Game On Magazine November 2015 - Page 60

: BEN PLETT Winnipeg Teenager Heading Back to Phoenix Ben Plett was playing for the Double A St. James Canadians last season when a scout approached his dad about maybe trying the Phoenix Knights of the Tier II Western States Hockey League. Suddenly, a big kid with big dreams was about to take his show on the road. By Scott Taylor Photos By James Carey Lauder and John Brooks C hris Walker knows that under normal circumstances, kids with big hockey dreams are often overlooked. Walker, who was born and raised in Phoenix, Ariz., knows his theory is true because he was one of those kids. The 25-year-old head coach of the Western States Hockey League’s Phoenix Knights has played the game all his life and he, too, had big dreams. As a junior he played in the Eastern Junior League with the Jersey Hitmen and the Philadelphia Revolution, took a shot with the Powell River Kings of the BC Junior League and had a tryout with the American Hockey League’s Lake Erie Monsters. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound defenseman never made it big on the ice, injuries and skill-level saw to that, but he has become a successful junior coach in a league with 29 teams in 13 Western States and if he had his way, his team would be loaded with Canadian players looking for an alternative. “I get 27 players on my roster and if I could, I’d have 27 Canadians on that roster,” said Walker earlier this summer. “I love Canadian kids and I think we have something here that gives them great competition and an alternative to playing in Triple A midget leagues, Jr. A leagues and the Western League. We aren’t the Western League but we’re one level below the United States Hockey League. We send players to the USHL and the NCAA. We’re one of the USHL’s feeder leagues and I see where your Winnipeg Jets just drafted 60 GAME ON NOVEMBER 2015 two USHL players in the first round. We’re a pretty good alternative.” Indeed. Considering that on June 28, former Phoenix Polar Bears (now the Knights) star, Jeremy Langlois from Tempe, Ariz., -- who just completed his career at NCAA Division 1 Quinnipiac University -- signed a two-way deal with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, this is getting a reputation as a pretty decent league, which makes the existence of the Knights and the Tier II Junior Western States Hockey League interesting to a 6-foot-5, 200-pound, 15-year-old defenseman from Winnipeg named Ben Plett. “He started last year trying out for the Triple A Wild and then Monarchs,” said Ben’s dad, Bernie, an Investment Advisor with CIBC World Markets in Winnipeg. “He didn’t make it and was playing Double A with the St. James Canadians. He’s a big kid, you notice him on the ice, and we were playing a game at the St. Vital Vics rink when a guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, is that your kid?’ I told him it was and he said, ‘You want to bring him to Phoenix to play for us?’ “Well, we had a few conversations and we got him a waiver from St. Paul’s (High School) and we went down and played the final few weeks with Phoenix. They liked him enough to bring him back this season and offered him a contract. So Ben’s going back after Christmas.” Now, if you think it’s strange that a kid from Winnipeg was asked to play for a team in Phoenix, Ariz., it might not be as strange as you’d imagine. The team was founded by Harry