Gananoque Sports News, Scores, Standings & Schedules | Gananoque Reporter
Former Gananoque defenceman beats the odds to the NHL Draft
Hunter Drew was taking a nap. He hadn’t been asleep long — maybe 20, 25 minutes. It was mid-afternoon and he’d just finished a round of golf with a few friends at Glen Lawrence Golf Club, after a 7 a.m. tee time. “And then my phone rang,” Drew said. “I was half asleep. My phone was on ringer and it rang.” Drew’s agent, Darrell Young, was on the other end of the line. He picked up, still dazed and sluggish. Young told him congratulations. “I asked him, ‘What do you mean?'” Drew recalled. “And then he says, ‘Congratulations. “¦ The Anaheim Ducks just drafted you.'” Drew, a Kingston native who just three seasons ago was playing junior C hockey, began shaking. His agent remained on the line — he in his bed. Anaheim, which phoned shortly after Young, had selected Drew in the sixth round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft, 178th overall. The call wasn’t one Drew anticipated, but the news, he said, settled in fast. “I woke up pretty quickly — I’ll tell you that much. “¦ I didn’t even know what to say,” Drew said. The six-foot-one, 187-pound defenceman, lost for words, sprang from his bed and paced down the stairs of his family home. His mother, who Drew thought would “break my back she was hugging me so tight,” received him with tears of joy. His father, on his way home from Glen Lawrence after a later tee time, too, was elated. And his brother, over at a friend’s place, “was on a full sprint home just to give me a hug.” “Everything you could feel at once was just happening,” Drew said. Emotions, for better or worse, consumed the 19-year-old. He recalled smiling and shaking simultaneously — nervous yet happy and thrilled. And all felt with good reason. Circumstances considered, Drew said, he had no business being where he is. “I honestly didn’t expect it,” he said. “Getting drafted at 19 [years old] is unheard of. It’s just the weirdest thing you could ever imagine. “¦ This isn’t to say you can’t do it, but it’s not very common.” He added that the weeks preceding the draft didn’t carry much stress. “I had different people tell me, ‘You might get drafted, you might not.’ But it’s one of those things where you’re just trying to block it out. [It’s] just another day. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” The odds have seldom played in Drew’s favour. His road to the NHL draft was one riddled with obstacles, but every moment of self-doubt was matched by his unwavering sense of optimism. Before experiencing a breakout season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the defenceman found himself bouncing around the junior hockey world in his teens. A pair of seasons in junior B and C with the Gananoque Islanders (2014-15 and 2015-16) left Drew’s hockey career at somewhat of a standstill. He also played a handful of games with the Kingston Voyageurs in 2015-16 as their eighth defenceman, rarely seeing playing time. In the summer of 2016, he was ready to walk away from the sport when, at a hockey camp hosted by former NHLer Kirk Muller, a scout approached him with a proposition. “I walked out of the dressing room on the last day [of the camp] and Rob Ridgley, a scout for [the] Charlottetown [Islanders] was in the lobby. He came to me and asked, ‘Hunter, how do you feel like playing for us?'” For Drew, playing in the QMJHL was a no-brainer — and it served as a gateway to making his NHL dream a reality. But it didn’t come without its share of difficulties. Drew played in just 42 of the Islanders’ 68 games in his first season, with much of those toiling as a forward. As a traditional defenceman, he said “that didn’t bode well going into the next season.” “When that happens, it kind of means you’re on your way out. It made my first year a little bit harder, especially being on the other side of the country. Not playing, not being a part of it as much as I wanted to be.” He went back for his second year feeling like a player who’d improved, hoping his adjustment to the league’s style of play would garner more ice time. And growing more familiar with his surroundings, in particular Charlottetown, offered Drew the confidence to carve a place for himself on the roster, he said. “We’re the only team in the province,” Drew said of the Islanders. “It’s nice to have not just the city behind you, but the city as well. It’s a little town but you feel like you’re really big in a little community. “You get kids coming up to you saying you’re their idol, asking you to sign this and that. “¦ It’s just unbelievable.” Drew’s second season with the Islanders turned the heads of NHL scouts. He finished with eight goals, 31 assists and 159 penalty minutes in 64 games; in his first season, he recorded but three points. Currently in California for the Ducks’ rookie development camp, adjusting to the next level has been a learning curve. “It’s definitely a big adjustment. I mean, it’s the NHL — it’s the best league in the world,” Drew said. “Looking around the room when I first got [to Anaheim], just to see some of the names, it’s like, ‘Wow. This is real, I’m really here.'” But challenge isn’t anything to which Drew is unaccustomed, and his approach to life and sport won’t be considerably tinkered with. The key is sticking with what’s tried and tested, namely his mentality. “I think the biggest thing is to never give up. If you have a dream in line, then there’s no sense in straying from it. It’s not over till it’s over. “¦ If you want something bad enough, then go get it,” he said. California is a little different than home, Drew noted. More traffic and more palm trees — it’s busier and exciting. He said there’s never a dull moment. Everything seems fresh and new to Drew, and the nap he had on draft night is fledged in his rearview mirror. All eyes forward, he said. “I’m here now and I just want to get at it. I want to push myself to be more than just a draft pick and hopefully sign a contract someday.”
Skating Club holding registration
The Gananoque Skating Club will be holding registration sessions beginning this weekend. Registration for the upcoming skating season takes place on the following Sundays: July 29, August 12 and August 26 between 2 and 4 p.m. Registration fees cover 52 sessions with professional, certified coaches. The Gananoque Skating Club does not add costume fees for the Annual Ice Show and there is no travel or overnight tournament costs. Come to one of the Registration dates at Lou Jeffries Arena to ask questions, find the Facebook page or visit the website www.gananoqueskatingclub.com. Annual Awards GSC members came together in May to celebrate a successful 2017-2018 season and to honour specific members. The award for CanSkater of the Year went to Chassidy White, who made the greatest strides in her athletic abilities. The members that embodied the Spirit of Skating at different CanSkate levels went to: Braylie Summers, Brian Doyle, Grace Gilmer and Cierra Gill. Violet McGregor received a special President’s Award for all the program assisting she did throughout the year. Violet is a huge help on the ice and has infinite patience for new skaters. One more award was given to a very important member of the Gananoque Skating Club: June Nalon. June has been an integral member of the GSC Volunteer Executive Team for over 25 years. She plays music for the skaters and sews costumes for the Ice Show, making last minute alterations so skaters look and feel their best. She organizes test days as well as electronically updates skaters’ records for Skate Ontario and Skate Canada. GSC is very grateful for June’s dedication toward making skating fun and easy for all members (parents included).