After three games the talk of the Premier Fall Division has become the lightning quick start of the newly promoted North York Hitmen. After three games the Hitmen remain the only undefeated team in the young 2012 Fall season. Facing three top contenders the Hitmen have beaten the Mississauga Hawks 3-1, Toronto Polar Bears 5-2 and took full points from the Brampton Express with a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory in their last game. After years of building and developing the group for their jump to the A level the Hitmen have not disappointed with their performance to date.
With three committed minds behind the scenes and bench the trio of Angelo Gaetano, Mario Ventullo, and Pat Ventullo, this team will be well prepared and coached for every opponent they face. The burning question is can the Hitmen continue to accumulate points and remain at the top of the Premier Division. Every night is a new test as the Thunder, VRW and Orangemen await their turn to knock off the newest members of the division.
Every good team starts with a good goalie. Dave Clark allows the Hitmen a chance to win every game. His acrobatic play and cat like reflexes make him almost unbeatable. In previous years the one position that had a revolving door was at goal for the NY Hitmen. With a team built on defence first, goaltending was always the Achilles heel of the Gaetano run club. With Clark signing on, the first piece of the puzzle was in place. Next was the Ventullo brothers coming together to form one entity. The Bastone and the Hitmen merger was formed and one team was created. In the becoming of one, the two teams helped each other build a team through depth and talent that has certainly worked to date.
Defence is next on the list, a steady defence group built more as a collective group than any one superstar has paid immediate dividends. Let’s not forget that the Premiers top defenseman Victor Azevedo was moved to center. How many teams can move their top rearguard to forward without missing a beat? Carlos Acre, a solid two way rear guard, has blossomed into arguably the Hitmen’s number one defensemen. He’s accumulated six points through three games and is thrust into all pressure situations. Rounding out the group Miguel Cunha, JP Nangini, Anthony Zeppieri, Danny Rocha, Lui Caruso and Joe Meleca along with Arce are as steady a core group you will find.
Up front the Hitmen are four lines deep and if there’s one thing the Hitmen don’t lack is speed. Resident speedster Anthony Novia may be the quickest player in the league. A well balanced group of speed, talent, size and desire Vic Azevedo, Jonathon Pulicicchio, Tony Medeiros, Justin Rita, Tony Ricci, Peter Bello and Tyson Dileo to name a few are a group of forwards that complement each other and play each shift like it’s their last.
Now we've seen this story before a new team comes to Premier takes everybody by storm and then cools down once the other teams realize that the team can play. I have a feeling that this time around things will be different and the Hitmen are for real. Only time will tell what the future holds for our newest member but one thing for sure this team will continue to entertain and amaze us night in and night out.
And now a new weekly feature as I interview a player or coach from the Premier division. This weeks guest is North York Hitmen head coach Angelo Gaetano. The only stipulation is answering each question honestly and openly and being respectful.
Angelo my first question is what were your feelings when you first received the news that you had been promoted to the OBHA Premier Division?
I was very excited, it was long time waiting. I felt that this is my second chance and that nothing was going to get in my way this time.
After your first victory did you have the sense that you could compete at the highest level and commence the season on a 3-0 run?
I always felt that we could complete at this Premier level, and yes, I am surprised that we have commenced at a 3-0 record so far. The first and second games were more laid-back but as we continue into the season that will not be the case. We have to strive for our victories as the teams are getting more competitive as the season continues.
The Hitmen have had possibly hundreds of players pull on a Hitmen jersey over the years if you could snap your fingers and bring back one player who would it be?
Tough question, there have been a lot of good players that have put on the Hitmen jersey. The one player I would bring back is Rob Cardoso in a heartbeat.
Congratulations on the birth of your new baby girl, has the birth of your child changed you at all?
Thank you. Yes, it definitely has. My purpose in life has completely changed. She is what I strive for and going forward I realized all the decisions I make will affect her in some way. It’s an amazing feeling. It’s been over a month now and I still can’t believe it sometimes.
Dead or alive name me the three people you would want to sit down and have dinner with?
Oooo let’s see...the three people I would want to have dinner with are: Brett (The Hitman) Hart, because he is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be LOL. Dave Chapelle because he is hilarious (just like myself) and last but not least you, Peter Lorusso, you deserve a night out for all your hard work in the Premier level.
Who has had the biggest influence on you in your ball hockey career?
By far, hands down, Tony Miniaci. He has taught me many skill sets that have influenced me throughout my ball hockey career. He is a positive role model for many young players and I admire that. He has run one of the most successful teams back in the day and we hope to do the same one day. He is one of the reasons I wanted to start and have my own team. He will always have a long lasting impression on me.
Every player is available in the draft and the Hitmen have the first selection other than any of the current Hitmen who would you select?
That is a tough decision with many good players available, but I would choose Frankie Giustini.
What was the biggest accomplishment to date that you have achieved as a head coach?
I truly believe that accomplishments should only matter and count when they are achieved in the Premier division. Everything leads up to this, and now that we are contending. So I hope to accomplish and achieve a lot going forward in this division. I honestly believe that this is the level that truly counts.
The merger between the Hitmen and Bastone has been pretty successful to date, mergers per say don’t work why has this merger worked?
The main reason why mergers are not usually successful is because there are too many voiced opinions and everyone on the management team has to be on the same page. The decisions that management makes have to be all agreed upon. In our case, the reason why it has been successful so far is because we (Mario, Pat and I) have agreed upon the leadership role and the decisions that are to be made. We each have a specific role and purpose.
Would you describe yourself as a player’s coach?
The best way I can describe myself is ‘as a player’s coach’. The relationship and decisions concerning each player that are made are made to benefit the team as a whole. I try very hard to bring out each player’s assets in each game and be fair to all. My relationship with that player on the floor is completely different and separate from my relationship with that player off the floor. That is how I would describe it.
With the fate of the world hinging on a single penalty shot, who would be your choice to take the shot and save the world?
Simple, it’s Victor Azevedo.
Which of the current Premier teams do you feel has made the biggest improvements in the off season?
That’s a tough question, because it’s early in the season and I haven’t completed analyzing each team yet, but from what I see now the Metro Orangemen have the biggest improvements so far. I pick them because they have gained new veteran leadership that they had lacked in previous years.
We all know that you’re the best tile salesman in the province but if you had to choose a different line of profession what would it be?
You want honesty...dream career is to be the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Is it true that you have a binder filled with notes on every team and player that has ever played versus the Hitmen and you refer to your notes before every game?
Yes, that’s true. The reason why I keep notes on every team and player is because that was something I was taught by from Tony Miniaci and I feel that it is important to know who your competition is and what they are all about. Also, I review my notes before each game with my players so they are prepared before they hit the floor.
Finally, can the Hitmen win the Fall season and earn a trip to the Canada Cup of Ball Hockey?
I would love to win the Fall season but as a coach there is only so much our leadership team can do. It comes down to the players and their drive to succeed.
I want to thank you for talking with us and Good Luck!
Thank you for this opportunity and don’t forget your wallet for dinner.