The West Coast Wire

Darren Colbourne named to N.L. Sports Hall of Fame

Retired profession­al hockey player from Corner Brook reflects on impressive career

- STEPHEN ROBERTS stephen.roberts@saltwire.com

Darren Colbourne always feels fortunate whenever he reflects on his athletic career. Colbourne played profession­al ice hockey from 1985 to 1999 and was a successful baseball and inline roller hockey player. He often thinks about the places he has gone and people he has met, passing through Ontario, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Germany, Scotland, California and eventually back home to Newfoundla­nd and Labrador.

While the sporting world has given him so much, he was recently recognized for all he has given the sporting world. Colbourne and four other athletes and builders were inducted by Sport Newfoundla­nd and Labrador into the Newfoundla­nd and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame, as part of the 2022 class, at a ceremony in St. John’s on April 22.

He was inducted in the Athlete category for his achievemen­ts in baseball, hockey and roller hockey. Colbourne, who was vacationin­g in Florida at the time, was unavailabl­e to attend the ceremony. His friend Mike O’Neil accepted the award and delivered an acceptance speech on his behalf.

“There’s no words to say how honoured you are,” Colbourne tells West Cost Wire. “You’re in a group of super athletes, super people and it’s not just sportspeop­le, it’s support people, it’s executives, it’s people that have grown sports and continue to grow sports, even after they’re inducted, that have given so much to sport in general in Newfoundla­nd and Labrador.”

EARLY INFLUENCES

Speaking with West Coast Wire, Colbourne notes there are several people who have impacted his career.

He credits his parents for instilling in him his love of sports. His father Don coached him in both hockey and baseball growing up.

“The time was the big thing that he gave us that I remember and cherish so well,” says Colbourne.

His mother Ida was a sportspers­on in her own right, playing golf and pitching for the Bank of Montreal softball team. Watching her play softball as a bat boy, he says, instilled in him a sense of competitiv­eness. He recalls growing up playing with the Corner Brook Barons baseball team and being surrounded by “amazing teammates.” Being in that team setting is something he has always valued.

He won multiple championsh­ips with his brother Larry playing for the Jr. Barons and had opportunit­ies to learn from great baseball players, including teammates such as Frank Humber.

“Those are great memories and even to this day, every time we win something or even if you don’t win, getting together with your teammates, that’s the thing I would miss,” says Colbourne.

His father and Alex Blanchard coached those Barons teams, he says, with great leadership, while he credited his uncles Brian and Raymond for teaching him how to compete and win.

Team sport taught Colbourne there’s always something outside of yourself.

“You put your body on the line and sometimes not in the greatest circumstan­ces, when you know you shouldn’t be pitching or doing something, but you do it just to say, ‘I’ve got something left, I’m gonna go,’” he explains.

HOCKEY MENTORS

When Colbourne made his way into junior hockey, he continued to have great mentors.

He was drafted to the Oshawa Generals in the OHL in 1985. However, through the first year and a half, he felt he wasn’t getting enough opportunit­y and requested a trade.

Orval Tessier, former head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks and now coach of the Cornwall Royals decided to take him in. Under Tessier’s tutelage, Colbourne excelled, registerin­g 98 goals and 195 points over 123 games for the Royals. In 1988, he was drafted 227 overall to the Detroit Red Wings.

In his last year with the Royals, he says new coach Brent Loney put him on one of the best lines in the OHL. They reached the division finals that year.

In Roller Hockey Internatio­nal (RHI), Roy Sommer, the winningest coach in AHL history, also coached Colbourne during tenures in Richmond, Virginia and San Jose, California. It was an experience he enjoyed.

“He’s from the Bay Area and invited me out to play with a bunch of our teammates and we had a great time and won

a World Championsh­ip and how can you not have fun in the summer in California?” Colbourne reflects.

PLAYING STYLE

After four consecutiv­e years of being cut from an NHL training camp, Colbourne had to think about what was next.

He continued playing profession­al hockey in the ECHL, where he put up multiple 50plus goal seasons before eventually retiring in 1999. He would eventually be inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2015.

Colbourne was a sniper and something of a powerplay specialist. On the powerplay, he would hang out on the right-hand side, between the dot and the circle, waiting to get a one-timer.

While he says he wasn’t the toughest guy on the ice, he always competed hard. To score goals he also had to get to those dangerous areas in front of the net. There, he knew he would take abuse from the defense, including cross checks and slashes. But his competitiv­eness allowed him to persist.

“I think my proudest thing, personally, is that I managed to get there,” he says. “And once I got there, I stayed there.”

Darren Colbourne sporting achievemen­ts

Baseball:

20 National Junior and Senior Championsh­ip appearance­s with the Corner Brook Barons and St. John’s Caps

Winner of 10 Provincial Championsh­ips, Two Atlantic Junior Championsh­ips and Two Atlantic Senior Championsh­ips

Won Bronze at the 1992 Senior Men’s Championsh­ips in Windsor, Ontario

Selected Flag Bearer for the 1989 Canada Summer Games in Saskatoon, Saskatchew­an at the age of 21

Hockey:

Played five years in the Ontario Hockey League for the Oshawa Generals and Cornwall Royals, scoring 150 goals and nearly 130 assists.

Was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1988.

A decorated ECHL career, playing 421 games over seven seasons and ranking fifth in ECHL history with 323 goals.

Was also named ECHL Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the All-ECHL First Team in 1991-92.

One of only three players in ECHL history have three 50plus goal seasons

Inducted into the ECHL’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Roller Hockey:

As an Inline Roller Hockey player, earned three world hockey championsh­ips, including a Roller Hockey Internatio­nal title in 1995, a Major League Roller Hockey World title in 1998 and an Internatio­nal Ice Hockey Federation World title for Canada in 1998. Post-profession­al:

Since retiring from profession­al hockey in 1998, Colbourne returned to provincial hockey in 2000 to play for the Corner Brook Royals. He played a pivotal role in four league championsh­ips and the 2002 Herder Memorial Championsh­ip.

He retired from playing 2009, going on to coach the 2011 Clarenvill­e Caribous to the Allan Cup.

His jersey number, 25, has been retired by the Corner Brook Royals.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTOS ?? ABOVE: Darren Colbourne, seen here at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, was inducted into the N.L. Sports Hall of Fame on April 22.
CONTRIBUTE­D PHOTOS ABOVE: Darren Colbourne, seen here at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, was inducted into the N.L. Sports Hall of Fame on April 22.
 ?? ?? Darren Colbourne's greatest success in the OHL came as a member of the Cornwall Royals, where he scored more than 150 goals.
Darren Colbourne's greatest success in the OHL came as a member of the Cornwall Royals, where he scored more than 150 goals.
 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Darren Colbourne was drafted into the OHL by the Oshawa Generals.
CONTRIBUTE­D Darren Colbourne was drafted into the OHL by the Oshawa Generals.

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