Gan­der teen forms bond with young hockey player over a stick

The Western Star - - SPORTS - NI­CHOLAS MERCER THE CEN­TRAL VOICE Ni­cholas Mercer is the lead editor with the Cen­tral Voice and is based in Grand Falls-Wind­sor. He can be reach by email at ni­[email protected]­cen­tralvoica.ca

The black Sher­wood T1000 hockey stick al­most didn’t make into the hands of Liam Ben­nett.

Gan­der Col­le­giate’s Alex Stares had just fin­ished his team’s por­tion of the Beau­mont Hamel Cen­ten­nial Cup, and per­haps his high school ca­reer, with a 4-2 play­off loss to As­cen­sion Col­le­giate of Bay Roberts and it wasn’t sitting well with the 18-year-old.

Skat­ing off the ice at the Par­adise Dou­ble Ice Com­plex last month, Stares con­tem­plated smash­ing his stick on the ice in dis­gust. He had others at home to take its place.

That is when he no­ticed young Ben­nett watch­ing him from be­hind the glass.

Stares in­stantly rec­og­nized him. The kid in the Par­adise War­riors mi­nor hockey had been at Gan­der’s games all week­end.

When the Con­cordes would leave the ice, Ben­nett al­ways made sure to stick his hand out look­ing for a high five from one of his new favourites.

Be­ing the last one to leave the ice this af­ter­noon, Stares made sure to give his Ben­nett a slap on the hand.

Then, he gave him some­thing a bit bet­ter. That is when Stares gave his new fan the Sher­wood T100 stick he al­most dec­i­mated on the ice a few min­utes be­fore.

“It was a spur of the mo­ment de­ci­sion,” he said.

The ges­ture is some­thing you see at the pro­fes­sional level, but it isn’t some­thing for­eign to rinks around this prov­ince. As ath­letes grow in a par­tic­u­lar as­so­ci­a­tion or or­ga­ni­za­tion, they be­come he­roes to the play­ers that fol­low them.

It hap­pens in mi­nor hockey, AAA hockey and se­nior hockey. I’m sure if you asked fans of se­nior hockey in Grand Fall­sWind­sor, Greg Hoffe would rank high amongst their all­time favourite play­ers.

In Gan­der, there are peo­ple who would still side with Scott Young.

Grow­ing up in Har­bour Grace, I re­mem­ber wait­ing (im) pa­tiently out­side the dress­ing room for au­to­graphs af­ter an ex­hi­bi­tion game fea­tur­ing Danny Cleary.

The dress­ing room door open a shade and I handed the man who opened it a small piece of pa­per. The guys in the room — most of them ju­nior stars in the area — crammed their sig­na­tures on the square parch­ment.

The one ev­ery­one wanted was Cleary’s. He was tear­ing things up in Belleville and had peo­ple back home proud as can be.

Also on the pa­per were the likes of Corey Crocker, Kerry Ma­her and others. Ma­her’s mom and my mother were friends and he babysat me a cou­ple of times in those days.

I al­ways thought he was the coolest.

Stares didn’t think much of the ex­change af­ter it was done.

But, it meant the world to Ben­nett.

Shortly af­ter the ex­change, Stares got a mes­sage from Ben­nett’s mother.

She told him her son thought im­mensely of the gift. She told him on the day he re­ceived it, Ben­nett couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

The stick that is two times taller than he is still stands in his room. Any­time a friend vis­its, he shows them the stick.

A cou­ple of weeks af­ter the Beau­mont Hamel tour­na­ment, Stares re­turned to St. John’s for his midget pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment.

He ar­ranged with Ben­nett’s fam­ily to con­nect again. This time, they grabbed some pho­tos with each other.

Ben­nett even had a hockey puck and a hockey card for Stares to sign.

“It is amaz­ing how hockey can bring peo­ple to­gether,” said Stares.

CON­TRIBUTED

Alex Stares, right, poses for a photo with Liam Ben­nett dur­ing the midget A pro­vin­cial tour­na­ment held in St. John’s at Easter.

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