Belanger making his own name

November 7, 2022
Kenny Belanger

He has hockey roots that run deep through his dad. Through time, the game has changed dramatically since his now 48-year old dad Ken Belanger was a feared, left wing enforcer at the Ontario Hockey League and National Hockey League levels. So now, young Kenny Belanger is making his own name as a skilled 18-year old forward with the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.

First, a few words about the elder Belanger and what he was able to accomplish as an overachieving left winger.

A top forward at the under 18 level with the erstwhile Soo Legion major midgets, Ken went on to play three years in the OHL as a third and fourth line player with the Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm, never scoring more than 16 goals in a season. But Ken made his 6-foot-4, 220 pound presence known as a fearsome fighter who backed away from absolutely no one and — with family and friends in attendance in what was a highly anticipated fight — he pummelled Soo Greyhounds goon Brian Goudie in a clear cut decision at the old Memorial Gardens.

Ken’s fighting fame, along with resolve, determination and an ability to contribute at the highest of levels of the game led to the soft-spoken kid from Sault Ste. Marie’s west end playing in no less than 260 NHL games. Big Ken netted 12 goals, 12 assists, 24 points and racked up 711 minutes in penalties in those 260 NHL games while toughing it out for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings — and playing for celebrated coaches such as Pat Burns, Rick Bowness, Mike Milbury, Mike Keenan and Andy Murray along the way. Among Ken’s victories as one of the best fighters in NHL history was a one-sided triumph over Toronto Maple Leafs legendary tough guy Tie Domi. He might have played even longer but injury due to concussion was a factor in Ken retiring as a player at the age of 31.

Kenny Belanger, on the set of the Hockey North Show podcast. (photo by Mary DeSimone)

On to the younger Belanger, this is Kenny’s second season in the NOJHL and first with the aforementioned Soo Eagles after being acquired in a summer time trade with the Soo Thunderbirds. He scored 11 goals, 11 assists, 22 points in 44 regular season games for the eventual NOJHL champion Thunderbirds in 2021-2022 before requesting a trade.

Appearing on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show Podcast, Belanger said he requested the trade from the Thunderbirds “for a better opportunity.” He noted that he has “learned a lot” from Eagles head coach Doug Laprade, who, decades ago, was part of Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association championship teams as a player, then as an assistant coach, with the Lake Superior State Lakers.

“He is a really good coach who understands the game and how to use his players,” Belanger said of Laprade. “His systems are suited to my style of play. I have already learned so much from him.”

Laprade, in turn, has praise aplenty for young Belanger.

“Kenny has been a very good addition for us,” Laprade told Hockey News North. “He brings a skill set that every team would want combined with being a very smart player. He has been very good for us.”

Laprade said that when he heard that Belanger wanted to move on from the Thunderbirds, the Eagles did not hesitate in going after the 6-foot-4, 185 pound forward.

“With him being on the Thunderbirds last year, I did notice him quite a bit,” Laprade pointed out. “So when he became available this summer, we jumped at the chance to get him. He has fit into our lineup and in our locker room very well. Kenny gets along with everybody and is turning into a little bit of a leader for us as well.”

Meantime, Belanger, who is fourth on the Eagles scoring chart with seven goals, six assists, 13 points in 18 games, said he continuously talks hockey with his dad, looking for tips on how to improve his overall game.

Ken Belanger, then of the Boston Bruins, once bested Toronto Maple Leafs tough guy Tie Domi in a fight.

“We talk all the time,” Kenny said of Ken. “I help him out at his school (KBX Hockey Academy) and he gives me a lot of pointers. It is great to have a dad who played in the NHL. Mainly, my dad just tells me to never quit and to always keep working hard.”

A second round pick by the Mississauga Steelheads at the 2021 OHL supplemental draft, Belanger has kept his NCAA eligibility intact. With two years of junior A eligibility remaining after this season, Belanger has designs on eventually playing at the NCAA level and, when his playing days are over, getting into the same hockey training business that his dad is now in.

In the meantime, the late developing forward with the size, skill set and smarts is focused on developing his game with the NOJHL Eagles under the watchful eyes of aforementioned head coach Doug Laprade and general manager/assistant coach Bruno Bragagnolo.

“I know what my strengths are and what I need to improve on to play at the next level,” said Belanger, noting that the “Soo Eagles have been really good for my development. This has definitely worked out well for me so far.”

And Bragagnolo, like Laprade, sees a lot of good in Belanger.

“He has a lot of potential, that is for sure,” Bragagnolo said of Belanger. “He has good size and plays a clean game with a bit of an edge. He wants to learn and he works hard in practice and during the games. Personally I think he is really under-rated. I know how much Doug (Laprade) likes him and what he brings to our team. Bringing Kenny in was a good move for our team. We are real happy to have him.

“He is a good team player and he has skill to go with his size and he is real smart too,” Bragagnolo continued. “He also has a pretty good scoring touch. All around Kenny is a real good player and he is going to get better and better. The big thing about Kenny is that he really works at his game and you can tell that he always wants to get better.”

He may be a totally different style player than his dad was. But the work ethic and the drive to succeed is the same. And as Ken Belanger made his own statement, so too is Kenny Belanger.

What you think about “Belanger making his own name”

  1. Good read Randy. He is growing into a highly respected player in many scouts’ eyes.
    Continued growth, health and success

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