SLOVAKIA – Hi everybody, this is my first blog for THN, so I thought I would introduce myself. I just finished a challenging but exciting rookie year playing for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario League.
Lots of challenges take place as an OHL rookie, such as adjusting to the level of the game as far as speed, strength and all aspects of the game are concerned. But those are the on-ice challenges, which aren't as bad as off-ice challenges.
Off-ice challenges include: finding the right billet family and the right fit for you, settling into a new city and school, encountering homesickness and growing up as an individual. There are lots of things to learn such as making your own meals, looking after your own body and, most importantly, time management; being on time for rides, getting to the rink on time and juggling between schoolwork and hockey.
As the year goes on, you learn a lot and you really grow up fast in the OHL. I know it's cliche, but it's true and this is what my GM told me: "You come into the league as a boy and you leave as a man."
I really do believe in that line.
On the ice, I'm a prototypical power forward that brings all aspects to the table. While I'm a big player (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) with strength who loves to throw the body around and knock people over, I bring speed and skill and the ability to put the puck in the net.
Right now I’m in Slovakia playing for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The training camp in Calgary was an unbelievable experience on and off the ice. It was challenging because you're just giving it all you’ve got at all times and that's why we train beyond the limits during the summer – to be prepared for the physical endeavors. The games are played at a very high level and that makes for some real excitement.
You would have to think when you have the top 40 under-18 players in Canada going against each other, vying for a spot on a 22-man roster with a chance to represent your country, that it's going to be some really good hockey. I think it was the first time I ever saw a training camp with a full crowd; that's how exciting it was.
The way Hockey Canada treats you is just phenomenal. Docs, trainers and athletic therapists are there whenever you need, providing you with hockey sticks, loads of workout clothes and any treatment necessary. My roommate was Alex Petrovic (Red Deer Rebels) and he also made the team, which is awesome. He's a real beauty of a guy and I could tell that right from the moment I first talked to him. I hung out with him quite a bit, along with Ryan Spooner, Jeff Skinner, Steve Silas, Jordan Weal, Brett Connolly and Erik Gudbranson because I've known them from the past, with the exception of Connolly.
Connolly and I didn't get off to a good start at the World U-17 Challenge earlier this year, as we were both chirping each other when our teams played, but in our dorm room, we got along great; another beauty of a guy. As far as making the cut is concerned, there were four of us left in the dorm room at the time; Spooner, Connolly, Petrovic and myself, while Weal had just come back from his meeting with the coaches.
Weal couldn't even talk he was breathing so heavy. I thought he was going to have a heart attack; it was brutal. We tried asking him what the coaches said and he couldn't even speak. After that, one of the staff members came up to our room and said, "Congratulations, all of you guys have made the team!"
We just broke out into loud yelling and whooped it up. We were all in a big group hug and wearing the biggest smiles we could muster. After that we went into the other dorm rooms and celebrated with the other guys. We came to Europe to win the gold medal and we expect nothing less.
Slovakia is definitely different than what I'm used to in Canada. One of the guys on Sarnia, Miroslav Preisinger, is from Slovakia himself and said it was a poor country, which isn’t bad, it’s just the way it is.
The food is nothing like home cooking and at first I couldn't even eat some of the meals, but it is starting to improve. The hotels are your average hotel, with the exception of the bed; it is as hard as the floor your feet are on right now! I think I was so tired and jet-lagged that it really didn't make a difference my first night.
The people are very friendly from my first impression. As we went for a walk in downtown Piestany, a few of them tried to talk to us, but we just couldn’t understand them. Maybe I'm wrong, they could totally be chirping us and we wouldn't understand them!
It is definitely a lifetime experience being out here.
Right winger Gregg Sutch enters his second year in the Ontario League having been traded over the summer to Mississauga from Sarnia. The 17-year-old native of Newmarket, Ont., is taking part in the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia and is highly touted for the 2010 NHL draft. He will blog throughout the season for THN.com.