Game On Magazine November 2015 - Page 78

Byron Froese: Winkler Journeyman Never Gave Up By Johnston Hall Photos by Graig Abel At the age of 24, Winkler’s Byron Froese proves that if you want to be a National Hockey League player, don’t ever give up. On Friday morning, Oct. 23, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Tyler Bozak’s lower body injury would not permit him to play in Montreal that weekend, so that the Leafs had decided to call up Froese. Froese, who had three goals in four games with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, was about to play in his first National Hockey League game. Bozak was placed on injured reserve so it was likely Froese would get a good look with the Leafs. It’s an amazing story considering that he spent part of last season in the East Coast League. Froese grew up in Winkler and played all of his minor hockey there. He played high school hockey with Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler and played Triple A Midget with the Pembina Valley Hawks. He played in the Western Hockey League with the Everett Slvertips and Red Deer Rebels and was selected in the fourth round, 119th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2009 NHL entry draft. In 2008-09, he played for Team Canada at the World U-18 Championship and had four goals and seven points in six games. He spent parts of the last five seasons moving between the ECHL and the AHL and played for such teams as the Toledo Walleye (ECHL), the Rockford IceHogs (AHL), the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL), the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) and the Marlies (AHL). He is in the first year of a two-year, two-way contract with the Leafs. However, when he arrived in Toronto to play for the Marlies, he was on loan from Cincinnati. To his credit, he made an impression early and the Leafs took notice. “He was a great signing,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen last season. “He went down to the ECHL and didn’t pout. He just led the league in scoring before getting called back up. He’s been a great addition for us, not only as far as scoring timely goals, but also on the defensive side, and by winning faceoffs and killing penalties. He’s basically doing everything for us, and he’s opened up a lot of peoples’ eyes.” Froese is a 6-foot, 190-pound centre who is living proof that if you keep plugging away, you’ll have a chance to grab hold of your hockey dreams and reach the National Hockey League. Even if he doesn’t stick with the Leafs, he’s proven that hard work, commitment and dedication really can pay off. n 78 GAME ON NOVEMBER 2015