The Brooklin Bears are sitting on top of the Ontario high school hockey world after their historic victory at the Boys AAA OFSAA Championships last week. The OFSAA gold medal capped off a dream season for the Bears who already won the Lake Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic (LOSSA) title with a perfect 9-0 regular season and 4-0 playoff record. The team also won their own Brooklin Elite 8 tournament and one in Stouffville. Not only is this a first for Brooklin High, it is also the first time that a LOSSA team has won the AAA Boys Hockey Championship.
In just their third year, the Bears have already established themselves as a hockey powerhouse in Ontario. Even more impressive is the fact that the team is still very young. On a roster of 25 players only seven are in grade 12, twelve are in grade 11, and six are in grade 10. With the intensity and physical nature of senior high school hockey, it is uncommon to have grade 10 players on a team let alone six. On this team however, the younger players were not simply filling in roster spots, they were major contributors.
“These grade 10 players were all high impact, high minute players on their club teams. When coming to play for the Brooklin Senior Team they accepted whatever roles given to them for the betterment of the team,” said Coach Matt Snowden.
With a team made up of three different birth years, it could have been a challenge to have all of the players accept their individual roles, but with this group, everything came together quickly and was a big reason for their success.
“A team made of such age difference has the potential to be a difficult team to create unity within. Over the months, they went from grade 10's, 11's and 12's to 25 brothers. The most satisfying thing for me as a coach has been watching that unity continue even now that hockey is over,” said Snowden.
What made this group even stronger was the fact that many of the players put their individual aspirations aside to build a strong foundation and ultimately win OFSAA Gold. Quite often high school hockey programs face challenges in trying to get the best players to commit to the team because of the high demands of rep hockey in the community. This year the Brooklin players had the support of their community coaches and parents, which allowed the Bears’ coaching staff to ice the best possible lineup.
“Community Coaches like Joe Best (Whitby Minor Midget AAA) understand the impact playing high school hockey can have. If they decide to move on to Junior, they are already familiar with playing with and against older guys,” said General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ethan Markham.
The coaching staff could not say enough about the roles that the younger players had on this team. Grade 10 goalie Kobe Handsor played nine games, including two at OFSAA and had a 1.44 GAA. Isaac Sooklal, TJ Strachan, Chris Stevens and Myles Perry who are all in grade 10 and members of the Whitby Minor Midget AAA team, and Trevor Andrews from the North York Rangers made significant contributions throughout the season.
Most of the players on this team have had the experience of winning a championship at some point in their hockey careers, but this victory will undoubtedly hold a special place for them due to the unique composition of the team and the special bond that was formed. With all of the hockey talent at Brooklin High School the Bears will continue to be a force for years to come.
“What they went through will unify them together forever. An unbelievable bond that forgot about grade and age and focused on accomplishing the ultimate goal by any means,” said Snowden.