From Bulldog pups to the Memorial Cup, News (Hamilton Jr Bulldogs)

PrintNews Article
Click to view full-size image
From Bulldog pups to the Memorial Cup
Submitted By Dianne Skirving on Thursday, May 17, 2018
The 2014 Hamilton Jr Bulldogs AAA team in their minor midget season included head coach Chris Naylor (standing second from left, holding binder), Brandon Saigeon (back centre with captain’s C), Owen Burnell (last player standing on the back right), Nick Caamano (front row, second from left) and Joseph Murdaca (goalie on the left). - Submitted Photo

Sitting in his log cabin on the north shore of the St. John River in rural New Brunswick, he flipped on the computer to listen online to a radio show from Hamilton. And as the distant-but-instantly-recognizable-despite-being-a-litte-deeper-now voices started talking, he got chills.

"I could feel every hair stand on my head," Chris Naylor says. "It was a tingle over my whole body."

It wasn't the voices per se. It was what they represented. Hearing Hamilton Bulldogs' forwards Nick Caamano, Brandon Saigeon and Owen Burnell talk about winning an Ontario Hockey League championship and now competing for the Memorial Cup — where one of the goalies they'll face is Acadie-Bathurst's Joseph Murdaca, another former teammate — the listener was blown away.


He'd coached them all. All at once. On one unbelievable minor midget (15-year-olds) Junior Bulldogs team that was unlike any he'd coached before or would coach again.

"That was a special group," he says. "You could coach AAA for 20 years and not get a group that special."

Hard to say if there's ever been a minor hockey team that's put four players from the same squad into the Memorial Cup in the same year, but it's unlikely. To have that many elite players in one lineup is unique. To have several of them land on the same junior team is a long-shot. To have multiple teams with those players qualify for the national tournament at the same time is buy-a-lottery-ticket rare.

The story really begins back in the spring of 2007.

Derrick Stevens had just been named coach of the Junior Bulldogs minor atom team. That age group is nine year olds. Back then, that was the entry point to the organization's AAA system.

He selected Caamano for the roster, but Saigeon — who 11 years later would finish second in OHL playoff scoring and win the season's final player-of-the-week honour — was cut. Wasn't a good enough skater, Stevens felt.

He laughs about that now. Then again, he quickly points out that once upon a time as a Junior B goalie in the 1970s, he was asked about a high-scoring kid he'd faced six or seven times. That day he told the reporter he didn't think Wayne Gretzky would have much of a career.

"Scouting hasn't been my best thing," he laughs.

Saigeon eventually made it the next year. Burnell, meanwhile, was an alternate player who filled in occasionally.

By the time they graduated to the peewee team coached by Anthony Susi, this group was already good enough to play in the Quebec peewee tournament, to win the Bauer World Hockey Invitational in Chicago — the biggest AAA event in the world — and to win the provincial title over a team coached by hockey Hall of Famer Paul Coffey.

And once they hit minor midget when Murdaca joined the team and Burnell was established as a regular, the squad was stacked. Fourteen of the 16 players were drafted into the OHL. Nine have played major junior hockey. Two just faced off in the Ontario Tier II junior championship with one now starring at the national RBC Championship. Two have been drafted by NHL teams.

"They've all found success," Naylor says.

Saigeon ended up playing for Hamilton when his Belleville Bulls moved here. Caamano was acquired in a trade back in November. Burnell played Junior B most of the past three years before making the roster this season. And Murdaca — who was drafted but cut by Saginaw, played for Mississauga before being traded to Erie and then released after the season — actually went to the Memorial Cup last year as a member of the Otters.

Stevens, who now lives in Port Dover, was at the OHL championship-clinching game on Sunday. Naylor was transfixed in front of his TV from his new home as Saigeon scored the goal that turned the momentum in Hamilton's favour and Caamano scored the winner. Both coaches talk about how proud they are to have had some part in this.

And yes, they'll both be watching every minute as the guys they call Cammy, Saig, Burny and Doc now compete for the big prize, something even the players are having a hard time believing has worked out as it has after all these years together.

"I don't think any of us could have expected us to be in this position today," Burnell says. "But it's cool how it worked out."

[email protected]

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 6-8 on 900CHML

[email protected]

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 6-8 on 900CHML
sradley-authorbio.jpg

by Scott Radley

Scott Radley is a sports columnist with the Hamilton Spectator.

Email: [email protected] Twitter

 

This article has been viewed 462 times.
Team Sites
Social Networking
Follow Us On
Follow Hamilton Jr Bulldogs on Twitter
Quick Links
Manage Subscriptions
Signup to receive email or text messages for the teams you want to follow.
News ArchiveOther Recent Articles
  • 09
    Aug
    Organization
    The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs will be adopting a replicate of the OHL Hamilton Bulldogs Heritage Jersey as their new Home Jersey.   When the OHL Hamilton Bulldogs introduced their third jersey last November it immediately became a hit among the Jr. ...
  • 14
    Jul
    Organization
    The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs are proud to announce that Sean Chisholm has signed with the Hamilton Kilty B’s.  Sean was the 38th overall selection of the Hamilton OHL Bulldogs in the 2018 OHL Under 18 Priority Selection.  Chisholm, 6’1 from ...
  • 01
    Jul
    Organization
    By FlipGive06/15/18 Sports teach kids early on that with time and patience comes results. Teaching children that being good at something is earned is one of the main benefits of participating in sports. We all know the physical health benefits ...
  • 27
    Jun
    Organization
    The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs are pleased to welcome Mark Mazetti as the Head of the FUTURES Program for the 2018-19 season.  Mark enhances our development program by sharing his hockey expertise and experience as well as his enthusiasm and love for the ...
  • 23
    Jun
    Organization
    Colorado takes an overager in the fifth round. By Hardev [email protected]  Jun 23, 2018, 11:51am MDT With the 140th pick in the NHL Entry Draft, the Colorado Avalanche pick 20-year-old center Brandon Saigeon out of the OHL. Saigeon was part of the ...
  • 10
    Jun
    Organization
    The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs are pleased to announce that Dawson McKinney, Kris Black and Ethan Sims have signed with the St. Catharines Falcons Jr. B this past week.  Dawson McKinney (pictured to the right) a graduate from the 2017-18 Jr. Bulldogs ...
  • 09
    Jun
    Organization
    June 8, 2018  - 12:18 AM EDT The Hamilton Kilty B’s have made a flurry of off-season signings as they retool the roster prior to moving into their new home at the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena. The Kilty B’s, who played the last five seasons as ...
  • 06
    May
    Organization
    The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs are pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for our 27th Annual Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs’ 2018 AAA Hockey Classic being held from December 7 to December 9, 2018.  We are offering divisions from Novice to ...
Printed from hamiltonjrbulldogs.com on Monday, August 20, 2018 at 4:29 AM