With the change of the year comes renewed hope for the Toronto Polar Bears and the chase for a Premier Fall post season seed. After what has to be described as two of the biggest series upsets in Premier Ball Hockey history the Toronto Polar Bears knocked off not only the division winning Vaughan Red Wings in the quarter finals series of the summer season, they went on to stop the Brampton Express and their five year Premier Championship run. Expectations and confidence were at an all-time high in Polar Bears land. GM Jeff Wilson in a busy off season pulled the trigger on numerous draft day deals adding another layer of scoring to improve a lineup that already has the top two scorers in the Premier Division. Although at press time the Bears are currently chasing down a playoff seed there is still plenty of time and points available for the Bears to make up ground. The key for the Bears is having a full lineup each and every game which has been their Achilles heel for the duration of the Fall season.
Every successful team, playoff run or Championship season relies on stellar goaltending. The Bears goaltender Gus Kalitzis is as reliable and solid as they come. A technically sound keeper Gus had a playoff run that legends are made of. As a result of his play the Bears were able to advance to the Championship round of the Premier Division. For his efforts Gus earned the Premier Playoff All-Star Goaltender award. Gus is a corner stone of the franchise and a playoff hope rest clearly on his shoulders. Gus has become a perennial all-star in this league for years to come.
The defence of the Bears opened plenty of eyes and have become a formidable group, each defence men contribute in a total team effort. The leader and possibly a top defender on any team in the division is rearguard John To. A quiet humble person off the floor once the jersey goes on a transformation occurs. A tough, rugged defenceman, many forwards dread seeing To ready to attack. An underrated slick ball moving defender Al Moore has become a minute eater along the backline and also chips in offensively. Trent Gaudon and his booming point shot is the offensive threat from the back. Add in reliable veterans Ben Moore and Patrick Miller and the Bears will be set for years to come. With the draft day pick up of Danny Novis and John Cristafi the Bears will have a solid foundation for years to come.
Now comes the bread and butter of the lineup. The Bears have the top two scorers in the Premier division coming into the Fall season. Jeff Wilson who seems to be getting better with age accumulated an astounding forty scoring points in eighteen regular season games. His linemate Chris Monaghan finished second in league scoring for a formidable one, two punch. If those two weren’t enough the Bears acquired both well-known snipers Mike Gaggi from the Hawks and Randy Kelly from the Orangemen in two separate deals. If that wasn’t enough add in the Mignosa brothers who were instrumental in series victories over the VRW and Express, Sandro, Mauro and Claudio are welcomed additions to any lineup. Every lineup needs a spiritual leader and for this group its Giorgio Occhipinti, who leads by example and plays every shift at a hundred and fifty percent. Rounding out the lineup with players such as Shawn McCalla and Brian McNellan the Bears are a formidable group to defend against up front.
Behind the bench the leader is head coach Rob Moniz. Selected as the OBHA male division Coach of the Year for 2012, Rob gets the most out of his troop’s night in and night out. A calm, cool and collected bench boss Rob has a vast knowledge of his game and any team coached by Rob will be ready to compete every night. It will be an interesting 2013 for the Bears as they prepare for the upcoming National Ball Hockey Championships in early August, as they represent the Premier Ball Hockey League and hope to bring home a Gold Medal.
What I have for you next is an exclusive interview with the GM and the defending Premier Ball Hockey Leagues 2012 Scoring Champion Jeff Wilson. Always one to tell the world how it is, we are all in for a treat. So without any further ado here he is Mr. Jeff Wilson.
Jeff thank you for taking the time to chat with us and the first question is how at 38 years of age do you continue putting up such phenomenal scoring numbers? You led the Premier Division with forty points in eighteen games in 2012?
To be honest I ask myself that every year, I guess getting older and having more knowledge of the game, also having line mate’s that are on the same page with each other.
During the 2012 playoffs your goal was to accomplish something you had never been part of before, defeating the Brampton Express in the post season. Tell us how it felt after the final buzzer sounded?
To be honest I was suspended for the last two games of that series, but to be honest I think I was happier that we won without me then if I was playing, I was never so excited and happier for my team.
You took over the reins of the Polar Bears after the 2011 season, how has that been, running the day to day operation of the club must consume a lot of your free time?
Headache, headache, headache next question.
You’ve been very active on the trade front and draft day signings the Polar Bears on paper have a power house lineup, will we see all these names on the floor together in the summer 2013 season?
I certainly hope so, if these guys come together and actually see what kind of team we could really have, I think the league is ours to lose.
Chris Monaghan, tell us what he means to the success of the Polar Bears and to you as your linemate and set up man?
He is a young guy with all the talent in the world, game changer for our team, he is one of the best set up men in the league and he is a big part of my success.
You are a devoted family man as I’ve seen your children running around the rink from time to time, is there a junior Jeff Wilson waiting to take the ball hockey world by storm?
There is a future Wilson in the works, SORRY BOYS, the good thing is most of you won’t be around when he hits his peak as he is only four years old right now, CONNOR WILSON will be the name to watch for lol.
You “picked your poison” last year in a shootout strategy versus the VRW, which worked in your favour. Would you roll the dice again in that situation?
Absolutely, it’s not that I think the VRW are a bad team, I think we just match up very well against them, I think if they had their choice to play us or Midnight, I think they would pick Midnight to play against first, they have great success against them, they have had their number the last couple of years.
Gus Kalaitzis, played maybe the best goaltending I’ve ever seen in my twenty three years of ball hockey, tell us your feelings on the man who tends the goal for your club?
What can I say about him but AWESOME, he is another guy up in age, but loves this game and has tons of heart and dedication.
Why such a lack of commitment in the fall session, is it due to time of year, injuries, ice hockey…the Bears came off such a high and expectations were booming coming in to the fall session?
Yes with the time of year, allot of guys take of this part of the year due to allot of different things, but don't worry, we will be back in full force in the summer, won’t be an easy two points for no one.
Your top two line mates of all time who are they and why?
Wow that's a tough one, I have had some good ones, RICKY LEE, BRUCE BEECHNER, JERRY COWAN, CHRIS MONAGHAN, and all these guys had great vision on finding me open.
A veteran of the game, what’s left on the to do list for Jeff Wilson?
I still would like to accomplish winning the Tier 1 nationals with my own team.
Replay Jeff Wilson’s biggest goal in your ball hockey career, I know there’s been many but we need just one?
Like you said there has been many, but the biggest one I think is yet to come, YOU MAY SEE IT SOON IN THE WORLDS.
In 2011 the Polar Bears were Semi-Finalist, in 2012 Finalists, is it safe to say that by trend 2013 will be the year of the Bears first Premier Championship?
Like I said if everyone on are roster shows up for the summer, we will be one of the favorites to win it.
As if you didn’t have enough fire power up front you went out and traded for Randy Kelly and Mike Gaggi two renowned snipers, are you going with “you can never have enough scoring depth”?
Absolutely, this is an offence game when it comes down to it in the end, If you don't score, you don’t WIN.
Final question, can the Bears sneak in to the post season and make another remarkable playoff run?
We will try, can’t really predict what will happen in the playoffs aging commitment will determine on how we do.