Hard work a way of life for Panthers captain
Devin Sanders has come a long way in a short period of time.
Just a couple of years ago, the 17-year-old Niagara Falls native was playing house league and suiting up for the Westlane Spartans high school team.
Fast forward and Sanders has a year of junior B experience under his belt and is the new captain of the Pelham Panthers.
“At first, I was shocked but I was really excited,” Sanders said when asked for his reaction to being named captain. “I know I can lead this team. We have a great group of guys here. I was excited to be part of the experience.”
Pelham coach Mark Barrick gave the Sanders the C based on his work ethic.
“Dev is a quiet leader and has got everything that he deserves by hard work and effort,” Barrick said. “No complaints, no nothing, he just shows ups to be a hockey player every day.
“He is respected and looked up to by the younger guys on the team just because of that effort.”
Barrick feels Sanders’ is the perfect role model for the Panthers, who are one of the younger clubs in the Golden Horseshoe this season.
“You want to be a leader and be a hockey player? Follow that example,” Barrick said. “You don’t have to be a rah-rah guy, you don’t have to be Mr. Motivational Speaker. Just work hard and we’ll get things done.”
Sanders plans to push himself out of his comfort zone a bit now that he is a position of leadership.
“As a C, I feel it’s my responsibilities to have those one-on-one conversations with players and talk to Mark,” he said. “It’s not my nature to be the loudest guy on the team but I’m definitely going to step up and be louder than I have in the past.”
Sanders will be assisted by assistant captains Dylan Biggar, Noah Caperchione, Brodie Thoms and Mike Butterfield.
“I have an open-door policy with all players,” Barrick said. “From the captain and the assistants we have this year, they are the catalyst between this office and the room.
“They’ve earned the right to have a bigger piece of my ear than the rest.”
Sanders, who collected four goals and 15 points in his rookie season before hitting his stride in the playoffs with three goals and three assists in six games, admits his route to junior hockey was anything but conventional.
“I was just playing house league in high school. I thought it was going to be my last year of hockey and then I somehow got in contact with this team and went out for skate. Then rookie camp came around and I made the team.
“It’s pretty exciting.”
He credits those closest to him for his tireless work ethic.
“My dad, my brother and my coaches definitely put that in my mind and set a great example for me growing up. They were always the ones showing me if you work hard you get something out of it,” he said.
The Panthers, who dropped their first two games of the season over the weekend at the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Showcase Tournament without scoring a goal, are in Thorold Thursday and home to Fort Erie Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
“I’m really excited to get into it,” Sanders said. “We faced some really tough teams this weekend so I think we get a few practices under our belts and play a few games in our own division I think we’re going to get a good start.”
Barrick is well aware with inexperience, come mistakes.
“I think we’re working on our identity. We’re a very young hockey club, probably the youngest team in our loop. With that comes some bumps along the road,” he said. “We’re going to be quick. We have to move pucks quick and be a good transition team because of the nature of our hockey club.
“It’s a process right now. It’s growth but we’ve got some great young hockey players here. It’s just a learning process.”
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