When I sit back and reflect, as 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of Coach's Corner, never before have I witnessed the number of changes in one season that the St. Lawrence Laurentians have gone through this season.
Actually, it's unreal what the Laurentians have encountered.
Edwards returns behind the bench
First of all, I will look at the coaching situation, which is a very peculiar one indeed. Long time veteran player and former Laurentians' coach Junior Edwards is back.
Edwards has replaced Derek Strang behind the bench, and there is no doubt Edwards has experience. He previously coached the St. Lawrence Senior Laurentians on three different occasions. He first coached St. Lawrence in 1991 and again coached the Laurentians from 1994-1997. He followed this up by coaching them from 2000-2004.
During his years of coaching, he has led the Laurentians to five provincial Challenge Cup Championships - 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000 and 2001. Undoubtedly, his greatest achievement occurred at the National level in 2002, when he coached St. Lawrence to a national silver medal in St. John's.
I think Edwards's biggest disappointment as head coach came in his last two seasons of coaching, when Mount Pearl defeated St. Lawrence in the final in 2003 and then in 2004 when Marystown defeated Edwards Laurentians for the Provincial Challenge Cup right in the Laurentians' home backyard.
One may ask, "What's so peculiar this year in Edwards being St. Lawrence's head coach?"
The fact Edwards works on a two-week rotational basis at the Voisey's Bay Mine in Labrador really prevents him from being committed as a full-time coach. In actual fact, Junior will only be behind the bench part time. Maybe the fact Scott Bishop has agreed to be Junior's assistant could resolve the issue, as Scott is available full time.
Laurentians Lose Star Players
The Laurentians will also be without some of last season's veteran key performers. Departed are their Captain Blair Aylward, Richard Kelly, Mike Howlett, Alec Turpin and Andrew Perrott. This group of players have been around the Laurentians for a long time.
They all have retired. Whether they all stay on the sidelines for the entire season is anyone's guess.
I would be very much surprised if I didn't see a couple of those guys back on the field in August by the time St. Lawrence Day rolls around.
Canada Games Players
The Laurentians will also be without a few of their young hometown kids this season. The Laurentians young ace, Sean Edwards, along with Stephan Slaney and Tyler Beck - players the Laurentians will be leaning on in the future - will be wearing the provincial colors of Newfoundland and Labrador while playing with the NL Provincial Canada Games team. These players will not be available to St. Lawrence until Labour Day.
Boyd Roul of Lawn has also committed to the Laurentians once the Canada Games are over. Roul has all the tools and the potential of being a solid Laurentian should he remain in the area beyond 2009.
Norman will lead
Despite the loss of these veterans and young Laurentians players in 2009, many of our local experts feel St. Lawrence is still the team to beat this season. I feel St. Lawrence will perform well but will struggle at times. In the end, though, St. Lawrence will be solid.
I would be more than shocked if veteran Rudy Norman is not wearing the Laurentians 'C' this season. Rudy is a born leader, he has looked after the players on the Avalon for years and he has been one of the best performers in the province over the past decade.
The Laurentians are sound in net with goalkeeper John Douglas. Douglas has been the top keeper in the province for the past five years. He has super reflexes, has matured immensely and is technically sound.
Then there is veteran all-star performer Clinton Edwards. When Clinton is playing in his most effective position, and of course I'm talking about center back, he is a delight to watch. Edwards, combined with the league's top defender Marc Pittman, may be as good as any twofold in the country.
In the middle, the Laurentians still have Paul Slaney, Ryan Slaney and Darren Pike. When these players are on top of their game, they rank up with the best in the province. The return of Adam Loder, Randy Turpin, Peter Greene, Andrew Strang and Mike Douglas will solidify openings that have been created.
The tradition must continue!
I'm sure the Laurentians are finding it harder and harder to maintain a competitive edge and continuously field a competitive team. But the tradition the community has developed in supporting the Laurentians is something St. Lawrence should be very proud of and it is something the town should never relinquish.
Gord Dunphy is a former 1990s Challenge Cup All-Star coach of the St. Lawrence Laurentians and National Bronze Medallist. He can be reached by e-mail at 'email@example.com'.