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Scotty Kaberle's Dream Becomes Reality- Junior Review


fromtheinside
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It was supposed to be a pipe dream. Almost every kid growing up in Scotty Kaberle's hometown of Kitchener, Ontario would tell you they dream of becoming a star in the VHL. Sure, who wouldn't want to make a living playing the game they love while earning millions of dollars? Growing up Kaberle's passion for hockey had always been there, but this newly drafted Saskatoon Wild defensemen did not have the traditional path most kids take to get the call to the VHLM.

 

While most kids these days are groomed at a young age and start playing travel hockey when they turn 7 or 8, this was not the case for the VHLM's newest draftee. From the time he was 5 Scotty recalls going over to his grandparents house every weekend for Hockey Night In Canada and watching his beloved Toronto Legion every Saturday night with his grandfather. It was a tradition Kaberle formed at a young age. In the pre-draft combine interviews Kaberle stated he never missed a Saturday night with his grandpa and always wore his Kevin Brooks jersey that he had gotten for Christmas at the age of 7. This tradition carried on for years but sadly at the age of 11 Scotty's grandfather passed away after a tough battle with lung cancer. This obviously crushed Kaberle emotionally. 

 

Shortly after his grandfather had passed, Scotty began hanging around the kids in his neighbourhood more. Rather than watching VHL, he found himself playing road hockey with his new friends frequently. Every day...summer, winter, in a heat wave, or a snow storm... for a few years straight he lived and breathed road hockey with his friends. He lived with his sister and his single mother so all he had was an extra wooden stick one of his friends had that he no longer needed. But that was enough. With just a handed down stick and a tennis ball, Scotty's passion for hockey continued to grow. Going into high school though, Scotty had still never even played house league hockey. But destiny has a way of working out and when Kaberle started high school, things began to change for him...

 

In Kaberle's grade 10 year, his best friend approached him early in the school year. His friend was captain of the high school hockey team, and he knew Kaberle was a huge puck head. He said they needed a couple more bodies to have a full squad for the team. Scotty's interest was there however he literally had no skating ability up until this point. His friend said not to worry, he would talk to the coach make it work. A week later, Kaberle was on the ice. The school agreed to provide some second-hand hockey equipment for him as long as he could get his own pair of skates. Kaberle stated in our sitdown interview that he had saved all his money from the prior year's Christmas and also sold his XBox 360 so he could afford himself a pair of skates. 

 

Getting Scotty's skating up to speed was not an easy process. His high school team, the Kitchener Jr-Rangers had brought him on as a depth defensemen. Kaberle had developed a great shot from his years of road hockey and his hockey IQ also came very naturally despite his lack of experience. Scotty worked hard staying late at practices to work on his skating. He claimed his speed and acceleration was decent from the get go, back back-skating, edge work and overall agilty needed alot of work. He bluntly started that his first high-school season his skating just was not up to par. That season flew by and unfortunately the Jr-Rangers failed to qualify for their WOSSA provincial qualifiers. When high school ended that year, Kaberle took the advice of his coach and enrolled in a summer camp for hockey skills and development to refine his skating.

 

Fast-forward to September 2016. In his grade 11 year he joined his best friend to run it back with his high school club. The hard work and improvements in his game were astonishing and the results were plain to see. In the span of just under a year, Scotty Kaberle was already developing into a special type of player. His skating was now up to snuff, and his shot and defensive play were much more refined then his first season. The coaching staff took note of this quickly and Kaberle was moved to the top D pair that season and also started quarterbacking the point for the first powerplay unit. In a 20 game high school regular season Kaberle managed 8 goals and 18 assists for 26 points and finished with a team-leading +17.  The team went on to win their regionals handily and qualified for provincials in Ottawa. The OFSSA provincials was a 16 team tournament to determine which team would represent Ontario at nationals that year. Competition was intense and the Jr-Rangers were strong contenders but in the end the fell to a high-school team out of the GTA area called the Toronto Elite in the finals. Kaberle and his teammates were crushed. They had come so far but it was for naught. Kaberle was particularly haunted by the loss as he made a long stretch pass out of the defensive end that ended up getting picked off  and promptly buried top-shelf for what ended up being the game winner for Toronto. The memories of that play haunted Kaberle for weeks. It was a bitter defeat to be sure, but great players learn from those kind of moments and bounce back. And Kaberle was certainly no exception to this.

