New IceDog plays with an edge
Liam Van Loon was acquired by the Niagara IceDogs from the Hamilton Bulldogs last week. Photo by: VIVID EYE PHOTOGRAPHY
The newest member of the Niagara IceDogs is a familiar name to junior hockey fans in St. Catharines.
Forward Liam Van Loon, acquired from the Hamilton Bulldogs last week in exchange for an eighth-round selection in the 2024 Ontario Hockey League draft, has at times been Public Enemy No. 1 for local fans, at both the junior B and OHL level.
Van Loon was a member of the Ancaster Avalanche of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2017-18 where he quickly gained a reputation as a tough, gritty competitor who did whatever it took to get the job done.
The 20-year-old London native continued to play that truculent style for the last two seasons with the Bulldogs and was a part of the 2018 OHL championship squad.
Van Loon was thrilled to be joining the IceDogs, both for his familiarity with the region and for the IceDogs reputation as an organization that treats their players first class.
“Obviously, as a kid I always wanted to play in London, but there was a part of me that wanted to be in Niagara,” he said. “I have friends here, I know a lot about the organization.
“I know the fans don’t like me too much here playing for Ancaster and the Bulldogs and I completely understand that. But there’s something about this city, it’s a hockey market and it was pulling me towards it so I was super-excited to get a start here.”
Van Loon had appeared in just two games for the Bulldogs this season, a victim of roster issues.
“I’ve been in Hamilton since the beginning,” he said. “I learned so much there and I was a small part of that really big championship team. Hamilton’s really been all that I’ve known in the OHL, but obviously with numbers this year and everything going on, a decision had to be made.”
Van Loon, who has a goal in three games since joining Niagara, said he has always been a disturber on the ice.
“I always knew growing up that I was never going to be a guy that was probably going to put up 150 points or 100 points,” he said. “But I knew that there were ways in this game to be effective and if I wanted to make it and have a chance of making my dreams come true, then I would have to figure out one of those ways to be effective.
“It’s always just been something that’s been a part of my game and I will always continue that no matter what anyone really says.”
Van Loon said he was welcomed with open arms by the IceDogs upon his arrival.
“When I walked into this room, from the coaching staff all the way down, it was a super warm welcome,” he said.
Van Loon has only been around his new club for a few days, but has the feeling the IceDogs have the potential to turn their season around.
The IceDogs, who have lost three of their last four games and eight of their last nine, sit in last place in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference with a 4-12-1 mark. Niagara square off versus the Bulldogs Thursday at home. Hamilton lead the East Division with a 9-5-1-2 mark.
“A losing streak isn’t always how you want to start it, but I’ve been in the league for a little bit and I think I can tell or I can say better than anyone that it’s a long season and hopefully coming up against my former team here we can turn it around, Van Loon said.”
Van Loon isn’t sure what next year will bring, but he does want to continue to play.
“I’m gonna be sitting down with family and talking to my agent and sort of seeing what the next steps are for me,” he said. “I have a dream that I obviously want to fulfill. I feel like I know the value of myself as a player and what I can bring to any organization.
“It’s sort of just something that’s going to be day-by-day right now. I think the biggest focus for me is helping turn this IceDogs team around and hopefully going on a big run.”
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