Tyson McCallum has caught on with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The 19-year-old Dawson Creek hockey player was like many of the former Dawson Creek Rage players who found themselves looking for a place to play after the North American Hockey League (NAHL) team folded in early April.
He had several calls from other teams who heard he was available, but a former Rage player put in a good word for him with the coach of the Bandits, and he has signed with the southern Alberta club.
“After the Rage folded, I was getting calls from a few teams from different leagues, and Dakota Mason plays for Brooks. He kept telling me he had told the coaches about me and they had seen video of me and wanted me to give them a call,” explained McCallum.
“I ended up going to Game 1 of the Doyle Cup between Penticton and Brooks, and I met with a few guys from the organization. Then their head coach called me the next day, and we got talking and a few weeks later I ended up signing.”
McCallum was picked first overall in the 2010 NAHL draft and the first-ever player selected by the Rage as they prepared to open their first NAHL season in the summer of 2010.
In the two years the forward was a member of the local Jr. A team, the six-foot-four, 183-pounder scored 23 goals and had 26 helpers. He spent 161 minutes in the penalty box, turned in the red light six times on the power play, had one short-handed goal and one game-winning goal.
Being born and raised in Dawson Creek, it was particularly painful when the ownership group of the non-profit society announced it was unable to continue to operate the team for financial reasons and would be folding after two seasons. However, being picked up by the Bandits was a relief, and he is looking forward to playing for a team that won the AJHL last season.
“It was a bit disappointing and a shock for the team to fold. I think it was a bit different for me. Being a home-town kid it was cool having that team there but being able to catch on with a team like Brooks – they just won a league championship and they will be really good again next year – is a bonus for me."
Brooks coach Ryan Papaioannou likes McCallum’s age, size and character.
“One thing we needed to add was the ’93 birth year. We were loaded with ‘91s and ‘92s, so we needed to go out and find a way to acquire some good 1993 forwards,” explained Papaioannou.
“Obviously, we add a lot of size which is a good thing. We wanted to make sure that we still skate well but get bigger, and he obviously is a big guy. And in chatting with him and doing our research he seems to be a really good kid, and we want to add good people to our program.”
For his part, Mason left the Rage after its first season of operations and joined the Bandits a year ago. He was an offensive superstar with the Rage and scored 27 goals and 24 assists. He has improved his defensive talents and physical play with the Bandits.
“He did okay last year. He did better as the season went on. I thought he got really good defensively and started to play the game a little more physical. His offensive talents are incredible, and he is starting to round his whole game out,” explained Papaioannou.
McCallum will be at the Bandits’ camp in mid-July when he will meet up with Mason and many of his teammates.
That is an evaluation camp when many of the players will be selected and then in mid- or late-August the team will hold a pre-season camp.