The Cochrane Generals junior B team saluted their graduating junior players at a wrap-up banquet on Mar. 25 and presented the annual team awards.
Patrick Forde, Zach Fulton, Connor Stephenson, and Jamal Kalaf all wrapped up their junior play with the Gens and shared a few thoughts on their time with the Gens.
Forde says he was seriously considering quitting hockey until he received a text from Gens president Rick Richards who told him he had a mountain of talent and encouraged him to give the Gens a try.
"I just stepped into the dressing room, introduced myself, and everyone just treated me like brothers, and it was just such an awesome year," recalls Forde. "I feel like that culture has never really changed and that's why it's been such a pleasure to play with the Gens. Even though I'm the only guy from that time, it still feels the same."
"I just want to thank the Gens and everyone involved for teaching me how to love hockey again."
Connor Stephenson started his junior hockey in Saskatchewan but came home to the Gens during the COVID year.
The team credits him with encouraging others to return home from junior teams in both Saskatchewan and B.C., including his younger brother Caden.
Stephenson has no regrets about returning.
"Through my three years, they were two of the best coaches I've ever had. They teach you on the ice but we talked more off the ice. I'll keep the lessons I learned for the rest of my life, so thank you, guys."
Zach Fulton is rebranding himself as a realtor, but he's also a solid defenceman with plenty of high-level experience that was encouraged to return to the ice with the Gens.
"I remember I left hockey the year before I came to Gens and Connor texted me and said, hey, you should come out. The culture is really good. The coaches really care and it could be a different experience for you."
He says he created some lifelong friendships as a Gen.
"I'd take a bullet for Curtis and Krigels, for sure. I love all my teammates, and we have the best trainers in sports. I just appreciate all of you guys and will support my teammates going forward."
"You guys know how it is. Brothers for life and love for the Gens. A person is maybe a hundred times better and I'll remember it for the rest of my life."
Jamal Kalaf played his first season in juniors with the Medicine Hat Cubs and caught the eye of the Gens coaching staff.
Jones recalls how Krigel repeatedly said, we've got to get that guy. At the time, Kalaf was at a crossroads in hockey.
"Honestly, if it wasn't for Curtis and Kregel, I probably would have quit hockey after that year. After everything that happened, I was pretty fed up with it."
It was different with the Gens--the coaches, the staff, the dressing room--and he appreciates receiving that call from Richards.
"I thank everybody for the support, and I thank my family and my fiance for everything they've done for me."
Jones says it's tough to see the players leave, but it's not goodbye.
"Like I said before to you guys, we're still here. I want to be at every one of your weddings if it's possible."
Awards were presented at the banquet to recognize the contributions of some of their players. Connor Stephenson was MVP, Patrick Forde their top scorer, Logan Paquette was rookie of the year, Brenden Thubron, most improved player, Jamal Kalaf, most dedicated player, Evan Black, best defenceman, and Tristen Ripplinger received the coaches award.