The 2022-23 GOJHL season was to have been Reed Stauffer’s fourth with the Sarnia Legionnaires but a concussion he suffered last season has kept him off the ice. Despite the setback as a player, the 20-year-old still holds a key role with the team.
Legionnaires Head Coach Derek DiMuzio says the entire coaching staff agreed it would be a good idea to offer the Southampton native what amounts to a staff position. “We made the decision to include him in our leadership group as one of the captains knowing he wasn’t going to be able to play. We created a Player Ambassador role for him because we feel very strongly that his presence, leadership, and friendship is especially important to not only the veterans but the young guys coming in.” He adds Stauffer is the kind of role model every team needs. “Everyone enjoys being around him. He’s a good kid, good values, strong work ethic, and well-liked. It speaks volumes about his character to want to give back to the team even though he can’t play. The kids really respect him for that.”
Stauffer says it was a pretty simple decision to accept DiMuzio’s offer. “I was in right away. It was very easy for me to say yes and be a part of the team. It meant a lot knowing they still thought of me as a captain. It was tough news finding out I wasn’t able to play this season, but Derek has always treated me awesome and after this happened, he made sure I knew I would be a part of this team whether I was playing or not.”
Making the jump to a league like the GOJHL is not an easy transition but Stauffer feels he can help guide a young team through the rigors of a junior hockey season. “A lot of them are new to the league and I’ve been there for them to bounce stuff off of. Being closer to their age, its easier for them to talk to me. I’m trying to be a leader to our younger group.” He adds the players so far have been responsive. “It’s an incredibly good group of guys. When they have questions, they’ve been coming to me and just talking, feeling more comfortable.”
While he admits not being able to play this year has been a disappointment, Stauffer says he’s already come away with some positives. “Learning how to be a leader and take responsibility. We are all held accountable but everyone on this team is supportive. We are learning that if you want something you go out and get it. What I have learned here can easily translate into work life, anything outside of hockey.” He adds his three years of hockey in Sarnia as a player is something he will never forget. “They’ve always made me feel like Sarnia was home. I started coming down when I was 16 and moved down the following year. I’ve made friends I’ll have forever. Great relationships with coaches and even fans. Playing hockey here has meant a lot to me. It really was quite easy to adjust to living in Sarnia because of the support I received.”
DiMuzio says whatever the team has asked him to, he gladly does it. “He’s helped out the equipment guys. He’s helped with team-building activities and has had some conversations with new players to guide them through what our culture is like and how to handle certain situations. He is taking his skills as a player and transitioning them into having an impact as a staff member.”
The GOJHL prides itself on not only developing excellent hockey players who move on to higher levels, but also young men who are ready for life outside of hockey. “Sarnia has always been people first. They’ve almost made sure we are acting properly and growing into men. We’re learning how to work with each other, work ethic and growing as a person. Its more than just a game,” says Stauffer.
DiMuzio says having their players grow as people is an area of focus for the Legionnaires. “Our league is about encouraging the growth of young men. Everybody wants to win but when you can have an impact on developing a person like Reed and other players on our team, that’s the biggest responsibility we have as role models, coaches, and staff members.”
Stauffer recently completed the Preservice Fire Program at Sarnia’s Lambton College and moved back home after accepting an internship with Bruce Power. Despite a busy schedule he says he is committed to make the three-hour drive to Sarnia as often as possible.