 

During the offseason things began to get complicated for Scotty. His local JR-B team the Kitchener Krash had began contacting him and invited him to their training camp. He attended camp in late July and August and made the team however he decided to decline the opportunity. He decided he wanted one last chance with his high school friends and teammates at making it to Nationals.  The high school team was shocked and elated that he came back for his senior year. The coach pulled him aside on the last practice before the regular season and broke the news to him that he would be wearing the "C" this season during his senior year.  This proved to be an excellent choice as Scotty ended up dominating at the high-school level. By this point many thought Scotty could be playing against men in junior hockey at the age of 17. The team coasted with a 19-2 record during the regular season. Kaberle put up big numbers posting 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points in just 21 games. The Jr-Rangers also cruised through regionals to make it back to Ottawa for provincials for a second straight year. Just like the year prior, the Rangers made it to the finals and faced another big high school out of the Toronto area, this time the Mississauga Mustangs. It was a closely contested game that went to double overtime. The game winner came at 4:26 left in the second bonus frame when Scotty took a lower seeing-eye wrist shot that was deflected on net by his best friend. 

 

The boys from Kitchener were going to Nationals which were being held in Regina, Saskatchewan that year. It was an experience the boys would never forget. Scotty recalled the coach telling them not to get caught up in the moment and just play their game. Their were plenty of distractions for players who had never been through this before. There was some national TV presence as the tournament was being covered by national sports outlets TSN and Sportsnet. They were playing in an NHL sized arena with more fans then they'd ever been accustomed to playing in front of... and if that wasn't enough, there were rumors to be VHL and VHLM affiliate scouts watching the games also, perhaps to find some diamonds n the rough in the tournament. 

 

Kitchener represented Ontario well throughout the early stages of the tournament going undefeated in group play. Scotty was having himself a nice performance also, accumulating a game winning goal and having 6 points thru 5 games. The boys managed to eek out close victories in the Quarters and Semis, and the stage was set for the finals vs Alberta. The Alberta squad boasted the best offensive team in the tournament, posting a massive 20 goals up to that point in the tournament. However this game was a defensive war. There was little to no room out there, but the Rangers got a late tally in the third to go up 1. With a minute and a half to go, Kaberle's D partner took a delay of game penalty for putting the puck over the glass on a clearing attempt. With the Alberta net empty, they had a 2 man advantage for the last minute and a half. After winning the faceoff Alberta controlled the puck for about 25 seconds and rattled off a shot from the point that went wide of the net but the rebound went right to their forward on the half wall. He threw it back to blue line forward, who immediately one-touched it to the D-man on the other side of the point quarterbacking their deadly powerplay. With about 14 seconds left their Dman had a wide open one-timer but Scotty Kaberle lunged across and laid himself out on the ice to make an incredible block. The puck rolled to his teammate who flipped the puck down the ice and time expired. The boys from Kitchener had won it all. They were elated and exhausted all at the same time but it was a memory none of them will ever forget. And although Scotty didn't make the scoresheet in the final game, that blocked shot most definitely saved a goal and secured them the win. Kaberle went on to win best defensemen of the tournament. On his was out of the arena that night, Scotty said he passed a man in a suit in the hallways after the game who had a blue credentials badge that said "Saskatoon Wild- Scout" on it. The unknown man told him he played a hell of a game and he should be proud.

 

After graduating from high school Scotty decided to take up his previous offer from the Kitchener Krash Jr-B team and played 2 full seasons. Despite going from playing against 16-17 years olds to playing against guys as old as 21, he continued to shine and a brillaint puck-moving, playmaking defensemen. That takes us to present day. In the midst of his third season with the Krash, Kaberle got a phone call last week. It was a phone call from the Saskatoon Wild of the VHLM. Their Director of Scouting said Scotty had popped on their radar since his performance at Nationals and they had been keeping a close eye on him since. He said they have had an unfortunate run of injuries and despite being 1st in their conference, they are in need of an emergency signing to fill the hole in their lineup. Scotty said he was in a state of shock. After fumbling over his words, he said he would love to get a chance to play in the VHLM. To play at all is an amazing privilege but to get to come onto a powerhouse team like Saskatoon is just icing on the cake. Never in his wildest dreams did he thing he would be playing pro hockey for a living. From wearing his Toronto Reign VHL jerseys every Saturday with his grandpa, to putting on the blue and gold Wild jersey.... Scotty Kaberle's pipe dream has become a reality.

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