Bisons add power up-front

Hockey: Okotoks brings in KIJHL veteran Josh Haley

By: Remy Greer

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 06:00 am

Okotoks Bison Josh Haley flips the puck during his debut with the club on Friday in High River.
Okotoks Bison Josh Haley flips the puck during his debut with the club on Friday in High River.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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One of the Okotoks Jr. B Bisons most popular staffers is still making an impact on the team even after leaving the organization last season.

The Bisons can thank former assistant coach Rory Hennigan for his recruitment work in bringing in Okotoks’ newest addition Josh Haley, a veteran power forward from the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).

“Rory Hennigan was my neighbour in Calgary so I talked to him for a while when I was trying to make a decision,” said Haley, who started the season with the Columbia Valley Rockies in Invermere. “I was suffering from an injury since Oct. 11 out there and just came back and decided it was time to come home and play hockey here.”

Of course, the fact the Bisons brand is a well-known commodity in Junior B circles with three straight league championships and its elusive provincial title last year certainly did not hurt the sales pitch.

“Obviously, they’re a championship team,” Haley said. “They’re definitely a stronger team. Three years running so I was hoping to come make it four.

“Other than that it’s a new thing and I wasn’t sure what to expect.”

Though based in Calgary, Haley made his living on the ice in eastern British Columbia where he spent three seasons with the Rockies and one with the Chase Heat.

In 52 games last year with the Rockies he registered eight goals, 23 points and 168 penalty minutes.

“We brought the team out from the dumps. We had a 3-48-1 season and all of a sudden we were .500 hockey team,” he said of his time with the Rockies. “It was a riot, the weather is nice, the people are great, and the fans were awesome.”

Bisons assistant general manager Zach Baba played against Haley in the KIJHL and developed an appreciation for the six-foot-one, 210-pound forward’s all-around game.

“He’s a big boy, he can put the puck in the net and he’s not shy to fight,” Baba said. “It’s always nice to have a complete player on your team and that’s what he brings, a complete game and a leadership level.”

Baba, who racked up more than 300 penalty minutes in two seasons with the Bisons before graduating in the off-season, said the team has been missing the enforcer element he brought to the ice.

“As long as everyone chips in we don’t need a single guy to do that,” said Baba, adding Haley is not afraid to step into that role. “(Josh) will throw, for sure. He can chuck, I’ve seen him fight a couple times and he brings a size element too which is just a factor on the ice.

“He doesn’t necessarily have to fight, but he’s out there on the ice with a presence.”

Haley’s been skating on the top line flanked by rangy wingers Phil Dillon and Kevan Mikkelsen through his first three games.

The early signs are promising. Through just three games, Haley’s already posted two goals and six points while clearing space for his skilled linemates.

“We connect, obviously,” Haley said. “It’s been really good.

“I’m a hard worker, I’m big, I’ll make space for the other guys. Hopefully we’ll be putting more points up, more game winners.”

The 20-year-old’s arrival has allowed for more balance throughout the forward ranks with centres Luke Loomer and Zak Johns providing secondary scoring on separate lines.

“The trickle down effect happens when you bring more guys in,” Baba said. “Guys that were playing on the top line might move down a bit or stay if they’ve earned it.

“It just brings us more options line-wise.”


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