PETERBOROUGH | There are small pubs, restaurants and photos of the Petes players on George Street. In this city of 80,000 inhabitants northeast of Toronto, Scotty Bowman, Jacques Martin, Bob Gainey, Steve Yzerman, Mike Ricci and Chris Pronger have in turn built their legend.
A good hope of the Canadian now wears the colors of the Petes. Traded from the Mississauga Steelheads on January 7, Owen Beck will seek in his own way to follow in the footsteps of the other greats of this organization. But it is still far from this reputation.
The heart of this city remains the Peterborough Memorial Centre, an old arena built in 1956 which can hold 4,300 people. This is where the Granby Predators won the Memorial Cup in 1996. Inside the building, it breathes hockey. And there is also the smell that comes with it. In this imperfection, we are not far from perfection.
“You have to watch the corners, they're almost square,” an NHL scout warned. The puck can jump all over the place. »
On Thursday February 16, the Petes host the Ottawa 67's for a clash between the top two teams in the Ontario Junior League East Division. Three hours before the match, Beck climbs into the press room to meet the author of these lines.
The 2nd round choice of CH (33rd overall) took a breather to offer a summary of the last months of his life as a hockey player.
“ The best way to describe my six or seven months can be summed up in one word: incredible. I never expected to realize so many dreams in such a short time. I still don't fully understand. It's just crazy. I can say quite humbly that I had an eventful year!
“I will need a step back to understand everything that happened. It will probably hit me a little harder this summer. I got fished out; I participated in a first camp in the NHL; I won the gold medal with Team Canada; I played my first game in the NHL; and I now play for my boyhood team in Peterborough.”
In his list, he forgot his excellent rookie tournament in Buffalo with the CH, his dismissal from the Canadian team at the start and his emergency call-up a few days later to replace Colton Dach who had been injured.
Dinner in Ottawa
Of the last seven months, Beck will not forget the date of January 28th. With the many injured and the Laval Rocket traveling to Cleveland, the Habs issued an S.O.S. to him for a rare emergency recall. At 18, he played his first big league game in a 5-0 loss to the Senators.
“I loved the experience,” he replied. The Canadian had so much class with me. The day before the game, Nick Suzuki invited me to dinner in Ottawa. I shared a meal with Suzuki, Hoffman, Wideman, Allen, Dvorak and Anderson. I was sitting at the table with half a dozen NHL players.
“The next day I was in morning practice, I did an NHL player routine. The CH had surprised me by placing the pucks in a way where you could read my last name for the warm-up period. They welcomed me with open arms. I did my rookie lap without my helmet. Despite the end result, it was truly an awesome day.”
A message from St-Louis
Beck kept pace for a player who broke the ice in a new league.
“I didn't feel too far from the NHL,” he replied. I played just under ten minutes, had two chances and did pretty well defensively. Overall I was happy. My style of play fit well with that of the NHL. It is not unattainable for me. »
Returned the next day to his junior team, he received a message from Martin St-Louis.
“Martin texted me the next day saying I could be proud of myself. He reminded me that I hadn't had much time to mentally prepare myself and that I had to discover a new system in less than 24 hours. He told me that I had assimilated the essentials quickly to know a good meeting.
Simple words, but words that still resonate in his head almost a month later .
“Owen is very smart”
- Rob Wilson, Coach Petes chief predicts 18-year-old NHL future
Owen Beck was traded to the Peterborough Petes on January 7th.
PETERBOROUGH | Owen Beck is always described as a smart center. He has this quality on the ice, but also at school. He won the Canadian Hockey League student player of the year trophy last year.
“If I wasn't playing hockey, I would have wanted to be doctor,” Beck said in an interview with Journal. There is no doctor in my family, so I would have liked to be the first. We never know. But for now, my focus is on hockey. ”
Beck took a break from school this year, but he intends to enroll in classes probably in the summer. When he was younger, he also studied French immersion from kindergarten to sixth grade. He did the interview in English since he has lost most of his French, but once he settles in Montreal, he is hopeful of making up for lost time.
At the he image of Nick Bobrov, Martin Lapointe, Kent Hughes or Martin St-Louis, Rob Wilson indicates intelligence as the first quality of his player with the Peterborough Petes.
“Owen is very smart,” Wilson said. He is also a very good young man, really respectful. He has the respect of his teammates and coaches. He is a player who is dedicated to his team.
“On the ice, he has dog, he is strong in the face-off circle, he is a good skater and he is not afraid to rub his nose in hot places. He reads the game well with or without the puck. He will still grow as a player. He really has great potential because of his toolbox, but above all his intelligence and his vision of the game. I imagine him as a very responsible center at the NHL level. »
Inspired by Bergeron and Danault
In 46 games this season in the OHL, Beck has tallied 52 points (20 goals, 30 assists). But he is not talked about because of his personal numbers.
“I take great pride in playing the right way on the ice,” Petes No. 16 said. I pay attention to details. I always wanted to become a complete center. I had the same mentality in Midget AAA. I often got the role of the second center who took care of several face-offs in defensive territory. I devote a lot of energy to my game in my territory. ”
“I look at Phillip Danault, Bo Horvat or Patrice Bergeron. They're never the most attacking guys on their team, but they have great value. I don't watch footage of them, I prefer to watch matches. You don't realize the importance of a Bergeron or Danault just by following highlights. You have to follow a game to see how they play in their territory, how they deal with transition and how they win faceoffs. »
A goal ambitious, but certainly not impossible
Owen Beck during a preseason game against the Devils, September 26 at the Bell Centre.
PETERBOROUGH | Owen Beck said it when he returned from the World Junior Championship where he won gold with Canada. For next season, he imagines himself in the uniform of the Montreal Canadiens.
“Yes, I still believe in it, replied Beck. I still need to develop as a hockey player, but I don't think that goal of playing in the NHL next year is unattainable. It's my goal. I'll see if I can do it, but it's clearly in my head.”
Aged 19 since February 3, Beck could return to the Peterborough Petes, a team a 30-minute drive from Port Hope, his hometown in Ontario.
Rob Wilson, coach in chief of the Petes, did not dare to venture on this ground.
“I have no idea what the Canadiens' plans are next year,” replied the 54-year-old. If Owen wins a job in Montreal next fall, the entire Petes organization will rejoice for him. But if Owen returns to Peterborough, the entire Petes organization will be happy. We will encourage him.”
“Owen is still a young player, he continued. He will play his 19-year-old season next year. I can't predict where he will play next season, but I can get wet thinking that the Canadian will watch him very carefully at the next camp. He has a very bright future. Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes won't want to shake things up with him. They will open the doors to the NHL for him when they feel he is ready. And it could be next year.”
Since arriving in Peterborough, Beck has amassed 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 16 games. He's not riding at the same pace as his old team in Mississauga (41 points in 30 games).
“Yeah, it's a bit slower for me offensively,” said he acknowledged. I needed time to learn the new system and adapt to new teammates.