Next up on our weekly “Once a Warrior” is former Culliton captain and current NCAA RPI Hockey head coach Dave Smith.
Looking back on my experience in Stratford I have so many positive memories that I haven’t been sure where to begin. My first knowledge of Stratford began when a friend (John O’Conner) was playing Jr B in Guelph and we watched his games vs Stratford and Eddie Olczyk. The Cullitons looked different than another team we would see at that level. When the opportunity came for me to play in Stratford I was very excited. I had already played 2 1/2 years in the league and I knew that Stratford was always at the top of the league and most importantly was the leader in helping players get to NCAA hockey.
My time in Stratford was so much fun, sometimes too much fun but we had a lot of talented players, such as Garth Snow, Ricky Olczyk, Greg Klym, Louie DeBrusk, Jamie Hartnett, Jay Bogden and Jamie Petrie as well as many others. I really liked our coaches, led by Head Coach Ross Yantzi. He taught us how to play and was a wonderful role model. Our team that year finished in 3rd place, which was disappointing for the Stratford faithful, but I know we competed hard every night and got better as the year went on. I billeted with Mrs. Corlett who was one of the best, and nicest people ever. Great memories all around.
Looking back, my year in Stratford was a major stepping stone to what I have become today. I have been involved in Hockey my entire life and being a Culliton was my first experience with how a first class organization is operated. The friendships and memories that were made continue on today and I am grateful that the Flanagan Family and the Stratford Culltons took a chance on a competitive kid from Arthur. Thank you to the Stratford Cullitons for playing a positive role in helping a young hockey players dream become reality.