ECHL.com Note – Former ECHL players Dominic Periard (Lexington, 2002-03) and Fresno (2003-04), Ryan Lauzon (Mississippi, 2001-02 and Augusta, 2002-03) and Matt Hubbauer (Atlantic City, 2003-04) are also among the 18 finalists for the series finale of the TV program “Making The Cut”.
By Neil Stevens
The Canadian Press
BEAUMONT, Texas – At one time, not long ago, Lou Dickenson figured he knew everything there was to know about playing hockey.
He was the complete package on offence, some of the scouts said, and he listened. He was a muscular teen who could skate, score, and hit.
He was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers.
He was on his way.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to play in the NHL,”‘ he recalls. “I wasn’t very mature at the time.”
Not by a long shot.
“There is so much involved in this game of hockey,” the 22-year-old native of Orleans, Ontario, says from his Beaumont, Texas, pad. “You have to constantly improve as a player.
“I didn’t realize that at the time.”
He does now. He’s been playing for the ECHL’s Texas Wildcatters. On Thursday, he was recalled by the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage for home games Thursday and Friday.
Despite riding buses in the minors, Dickenson is having a ball, and he’s grown up a lot, too.
“I’m so much better as a player now,” he says. “I’ve improved a ton.
“This is a game that I love. Every day I go to the rink, I enjoy it.”
He credits the TV program “Making The Cut” with putting his hockey career back on track. He went to a camp put on by the show’s sponsors at Vernon last July and emerged as one of the 18 finalists for the series finale Tuesday night, when the six Canadian NHL teams will each select a player to receive a big-league tryout.
“I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for that show,” he says.
Mike Keenan, the GM of the Florida Panthers and a coach on “Making The Cut”, liked what he saw of Dickenson during the Vernon camp and invited him to try out with the Rampage. Similar invitations were extended to other “Making The Cut” hopefuls, and Dickenson, Mark Wires of Toronto and Wetaskiwin, Alberta, buddies Eric Sonnenberg and James Demone have been Wildcatters teammates this season.
All four are among 18 finalists on “Making The Cut”. They fly from Houston to Toronto on Sunday. The finale takes place at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre.
“I hope I get picked,” says Dickenson. “I want to get another chance at the NHL.
“It’d be a dream come true.”
Just to get the chance is exhilarating.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says. “It’s been a long time coming.
“We started on that show last summer. I haven’t been able to watch it because it’s not on TV down here. I’m looking forward to Tuesday.”
The finalists were selected by the end of the Vernon camp and were not allowed to tell anybody until now.
“All my family, my girlfriend and my friends have been watching it so it was tough to keep the secret,” says Dickenson. “Everybody was always asking, ‘How’d you do? How’d you do?’
“But it was more fun for those watching not to know.”
Show lawyers made it clear there would be serious repercussions for any leaks, says Dickenson. Like, open your mouth and you can forget about being at the Hershey Centre.
Dickenson, Wires and Sonnenberg have been sharing living space in Beaumont.
“There’ve been a lot of ups and downs,” says Wires, who played U.S. college hockey at Bowling Green University, when asked about the ECHL season. “It’s definitely been a learning experience for me.
“The biggest things I have to work on are my defensive play and becoming more mentally tough.”
Maybe an NHL tryout will be the reward, either from the Panthers or from “Making The Cut”.
“We all want to play at the highest level possible, hopefully the NHL,” says Wires.