Ty Nelson, one of the Top Prospects in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, reflects on his whirlwind of a season and minor-hockey career with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
A few days removed from winning the GTHL championship, the JRC defenceman was doing what everyone else was; on his phone waiting for the smallest updates.
“I was at home with my family,” said Nelson. “We were trying to do our part by staying in and staying safe.”
Just two days prior, hundreds had gathered around the Scotiabank Pond on a Tuesday night to watch the fifth-and-deciding game for GTHL supremacy. Nelson’s opponent, the Vaughan Kings had won the first two games of the series, needing one more victory to complete their storybook playoff run. However, JRC clawed their way back to force a game 4, and now, a game 5.
After everything they’ve been through this season, the pressures of playing in multiple elimination games felt like nothing to the team, especially for Nelson.
From opening face-off, the bright white jersey that dawned #89 was flying all over the ice, using his frame to power through his opponents having the crowd in excitement. Nelson plays strong in all facets, blocking heavy shots from the point in the defensive zone, and setting up plays offensively with his elusive skating and playmaking shown by few from the back-end.
It was a long road for the Canadiens, but when that puck dropped, after all the bumps and bruises along the way, Ty Nelson and the Canadiens played without nerves, and came through and completing their comeback.
Primed for a deep run in the OHL Cup, it was an ending that no one saw coming.
Following the decision of the CHL to cancel the remainder of the regular season, the OHL followed suit, cancelling the 2020 OHL Cup, leaving the handful of Minor Hockey teams heartbroken, especially Nelson who has played five years with the organization, and would have been a veteran in the tournament, having played in the event with the 2003 JRC group.
“I knew we had a special group,” said Nelson, who alongside his teammates, wanted to put a year together much like the 2003 Don Mills Flyers and the 1998 JRC team. “We felt that we had the squad to do it.”
A great team that became even greater through hardship.
Not many look at how demanding a typical Minor-Midget season is for any team or OHL prospect. Playing north of 60 games, travelling to games and practices, the countless tournaments, prospects games, you name it. But with JRC this season, Ty Nelson had to experience were a lot different than a typical player entering his draft year. Many ups and downs with his teammates that are now brothers, but he knows it was also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Firstly, it was the sudden departure of their captain, Adam Fantilli, who left the team to go play south of the border alongside his brother at Kimball Union Academy. Despite the sudden loss of one of their game-breakers combined with many injuries, JRC recovered and became even better than they were before.
But then it was the sudden passing of the father of Ty Nelson’s teammate, Thomas Sirman, which brought a cloud of sadness to the team and to the organization.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, especially when it gravely impacts a group of 14 and 15-year-olds with a goal within reach. It’s why the coaching staff and players got together to have a “heart-to-heart” conversation.
Playing with heavy hearts for the rest of the season, the team managed to gain strength from their losses on-and-off the ice and continued to strive for their goal. One that they ended up accomplishing in fashion.
With his minor hockey career ending abruptly, it’s the life-long bonds that he has created with his teammates Nelson will cherish now, looking back at it.
“The jokes and stories. The battles we went through, pushing me every practice and game to get better,” said Nelson, who also showed gratitude to the coaching staff. “Our relationship with them was like they were one of the guys, they joked and kept things light.”
“They came to the rink everyday sacrificing their time to keep teaching and pushing us to be the best we could be. We owe them a lot,” added the five-foot-eight, 172 pound defenceman.
It’s an opportunity only a small group of players get when representing their country at the Youth Olympics. When Nelson (alongside fellow teammate Pano Fimis), was named to Canada’s Youth Olympic team, he travelled to Lausanne, Switzerland. That will always be the icing on the cake.
“It kind of happened so fast,” explained the top prospect. Following being named to the team they quickly had a training camp in Montreal and proceeded to Switzerland.
“Having the opportunity to put on that Canadian jersey and representing your country was stuff that you can only dream of.”
With a whirlwind of a season now complete (or incomplete), Nelson has his sight set on achieving a life-long goal of joining the Ontario Hockey League. With the 2020 OHL Priority Selection just days away, Nelson is projected to have his name called early when 9 AM rolls around this Saturday morning.
“Getting drafted to the [OHL] is what I’ve dreamed of,” he said, following by expressing what he brings to the table that has OHL scouts impressed, showcasing his maturity at a young age. “There is always room for improvement. I keep learning every day.”
While Ty Nelson will find himself as the new face of an OHL franchise in the in the fall, he’ll never forget the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. An organization that helped shape him to become the strong leader and player he is today.
“You could never play for a better organization. I’m super proud of having the opportunity to play for that program.”