Minor Hockey Moments: John Mitchell


John Mitchell is in his rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after spending the past three years with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL


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John Mitchell is in his rookie season with the Toronto Maple Leafs after spending the past three years with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. He was drafted in the fifth round, 158th overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and is currently 9th in all-time scoring for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. Mitchell was recently crowned the fastest player on the Maple Leafs after clocking a time of 13.848 in the team’s skills competition.

“My dad got me into hockey,” said John Mitchell whose father coached him in his first year in minor hockey in Hamilton, Ontario. “We played out of Rosedale arena and the first team I played on was the L.A. Kings and we had the grey and black jerseys.” Mitchell admits his father wasn’t shy about telling him what he did right and what he did wrong on the way home after a game. “My dad would give me constructive criticism on the way home from games in the car,” said Mitchell. “You never want to hear it, but sometimes you need to.”

Though the rides home from the rink were sometimes painful for the young hockey player, there were some rinks Mitchell would have rather avoided altogether. “I hated playing in Cambridge when I was in peewee,” said Mitchell. “I remember they didn’t have a Zamboni, they only had a tractor that pulled the Zamboni part behind it and I remember it had a really low ceiling and it was freezing.”

On the other hand, Mitchell still regards the first rink he skated on, Rosedale Arena, as his favourite. “You’d walk inside there at 7am and you’d smell the hot chocolate from the snack bar and you’d be pumped up about your game coming up,” remembers Mitchell. “My parents have video tapes of games when my grandparents were there watching which is really cool.”

One of the most exciting experiences for young hockey players is the out-of-town tournaments where teams face unknown opponents in unfamiliar arenas. “I played in the Wayne Gretzky tournament in ‘AAA’ when I was in atom or peewee,” said Mitchell. “I don’t think we won the tournament but every game they awarded a MVP and out of the five games I think I won four MVPs, that was memorable.” Part of the fun for young hockey players on road trips was riding the bus and watching movies and for every generation there were a few standouts. “When I was growing up I was really into the Mighty Duck movies,” said Mitchell. “I think I liked Young Blood a little more than I liked Slapshot as a youngster.”

Mitchell attributes his success as a professional hockey player to his concentration on skating. Power skating was something I hated doing, but you had to do it if you wanted to become a better skater,” said Mitchell. “That’s what I attribute my speed to, being able to battle through the power skating sessions for nine or ten years.  No pucks, just my skating coach, Bridget Wolf, screaming at me. She was nice but she was strict.” When the now 6-foot-1 power forward wasn’t playing hockey he played Canada’s other national sport, lacrosse. “Lacrosse was the summer sport I played every year,” said Mitchell. “All the guys on my team in Waterloo were on the same lacrosse team as well.”

To some players the number on the back of the jersey is of the utmost important whereas others will take whatever they get. “I was always number seven in minor hockey because it was my favourite number as a kid,” said Mitchell. “When I went to Hamilton I switched to number 93 because Dougie Gilmour was my favourite player.”


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