By Alex Gallacher
Since being added to the Haliburton County Huskies roster back in October, Christian Stevens has become an impact player and a leader rather quickly. The Brooklin, Ontario forward has five goals and 18 assists in his 21 games played with the team so far, however Stevens is one of the many players to bring OHL (Ontario Hockey League) experience to the Huskies.
Having played hockey since he was very young, Stevens played his AAA career with the Whitby Wildcats being named captain of his under-16 AAA squad in 2017-18. Moving up the ladder at a steady pace, Stevens credits his grandfather as one of the people who helped him foster his love for the game.
“I started when I was about three or four years old,” Stevens said. “My grandfather really taught me a lot of stuff, I used to shoot on him with my mini-stick. He is the one who really got me into hockey, he helped build the backyard rink and took me to a lot of the practices and games.”
Starting his junior career out in Whitby, Stevens laced up for the Huskies predecessor the Whitby Fury. Playing 80 games for the Fury, Stevens logged 11 goals and 32 assists for the team before moving up to join the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. Joining the team shortly before COVID-19 ended the 2019-20 season early, Stevens laced up with the troops for 22 games that year and remained in the OHL before being sent to the Huskies last October.
The adjustment has been very smooth for Stevens, who has enjoyed the change of scenery.
“I was fortunate enough to play two years of junior hockey before joining the Battalion,” Stevens said. “I was pretty familiar with most of the guys already, however coming down from the OHL the biggest difference is knowing your role on the team. In North Bay I was on the third/fourth line focusing on getting pucks in and just doing my job, but down here I’m able to focus more on scoring goals and winning games.”
The experience from the OHL has helped Stevens become a better player. Despite his time in North Bay not going exactly as planned, he has taken many lessons away from those 22 games that he applied each night for the Huskies.
The Huskies have a very close relationship with the Battalion, which has allowed them to pick up some quality players from the OHL. OJHL co-wins leader Christian Cicigoi and recent defense acquisition Simon Rose were both Stevens’ teammates on the 2019-20 Battalion roster. That combined with guys who he already knew from playing together with Nathan Porter, Patrick Saini and Isaac Sooklal on the Fury, he didn’t have to go far to find his friends.
“It’s been awesome to play with those guys here,” continued Stevens. “Coach Ryan used to play with the GM of North Bay so they are very close. Having that good relationship has really helped us push to get some good players, I’ve definitely tried to give my input to get some of my other really close teammates to come to the team.”
Stevens’ leadership is often one of the things that he has been praised during his hockey career. Having been named an assistant captain almost immediately upon arrival in Haliburton County, is something that has carried with him throughout his hockey journey.
No matter which team he is on or how well the team is doing, Stevens plays his heart out every single night. To him each game is a playoff game, and his work ethic inspires many of the younger players who look up to guys like Stevens.
“Christian is a leader,” said former Battalion teammate and current Huskies goalie Christian Cicigoi. “Everyone looks up to him and he plays hard. When a young guy sees an older guy work like that you wanna be just like him. To have leadership like Christian’s, is a huge asset to our team.”
Having played in one of the rather small OHL markets, one of the biggest similarities between Minden and North Bay is the “small town” feeling. While North Bay is far bigger that Haliburton County, having grown up in the hustle and bustle of the Durham Region there was very little culture shock upon arriving in the county.
The one aspect of rural life that Stevens appreciated was how much Haliburton County supported and rallied around the team. Signing autographs and giving interviews are something he knew from the OHL, but never expected to follow him to the OJHL. The people here have made this experience one he will never forget, and is excited to continue that once the season resumes in February.
“When I would go to North Bay from Brooklin it was similar, but up here it’s a lot quieter.” added Stevens. “I love it here, my family has a cottage up here so I was up here a lot last summer. A few buddies of mine have cottages up here too, so I’ve been around the area for five or six years. I’m happy I made the move here, lots of fans in the arena and buzz around the town.”
For Ramsay, adding Stevens to the roster was one of the easiest choices he ever made. Stevens brings a lot to the table.
“He is the most complete 200-pound player on our team,” Ramsay said. “He is very responsible defensively, just as much as he is offensively. He is very skilled. He is a big boy who plays a heavy game. That works really well for us, as we like to play with the playoff mentality. He has been keeping fit up in North Bay during the lockdown and he is a very mature player so he is a very important part of our team moving down this stretch.”
As the OJHL is mainly used as a stepping stone for junior players to advance their careers, Stevens will be going to school next year and taking advantage of his OHL package, which means he has a few years of his school paid for on behalf of the league.
He still plans on playing hockey. Most likely going to play in the OUA (Ontario University Athletics – university calibre of hockey), Stevens doesn’t want to give hockey up just yet and wants to continue as long as he can.