Under The Rock

By Steve Gandour


By Steve Gandour

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Jonathan Gagnon currently of the St. John’s Maple Leafs. Jonathan was tearing it up in the CeHL with Memphis when he got called up to St. John’s.

HF: Growing up, who would you say was your biggest influence in becoming a hockey player?

JG: My parents! They were really big hockey fans growing up. They never really pushed me, but they were fully supportive each step of the way. They encouraged my love for the game. I remember growing up in Montreal and watching Hockey Night In Canada. I knew even at that young age that was what I wanted to do, and they fully supported me.

HF: What was the best advice you ever received from your parents, or any coaches or friends along the way?

JG: That would probably be from my parents. They told me to just keep it a game, and that is how I go into every match, work hard, play hard but have fun too.

HF: Growing up in Montreal, should I assume the Canadians were your favourite team to watch?

JG: Yeah! I was a big fan of Montreal growing up. However, as I got older I became a Pittsburgh fan. I was awestruck watching Mario Lemieux play, he is one of the greatest ever to play the game. The fact that Mario was a french-Canadian also inspired me further. Every kid in Montreal idolized Mario.

HF: How did it feel being drafted by the Leafs as a young Canadians fan?

JG: It was a great feeling. Toronto is still close to home for me, and being a Canadian it was awesome to be selected by a Canadian franchise, especially one with the history and pride that Toronto has.

HF: What do you feel is your style of play? What are your strengths and what do you feel you need to work on?

JG: I don’t really feel I have a set style. I am an offensive player and I like to create opportunities for myself and my line mates. I feel I am a strong skater and puckhandler, but I am not a physically dominating forward. My defensive game is solid but not spectacular. I feel I need to improve a little defensively to make the NHL. That is one of the first things they look for now is good sense in your own end. I also would not mind enhancing my speed further to an elite level.

HF: So do you have a speed skating instructor, or special workout regiment?.

JG: I started a biometrics program this past summer. I work out hard to enhance my muscle strength. I have a personal trainer that both helps build my mental and physical stamina. Mostly it is weight training and running drills.

HF: To date what has been your greatest experience or moment in hockey?

JG: I would have to say it was winning the Bronze medal in the World Juniors Under 17 tournament. It was a great growth experience. It was in Red Deer Alberta. We had a great team and it gave us a chance to experience competition on a global stage. I got to play with great young players like Lecavalier… it was really awesome.

HF: You have had several runs in the QMJHL, a run in the ECHL and now with the CeHL and AHL this year. Do you find the constant changes in location and travel make it hard to set into your groove as a player and prospect.?

JG: I can’t say that it is tough really, you just try to play your best wherever you are. It is part of the road to the NHL and though I did not expect this many turns, I was ready for the changes.

HF: Do you feel confident you can make the NHL?

JG: I am not sure you ever know yourself if you are ready or not. You just play to get as much experience as possible and hope you impress someone. This year was a little difficult as I never got to my first Leafs Pro Camp due to the September 11th disaster. But I will keep working and get my chance. Seeing Sebastien (Centomo) get a crack at the NHL really motivates me to play hard knowing that if I do, I will get my chance.

HF: Well I wish you good luck in the playoffs for St. John’s this year, and in the future. Thanks for this interview.

JG: You’re welcome.


Brad Boyes (C) – Erie Otters (OHL)
Toronto signed their 2000 First round pick to a three year, three million dollar entry level contract with an undisclosed signing bonus. The Leafs have no intention of rushing their projected top two line player.

Robb Palahnuk (RW) – Memphis River Kings (CeHL)
After scoring a CeHL leading seven playoff goals in six games for the River Kings, Robb was recalled to St. John’s of the AHL for their playoff run.

Peter Metcalf (D) – Maine Black Bears (NCAA)
Peter was named First Team Hockey East All Star for his great season this year. Peter is finishing his senior year in style as Maine has made the “frozen” (final) four in the NCAA tournament. Peter will be most likely assigned to St. John’s next year, though Memphis remains an option.

Jay Harrison – Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Jay was assigned to the St. John’s Maple Leafs to fill a whole left by Pilar’s presence on the Leafs. Jay had just been transferred from Brampton of the OHL to Memphis of the CeHL to gain some playoff experience just last week.

Jacques Lariviere – Memphis River Kings (CeHL)
Jacques was assigned to St. John’s of the AHL for playoff depth with the recent rash of injuries to the Toronto Maple Leafs depleting the St. John’s roster.