recognized for their OHL Cup Championship title with the Markham Waxers, an honour the 2012 champion Mississauga Rebels also enjoyed.
“We were wide-eyed 15-year-olds coming in and seeing older OHL players get their awards,” said Stamkos. “It’s amazing how time flies.”
Gaunce was with Stamkos in 2006 as a member of the Waxers and the two have remained close friends.
“Our minor hockey team always stressed being good people first,” Gaunce said. “I think nowadays that’s how we have all been able to maintain such good friendships with each other and our families.”
Gaunce, a Colorado Avalanche prospect played 75 games this season in Lake Erie of the AHL and is a graduate of three seasons with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors until 2010 and remembers his major junior career fondly.
“Just remembering playing in Mississauga, the friendships I built, growing as a player and a person brings back fond memories for sure,” he said.
Coming back and mingling in the presence of OHL personnel like his former coach George Burnett also sparked some great memories for former Belleville Bulls star defenceman P.K Subban.
“It’s always nice to come back and see some familiar faces,” the Montreal Canadiens star said. “For us to come back here it’s like we never left. You remember just the fun you had playing here, having billets and playing with your best friends, the people, that’s the best part of the league. I did a lot of growing from 16 to 20 years old and it was the best years of my career so far.”
While all three players are busy with off-season training, Stamkos will make another Awards’ appearance on June 20 in Las Vegas when he receives the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy after leading the NHL with 60 goals.
“It’s a great honour to be able to have the award for a second time, especially so young in my career. Hopefully there are a lot more brighter days to come.”
By Paul Krotz/OHL