Upper Island Cove player signs with Toronto Maple Leafs
Robert Slaney of Upper Island Cove has signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“We are excited to have Robert join the Maple Leafs organization,” said general manager Brian Burke in an April 14 press release. “He is a strong powerful forward, who has good size, and his offensive totals have continuously improved over the past four seasons of junior hockey with Cape Breton.”
The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles graduating forward signed off on the deal, April 12,(Easter Sunday).
“It all seems so surreal. In fact I still have to keep pinching myself to make sure it’s true,” said Slaney, who finished tenth in league scoring this year by leading the Screaming Eagles in both goals (36) and points (81).
“Talks have been ongoing for about two weeks, but it’s a done deal now. I’m really excited. This is something I’ve wanted my whole life and I’m thrilled it all paid off.”
The 20-year-old son of Edith and Val Slaney started playing hockey when he was just three years old and went on to play with the Cee Bee’s minor hockey league.
“My parents and my sisters, Leanne and Lori, supported me my entire hockey career,” said Slaney during an April 14 telephone interview with The Compass.“ They went with me to the games and cheered me on. They’ve always been behind me. They’re pretty excited about this news,about the NHL contract. It’s been their dream as well as mine for a while and they’re happy it came true.”
Slaney, who’s been out of the line-up for the Screaming Eagles’ last three games in their quarter-final series with the Quebec Remparts with an undisclosed upper-body injury, said signing the contract will give him a boost as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoffs continue.
“I’ll definitely be pushing a lot harder,” said Slaney who, in six playoff games, collected nine points on five goals and four assists.
“I usually try to give my heart and soul, but this will be an extra push to get me going.”
Slaney heads off to the NHL camp in September.
“If things don’t work out there then I’ll go to the AHL team (Toronto Marlies) and hopefully try to earn a spot there,” he says.
In 239 career games with Cape Breton from 2005 to 2009, Slaney tallied 78 goals, 90 assists and 168 points, along with 229 penalty minutes. In 2007-08 the successful Cape Breton University business student was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Academic Player of the Year. He was also honoured twice at the Screaming Eagles’ recent awards banquet as the team’s Regular Season Scoring Champ and with the Fans Choice Award.
While it would be easy to get caught up in all the glory and fame, the quiet down-to-earth hockey player is still guided by values instilled by his parents.
To encourage young Cape Bretoners in their schoolwork, he bought two season tickets at the beginning of the 2008-09 season to be used by a deserving student and an accompanying adult at each Screaming Eagles home game. Afterward he invited the student down on the ice for a photo.
“This was a program I want- ed to start to give back to the people of Cape Breton and to the fans for all the support they had given me,” said Slaney. “ The tickets didn’t necessarily go to the smartest student or to someone who stood out in sports. They went to someone who was working hard and had a good attitude - the kinds of attributes my parents wanted for my sisters and myself. My parents taught me well. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them, they sacrificed a lot for me. “
However Val and Edith aren’t taking all the credit for their son’s success. They say his host family, in Cape Breton, whom he has been living with for about four years, also helped him achieve his goals.
“Robert left home for training camp in Cape Breton when he was just 16 years old,” said his mom and dad. “He stayed with one billet for a little while, but the family lived so far out of town he had to look for another home.”
As luck should have it Robert met Lynn Pollock and his wife Sharon Ash and the couple took him under their wings and into their home.
“If we were to pick a set of parents for him, they would have been it,” said Val and Edith.“He couldn’t have gotten any better anywhere. When you let your child go off to pursue an education and a career so young as we did, there are many worries that go with it, but Lynn and Sharon really helped alleviate our concerns. They took care of him and supported him in the same manner that we would have and did what we would have done. And they didn’t just provide him with a good house, good meals or clean laundry, those kinds of things. They were there through his ups and downs, both as a hockey player and as a teenager. They talked to him and helped him sort through the troubles of the world, and that to us means everything.”
In a couple of weeks Robert will be leaving Cape Breton for training camp.
“That’s going to be very hard on Lynn and Sharon, they’re really going to miss him,” said the Slaneys. “We hope they know how appreciative we are to them for taking such good care of our boy. The contract and his success in hockey are very important, but not near as important as his well-being and happiness.” Meanwhile during The Compass interview Slaney expressed appreciation to his family and grandparents, John and Leah Crane,(Upper Island Cove) friends, former hockey coaches and teachers for their support over the years.
“I really want them to know how grateful I am to them for all the support they have given me over the years,” he said. “Please tell them that for me.”
To all young hockey hopefuls in the Trinity Conception area as well as across the province, Slaney offered this advice.
“Don’t give up on your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you they can’t be achieved. It doesn’t matter how small of a place you live in, if you are determined and willing to work hard you can do it. You can get there.”
DONE DEAL - Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Robert Slaney, signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, April 12. The 20-year-old is the son of Edith and Val Slaney of Upper Island Cove.
POWERFUL FORWARD - Upper Island Cover native, Robert Slaney finished tenth in league scoring this year by leading the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in both goals (36) and points (81).
YOUNG PLAYER - A young Robert Slaney of Upper Island Cove, proudly displaying a hockey medal. Slaney started playing hockey when he was just three years old and went on to play with the Cee Bee’s minor hockey league.