For the first time in 14 years, Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Catholic Secondary School has a hockey team and it tested its mettle against 11 Division police officers in a game on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 24, at McCormick Arena.
The co-ed game pitted students ages 14 to 17 against officers, some of whom have played on National Hockey League (NHL) feeder teams. This fact didn’t seem to faze Dante Orfao, a Grade 10 student on the brand new high school team.
“I’m not sure we’ll beat them, but I think it’ll be a good game,” said Orfao mere hours before the students and cops went head-to-head at the Brock Avenue arena. “I think we’ll do okay.”
The students came up short losing 5-1, but they got some respect from their opponents.
“Some of those kids are amazing,” said 11 Division resource officer Candy Graham, who along with colleague, school liaison officer Eric Berridge, and teachers Theodore Dickie and Alex Simandl, was instrumental in creating and coaching the team.
“The goalies (especially) were amazing.”
No slouch himself on a pair of skates, Ortao has been playing hockey since he was four. A double ‘A’ hockey player for the Toronto Royals, he’s on the ice five days a week. This in addition to the high school’s practices every Thursday and a regular game of shinny, too. Ortao said he is psyched his school now has a hockey team.
By the time the team was formed in November, it was too late to enter the non-contact Catholic District School Board league, explained Graham.
“We wanted to get them some exhibition games,” said Graham, who approached her colleagues about playing against the students, most of whom were more than willing to play.
“We had to make sure we had a good bench (of players),” said Graham. “Some of the officers have been on NHL farm teams.”
Bishop Marrocco students were not required to try out, she added.
“We’ve just taken everyone,” said Graham. “We had 36 kids sign up. It’s cool to see them on the ice. We’ve got some really talented kids.”
Even Graham said she would be getting in on the action, despite never having played a formal game of hockey with equipment.
“I’m the comic relief,” she quipped to The Villager.