A former OHL All-Rookie and All-Star during his three year tenure with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors (2007-10), Cameron Gaunce is continuing to learn as he prepares for his seventh professional season.
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Coming off a career year in the AHL with a new contract in hand, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors graduate Cameron Gaunce is excited for what lies ahead.
Gaunce graduated from the OHL in 2010, recording 141 points (33-108–141) over 185 games. He was a first team all-rookie in 2008 after a standout season that caught the attention of the Colorado Avalanche, prompting them to select him in the second round (50th overall) that spring. The 6’1″ defenceman continued his development with the Majors in the following two seasons, being named to the OHL’s second all-star team in 2009 and 2010. His 64 points during the 2008-09 season remain the Mississauga Steelheads’ all-time franchise record for points by a defenceman in a single season.
“I look back fondly on my time in the OHL,” said Gaunce. “I really enjoyed my teammates and learning what it takes to be a professional. I learned from some of the best coaches in Dave Cameron and James Boyd. They’re both very smart hockey guys, but more importantly they’re solid people away from the rink and they both instilled a lot of values in me that have really helped me become the person that I am now.”
Gaunce, now 26, signed a one-year contract with the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins this past month after recording a career high 37 points (2-35–37) in 75 games with the Portland Pirates last season.
Now preparing for his seventh pro season, Gaunce has made big strides, ones that have come through a process of refinement and gradual adjustments.
“Every year I’ve learned something new,” he said. “I think my first two seasons were very good, but the third was where I ran into some problems mentally and had to learn some things about myself, my tendencies on the ice and make changes to my approach.”
After three seasons and 11 NHL games with the Avalanche, Gaunce was dealt to the Dallas Stars in April 2013. He quickly made an impact, helping guide the AHL’s Texas Stars to a Calder Cup title in 2014 while also appearing in nine contests with Dallas.
Gaunce spent another season with Texas before inking a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers for 2014-15, setting the stage for his best AHL season to date with Portland.
“I feel like this past season was the best of my professional career so far,” he noted. “Things really came together.”
Things have come together for Gaunce off the ice as well.
“I got married last summer and I’m continuing my studies in Business through Athabasca University,” he said. “I originally started my post-secondary education in the OHL when I was studying at the University of Toronto and have never pushed that aside. It’s something that’s very important to my family and I.”
Gaunce, whose younger brother Brendan is currently in the Vancouver Canucks organization after a four year OHL career between Belleville and Erie (2010-14), says education remains his top priority outside of hockey.
“If I stopped playing tomorrow I’d want to finish my schooling and pursue a career. I have a wide range of interests in terms of what I’d like to do, so I’m keeping my options open,” he said. ” The truth of the matter is, it could all end tomorrow, for any of us, and there are a lot of things in this world that are more important than being a hockey player – so I think it’s important to keep it all in perspective.”
With over 400 AHL games under his belt along with an additional 20 in the NHL over six years, Gaunce is still chasing his dream and doing what he loves, always recognizing opportunities to pick up new things.
“Life’s all about learning,” he said. “You’ve got to be determined and stick with your goals, regardless of how long it might take to achieve them.”
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