In most years, the Dalhousie men’s hockey roster doesn’t represent its home province especially well. It is often filled with people from across the country, with Nova Scotians lacking.
That is what makes the 2016-2017 version of the Dalhousie men’s hockey team so exciting. Nova Scotia is the most represented province on the Tigers with eight players from Nova Scotia – including five former Halifax Mooseheads players – and seven players from Ontario on the roster.
This is a huge boost for the city and the school’s hockey program, says Tigers Head Coach Chris Donnelly.
“The thing we find with a lot of these former players, especially those from here, is that many of them have been playing Major Junior or Junior A elsewhere, so they want to come back home after their junior career is finished and get an education while continuing their hockey career.”
Donnelly cites Phil Gadoury, last year’s Atlantic University Sport (AUS) rookie of year, as an example.
“With the case of Phil, he had a great career for the Mooseheads and wanted to stay in Halifax because he loves it,” he said. “In his case, and the case of so many other players, they have an opportunity to make a difference at Dalhousie, because it is a rebuilding team. It is a great place for guys to come back home, where they can get a lot of ice time and help create something special. Or in the case of Phil and other former Mooseheads, continuing to play in a city that they enjoy and are familiar with.”
What is interesting to note is that this season, Dalhousie has more former Moosehead players on the roster than their crosstown rivals, the Saint Mary’s Huskies, which is a rarity for the Tigers.
Donnelly explains that the competition between the two schools to recruit the Mooseheads players once they finish their major junior careers is high. It seems as though this season is the first time in a while that Dalhousie was able to out-recruit Saint Mary’s in terms of Mooseheads players.
Donnelly credits this due to his relationship with the team and local minor hockey players.
“I was an assistant coach on the Mooseheads for 11 seasons, so I am very familiar with their coaching staff and their recruiting system. We also have two assistant coaches who have sons on the Mooseheads, so that also helps. They can recommend good players for us.”
Donnelly also coached four players as part of the Team Nova Scotia at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.
“I already had a connection with them. It was a natural transition for the players to come to Dal, as they knew my coaching style and system.”
Alumni also play a big part in the recruiting process as informal scouts across the country. “We give them passes to go all sorts of Junior A and Major Junior games, and then report back to us. They know what style of game we play and they try to find players that fit that style. These guys do a lot for us on a purely volunteer basis.”
It is because of the alumni and their ability to scout appropriate players and the connections that Donnelly has with the Mooseheads and Hockey Nova Scotia that Dalhousie is becoming the preferred choice in the AUS for hockey players looking for ample playing time, a highly regarded academic program and the chance to live and a play in the hub of Atlantic Canada.
The Tigers play their home games at the Halifax Forum. Students get in free with a Dalcard. Check out the schedule for more information on games.