No bad dogs here


Randy Russon
By
May 6, 2018

Opportunistically speaking, if only Hamilton was the host city for this year’s Memorial Cup tournament, which will be held later this month in Regina, Saskatchewan.

And in a perfect world, the Hamilton Bulldogs as host team and the Soo Greyhounds as Ontario Hockey League champions, would both represent the OHL at the four-team Memorial Cup event.

Trying to remain neutral — which is not always easy — I waver between which team I like best, be it the Bulldogs or Greyhounds.

Both teams are so well coached.

Both teams have so much quality depth.

Both teams have been so well put together by the respective general managers, Steve Staios of the Bulldogs and Kyle Raftis of the Greyhounds.

The Soo may be faster and quicker but Hamilton may be more consistent in the way it attacks and pursues.

Either way, for what it may be worth, I like both teams. A lot.

I like the way head coach Drew Bannister prepares and reacts with his no. 1 ranked Greyhounds team. I respect his no-nonsense style when it comes to handling his team and in dealing with the media and the public.

I really like how Bulldogs bench boss John Gruden has adapted to the many new players that the aforementioned GM Staios has brought in to Hamilton over last season and this one.

To be sure, I am a big Staios fan. And I have never even met the guy.

I liked him when he was a high-end OHL defenseman after being a first-round draft pick of the erstwhile Niagara Falls Thunder back in 1990. And I admired from afar when he went on to grind it out over more than 1,000 games in the National Hockey League.

A Hamilton product who was born and raised in the gritty southern Ontario steel town, Staios shows obvious pride in his roots and where he comes from.

Read his quotes in the Hamilton newspaper, listen to him talk about the Bulldogs on television. The passion that he has for his town and his team just emanates from him.

This is a guy, Staios, who breathes and bleeds black-and-gold to the extent of having changed the Bulldog colours from red-white-and-blue to the scheme that better represents his hometown in the legendary image of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

In just his second season as Bulldogs GM — he is also team president and does a lot of promotional work in Hamilton on behalf of the franchise — Staios managed to put together an Eastern Conference championship squad through shrewd and calculated moves.

Amazingly, more than half of Hamilton’s roster is the result of trades.

Among those who became Bulldogs via the trade route are starting goalie Kaden Fulcher, plum defensemen Benjamin Gleason and Riley Stillman and high-end forwards Robert Thomas, Nicholas Caamano, Ryan Moore and Will Bitten.

To be sure, it hasn’t taken Staios long to get to know the OHL as a GM and to excel at his job.

As for the Greyhounds and how Raftis and Bannister have gone about doing their jobs, their work is to be admired.

Forget about the fact that Raftis manages the Greyhounds while living in southern Ontario. The guy is obviously good at what he does, be it through the draft, trades or free agent finds.

Forget about the fact that Bannister can show appearances of being abrasive and flippant. He is obviously a good coach who does not get too high or too low and seems to know which buttons to push and when.

As I like these Greyhounds and players such as veteran forwards Jack Kopacka and Morgan Frost and rookie left winger Joe Carroll (I will readily state that I am not a fan of a few hot dog showboats) I also like the way fans and supporters in Houndtown have backed their team in a show of steely pride.

And as previously noted, I really like the makeup of the Bulldogs from Staios on down.

If only the Greyhounds and Bulldogs were both going to the Memorial Cup.

Meantime, enjoy the rest of the series and the play on words with these dogs of Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie.

Dog fight. Dog days. Dog house. Hot dogs. Top dogs. Good dogs.

No bad dogs here.

PHOTO: Hamilton Bulldogs president and general manager Steve Staios (right) promoting his OHL team on television.


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