Stortz joins Panthers staff
Brayden Stortz couldn’t say yes fast enough when Pelham Panthers owner Tim Toffolo called asking if he would be interested in joining the coaching staff.
The 25-year-old Welland native filled in here and there with the Panthers last season during the COVID pandemic, but with his playing career over, he was looking for a more permanent way to stay in the game.
“Stepping right into a junior B team is awesome,” Stortz said. “Tim gave me a call and I jumped at it. I said yes before he even finished his sentence.”
Stortz was brought on board recently when the Panthers parted ways with head coach Chris Lukey.
“This is the first year I’m not at the rink everyday with my own team playing so for the past three months I’ve been sitting at home trying to find things to do,” said Stortz, who spent three seasons with the Brock Badgers. “Being around hockey, whether it’s playing or coaching, it’s definitely something I see myself doing for the future, for sure.”
Stortz, who also played for the Welland Junior Canadians and in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and Ontario Junior Hockey League, was a sniper who could put the puck in the net.
“Last year, I was more of a skills guy, this year I’ll be helping more on the bench and with the one-on-one stuff and the power play. All the stuff I used to do as player and helping these guys grow their game so they can move up,” he said.
Stortz feels being so close in age to the players is a big advantage.
“It’s a quick-growing game and a lot of the coaches are older guys and they know their Xs and Os but it’s different when you have someone who has recently played,” he said. “I’ve been here for three or four days and I’ve got guys picking my brain already so I think it’s a huge advantage to have someone who just finished their career at a decent level.
“I think it’s going to help this team a lot, especially in the offensive zone and scoring goals and the little things around the net.”
Toffolo has noticed the same thing.
“He’s just a great young guy who has played the game,” he said. “He can bring a ton of experience to the guys, especially when we’re trying to talk to the guys about stuff. Sometimes the younger guys need to have a younger voice just out of hockey.
“He’s played in a bunch of other places and done extremely well so he has that ability to enforce what we’re trying to tell the kids. He knows the game and understands it.”
Away from the rink, Stortz is planning a career in police or corrections.
“I want to coach as much as I can and hopefully help this team win a couple more hockey games,” he said.
The Panthers, who bring up the rear of the Golden Horseshoe standings with a 4-14-2 record, are at Fort Erie Saturday and home to the St. Catharines Falcons Sunday at 2:45 p.m.
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